Base price: $12.
2 / 4 players.
Play time: ~15 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Logged plays: 4
Full disclosure: A review copy of Adder was provided by Button Shy.
This is a particularly exciting week! Thanks for reading. If you’re new to the site, this week is the week I publish my 1000th review! That’s too high of a number, but, I’ve been at it for almost eight years, now. So I figured I’d try some new review styles, but that will probably come around next week. Look forward to that. In the meantime, I figured I’d cover a game from my good pals at Button Shy! They’ve always been one of my favorite publishers, just pushing the envelope of how much game you can fit into eighteen cards. This next one’s called Adder; let’s see how it plays!
In Adder, players are chasing each other as quickly as possible with cards. Real-time card-based chasing? Yes, it’s real and it’s happening. Sounds like a mess, but a fun mess along the way! Let’s see how you can do with four cards. The chase is on!
Not a whole lot! Give each player a set of cards in the color of their choice:
If you want, you can play with either, both, or none of the special cards (more on those later):
Flip a coin; that’ll decide whether your target is your opponents’ head or their tail. Place one card for each player on an edge of the playing area; you should be ready to start!
Adder, as you might guess, is a card game that reminds me a lot of Snake! Your goal is to catch your opponent by any means possible!
As soon as the game starts, you’ve got a goal. Your goal is to be the last player standing, by eliminating the other players. A player is eliminated as soon as you play one of your cards on either their head or tail card (depending on the coin flip). However, you play in real-time. To start, you’ll play cards from your hand such that each card is placed touching the previously-placed card. Once all your cards have been played, you’ll take your next card from the back of your current set of cards, playing it to the front. If a player gets caught, they’re eliminated and the other player wins!
With more than two players, you can play in teams (circles vs. squares). However, friendly fire is enabled; you can eliminate your teammate if you’re not careful!
For more challenge, try adding in the extra cards! The Self-Destruct Card causes any player who lands on it to immediately lose! The Portal Card connects to the other Portal Card or any edge of the play area. Go in one Portal Card, play your next card in any of those spots.
Player Count Differences
Functionally, the game plays the same, but you should be much more careful with more players! It’s pretty easy to get pincered by the team if you’re not paying sufficient attention. More people means more moving around and more shenanigans, which may be exacerbated by the special cards causing self-destruction or portals or whatever other shenanigans you can come up with. This is probably where you’ll want a small table, since everyone’s playing in real-time at one table. I’d say four players isn’t quite ideal, just for that reason; a lot of arms and hands clashing. The very core of the game is shenanigans, though, so more players will likely just increase that, if that’s your sort of thing. I do gently prefer the game at two, but not by much.
- Go fast! As with all real-time games, making quick decisions is often key to success. Here, it’s what will give you the ability to chase your opponents down with all due speed and eventually knock them out. There’s not much strategic value to “gotta go fast” beyond just saying it and internalizing it though, so try to do that.
- You may actually want to hang out in one spot and try to let your opponent come to you. I think the strategic advice is less “always be playing as quickly as possible” and more “you need to be in a spot where you’re ready to strike if your opponent comes your way”. You can try and chase them down, but if they’re faster that you you might have to resort to subterfuge instead of just raw speed. Both are effective, and obviously it’s best if you can do both well, but see which works for you before you try to get too complicated.
- Either way, you should get good at moving quickly; you don’t want to choke and let yourself get taken down by your opponent. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just flee from your opponent as quickly as possible so you don’t end up with them overtaking you. Get good at that, otherwise they’ll just chase you down and get you in a moment of weakness.
- Try to use the Portals if you can; naturally, you want to avoid the Self-Destruct cards. The Portals are a lot of fun! You can use them to get the drop on your opponent if they aren’t paying enough attention (or you can use them to get away from your opponent in a hurry, especially if they end up using a different output than you do for the Portal). Either way, make sure you’re paying attention to which Enhancement is in play; you don’t want to wander onto a Self-Destruct thinking that it’s a Portal; that’s just embarrassing.
