Base price: ~$18.
2 – 4 players.
Play time: ~10 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Check it out on Kickstarter!
Logged plays: 3
Full disclosure: A preview copy of Stick Collection was provided by itten. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game.
For a bunch of highly-portable games, I haven’t quite been able to play the Funbrick Collection as much as I would like. They had their Kickstarter (and were, unsurprisingly, extremely successful), so I’m hoping in time I’ll get to tell you more about them as they start to fulfill. In the interim, though, I had brought Stick Collection with me on a trip and was able to get a few more plays in, so here we are. I’ll be interested to see how it shapes up against Viking See-Saw, though I’ll have more to say about Ninja Master, Three Second Try, and Judge Domino in time. They’re all quite neat, though, so expect to see a lot more about them. Onto Stick Collection!
In Stick Collection, you’re a master of estimation, hopefully, and your dream in life is to either get four sticks of the same length or one long run of sticks, each slightly shorter or taller than each other. You’ve long been told you have the most specific dreams of anyone out there, but you’re in luck! Today, you sit around a table with your rivals, whose dreams are the same as yours. What can you do? Auction off these sticks to see whose money will go the furthest and earn them the collection they’ve always wanted. With one in hand and money to burn, it’s certainly auction time. Will yours be the winning bid?
To kick things off, each player gets a pair of color markers of the same color:
Set the money tracker in the center of the play area; each player places one of their trackers on the 50. The other is kept in front of them so you can easily tell which color is which player.
The clear plastic stick stand gets placed in the middle of the table, as well:
Dump the sticks into the box insert, and flip it around so that the pink side is facing outward. Push the insert back into the box.
Shake the box, giving each player a stick. Players should keep the sticks in their hand held vertically, with their hand (and the end of the sticks in their hand) resting on the table, at least a foot away from the stick stand. You should be ready to start!
In Stick Collection, you want to have one! You crave a robust collection of sticks. So you and your friends are going to spend money on bidding for them to try and build the premier stick collection. Why? Unclear.
Each round, a new stick is drawn (by shaking the box and shouting “Come on, stick!” in unison) and placed in the stick stand in the center. Starting with the player to the left of the Starting Player, each player may bid between 1 and 10 money on the stick. You can pass (a 0 bid, effectively), but otherwise, you must bid strictly more than the current highest bid. You may look at the stick, but you cannot bring the stick or the stick stand closer to you or move your hand closer to the stick. Keep bidding or passing until there’s only one player remaining; they win the bid! They claim the stick, placing it in their hand so that the bottom touches the table and then they move their money tracker down by their bid. If every player passes, the Starting Player (the last player to bid) wins the stick by default, for free. A few spots on the board are blue “Lucky Spots”, which move your money tracker back up to a space indicated by an arrow, essentially letting you gain money! Either way, the player who won the bid becomes the next Starting Player.
Play continues until any player has eight sticks, any player has four sticks of the same length, or any player has run out of money. At that point, the game immediately ends. If any player has four sticks of the same length, they immediately win. Otherwise, players score. First, sort your sticks by length, then:
- 10 points per stick in their longest unbroken chain of sticks. This means a group of sticks that are strictly 5mm taller or shorter than each other (using the other player token to measure). Note that if you have multiple sticks of the same length, they break up your chain. You want to only have one stick of each length, and you only count your longest chain.
- Score points for your remaining money. If you have more than 22 money remaining, you get 22 points; otherwise, you gain 1 point for each money you have left.
The player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
There aren’t a ton of practical gameplay differences with different numbers of players; it’s more of a practicality thing than anything else. With more players, you run the risk of one of the sticks you start with being given to someone else, so you cannot win by getting four of your starting stick. It’s sort of a starting disadvantage, albeit a mild one. With more players, there’s also more money in the game (since everyone starts with the same amount), so you might find yourself needing to bet a little higher (or being locked out by a 10 bet). That might change up your bidding strategy, but that’s about the long and short of it, pun fully intended. At two, I wouldn’t say that the bidding is that interesting; either you get the stick or your opponent does, and there’s a lot less jockeying about who gets what, which I feel like kind of undermines the fun part of the game. I’d generally recommend keeping Stick Collection to a higher player count, as a result.
- Get good at estimating lengths. This is pretty much the whole game, and it’s not something that people are all that good at, especially in an abstract, comparative sense. Back when I was in the ol’ Math Field Day competitions in middle and high school, we had to learn how to do this (but comparing random objects to inches or centimeters). I never thought it would come in handy, and it still doesn’t! It’s not a useful skill! But here, being able to eyeball two things and tell which one is longer would probably be useful.
- There are certain points where bidding a set amount will effectively be a no-op (or at least cost you less money); use those to your advantage and make sure your opponents aren’t getting sticks for free. They usually won’t do much for you, since they’re, say, get four money back or get two money back, but hey, a discount is a discount if you can land it. If you see your opponent going for it, you might have to outbid them and just take the risk. You really don’t want your opponents getting sticks for free unless they’re not helpful.
- If you need a stick, it’s sometimes just worth biting the bullet and bidding 10. Better to have something and be a little closer to broke, I always say. That said, this is really only worth it if this is the stick that wins you the game. Otherwise, be a bit more cautious and see if you can get it for cheaper.
- You need to know what sticks your opponents have. You really don’t want to give them something that they score a ton of points off of, so keep an eye on their hands.
- It’s also worth knowing which sticks your opponents don’t need. You can get those for cheap! Discount!
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- You can try all you like, but is it really possible to come up with a phrase more evocative, more iconic than “Come on stick!”? Likely no. Honestly, my favorite part of the game. It’s silly, it’s engaging, and it gets the entire table focused on the coming round. There’s not a lot of better ways to do that.
- The sticks are a fun color. I mean, having a game with more bright pink elements is always a good idea, and itten really understood that with Crash Octopus, one of the finest games they’ve produced. Here, the bright pink lets the sticks be the star of the show.
- This is the kind of game where you can really have some healthy table-talk emerge; there’s not much to do but chat and speculate. You’re not doing a ton else, and chatting and estimating lengths aren’t really using the same parts of your brain, so you really can make this into a pub game or something you can play just about anywhere.
- I really appreciate the portability of the entire series. The Funbrick games are a really nice size! I do, obviously, wish they were a bit shorter (to be more in line with, say, the Oink games), but it’s still pretty impressive.
- Since the game can be ended by one player running out of money, a player who is clearly out of the running can emerge as a pretty effective spoiler. They might just end the game as quickly as possible out of frustration, and there’s not a whole lot that you can do about that. Designing for cases like that isn’t always wise, from a game design perspective anyways, since it can negatively impact the standard gameplay if you’re trying to patch edge cases. But it can pop up during games.
- This is the exact kind of game that I’m deeply terrible at. I don’t really do well with estimation, and this entire game is just eyeballing two things and deciding what their relative lengths are. The bidding component works okay, for me, though I’m pretty bad at auction games, so all things together, this is just a game designed in a lab to clown on me. That’s fine; still have fun with it, but oof.
- I think the game would probably go over a bit better if it were shorter. I think just having a bit less money or something to start would help speed the game up, but if you’re not doing well, the game can feel rather long, since there’s not always a way to come back and make progress.
- It would be nice if all players were given sticks of definitely-different lengths; there’s an imbalance if two players start with sticks of the same length (making getting four impossible) and another player does not. This is just a subtle bit of starting randomness that can be a bit annoying. There are similar other problems, like your starting stick length never comes up because the sticks are pulled out randomly, for instance. This is the challenge of the random component of some games; sometimes it doesn’t work out in your favor.
Overall: 6.25 / 10
Overall, I think Stick Collection is entertaining, but it’s the exact kind of game that I’m uniquely quite bad at. Part of it is just the structure of it all. I’m bad at estimating lengths, and that’s pretty much the whole game. You get a stick in the middle, you figure out if you need it or not, and then there’s an auction. While I enjoy it and I’ll definitely still play it, there are a few areas that are kind of sticking points, for me. For one, the game just … feels long. You start with a fair bit of money, and only one player spends it each round, so there can be quite a few rounds (six times the number of players, plus one, in the longest possible outcome) until the game ends. If you’re like me and this isn’t quite the type of game you’re good at, you might just be stuck in a losing state for most of that. There’s also an element of luck to it all, which can be frustrating for some players: if your opponent starts with one of the same sticks as you, you’re at a disadvantage (relative to a player who starts with a unique-length stick), since you can’t use that stick to get four of the same (and win). That’s all relatively fine, provided you play with a group that just gets wholly into it. If you have everyone yelling “Come on, stick!” each round and happily table-talking while you play, then this just ends up feeling like an odd pub game that’s great for a very specific person whose skill is estimating the relative length of random objects. Either way, it does feel like an itten title (though I’m intrigued as to why they named it the relatively-bland “Stick Collection” instead of keeping the previously-punny “Mast Buy”, but what do I know), and I can see why it fits nicely in with the rest of the Funbrick games. It’s clever, compact, and intriguing. If you’re into that sort of thing, you’re a master of estimation, or you just love the idea of yelling “Come on, stick” into the infinite, you might enjoy Stick Collection, as well!
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