- Get good at making sudden jumpy moves. Hanging a hook or a curve that will surprise your opponent can get you pretty far. That’s what I mean by subterfuge; sometimes you just gotta be able to turn 90+ degrees and really try to get the drop on your opponent. This is easier to do when you’re going head-to-head; when you want to catch your opponent by the tail, you’re more likely to need to just outpower them. Head-to-head, it’s either them or you, which is pretty exciting.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Super easy to learn, which is great. You just constantly play cards to make what is, effectively, a snake from the game Snake. It’s brilliant. You just want to catch your opponent, and the initial coin flip tells you which side you need to catch to win. Nothing else to it.
- Plays very quickly. Most real-time games do, but not all! That said, this one definitely plays quickly, which is a lot of fun.
- A thoroughly engaging game. Real-time games tend to be pretty successful on this front, but it’s just a fun game. You’re up, you’re running around the table, and you’re occasionally getting a workout from this one. I wouldn’t recommend playing this on a big table, though; you might end up having to do a lot of work to get where you want to go.
- I like the color scheme a lot, as well. It’s a bit future-y, but it’s also a cooler palette, and games that have both purple and blue as options mean that I will pretty much always get one of my top three favorite colors to play as, which is much appreciated. The art style is nice, as well.
- I was told this was Button Shy’s first translucent wallet, and it’s a delight. It’s a fun wallet, for sure. I hear their first pink wallet is happening soon, as well, so something to look forward to, there. But you can definitely see the cards inside of the wallet when it’s stored, which is nifty.
- I really enjoy real-time games, and this is no exception to that rule. I just really find that after a long day of sitting and thinking (either at work or writing), it’s nice to have some games that are fast and frenetic, even if they’re not, you know, the Peak of Strategic Play. I play games to have fun, and real-time games tend to be games that I play a lot with friends and we end up laughing the whole time, which I appreciate. I showed this to my friend at work and we cracked up playing it the first few times, though that’s also partially because I clean punched a card out of her hand. Sorry, Beka.
- This is another game that you can very quickly and easily replay, which I enjoy. I really look for the set of games that I can just quick replay. This is something that I don’t take for granted, since I spend so much time learning rulebooks and teaching games that I often am just actively seeking a game that I can play five or ten or fifty times in an afternoon without having to change to a new rulebook. I wouldn’t say that I have the stamina for fifty games of Adder all in a row, but I definitely think that this game only having four cards per player lends itself well to losing, resetting, and replaying without much of a second thought.
- Who has coins handy these days? I’m mostly cashless, but I tend to flip coins using the search app on my phone; I don’t have one handy for this game. I think it’s mostly fine; it just eliminates the potential elimination condition of hitting the coin by mistake.
- Another game that can get a bit physical; be careful about card damage. It’s an ongoing issue with real-time games that end up being a bit more on the hectic side. If you’re trying to play a card on the same spot as your opponent, the faster player will win, but they may end up bending or damaging the other player’s card (or hand, if they wear a lot of rings).
Overall: 8.5 / 10
Overall, I think Adder is a blast! This is one that really appeals to my specific set of sensibilities. I love real-time games, almost to a fault, and having a good real-time game from Button Shy is always a plus. My only real concern is that given how frantic and frenetic the game can be in the heat of the moment, slamming cards down might accidentally cause cards (or the occasional hand) to get smooshed or damaged. Just play fast and play careful. But at the core of it, Adder is a very approachable game; players are just chasing each other and playing cards to essentially play and advance a snake to try and catch each other. It’s a little goofy, just in terms of implementation, but I quite like it. It’s quick, pretty clean, and very fun. Plus, it gets everyone up and moving, which is great. People are pretty thoroughly engaged with that kind of play. You just need to keep moving. If you’re a fan of real-time games, you enjoy a good chase, or you’re just also a Button Shy completionist like I am, I’d definitely recommend checking Adder out! It’s a lot of fun.
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