One of the games that I saw at Gen Con 2012 was “Cheap Shot”. Ok, I take that back… I didn’t actually see the game, but I talked to its creator, Lisa Steenson, about its premise and Kickstarter campaign. The game was described to me as “Insult rummy” and I was invited to take part in a play test. I really wanted to go, because I like Lisa’s other work (Trailer Park Wars, Redneck Life, and Oh Gnome You Don’t!), but sadly my schedule did not align. However, when I got back from the con, I talked to Lisa about getting a demo copy, and just a few days later Cheap Shot was on my kitchen table.
The copy I received was one of the play test models, so the cards were all in plastic sleeves, and the whole game came in a plastic baggy. However, there were full color printed rules and the game had a surprising amount of polish on it. So I pulled out the rules and began reading. A few minutes later I was done and ready to play, but I was left with a sense of disappointment. While the game sounded solid and a lot of fun, gone was the style of rules that made me originally fall in love with Lisa’s games. In her other games, rules often say “Don’t read all these rules, just do _____ and then come back here for more details on what to do next!”. It gets you playing the game right away, and thus it’s all more fun, because it’s like it would be if you had a teacher right there showing you how to play. Also missing from these rules: Dang. Normally the rules are colored with some light Redneck humor, such as including the expletive “Dang” in appropriate places. Sadly this humor had vanished. What you were left with were a basic set of rules that could have been written by nearly any company on the market. None of Lisa’s normal pizzazz had made it onto the page.
Playing the game was easy though. On your turn, you draw a card, play down a set if you have them, and then discard a card. When a person runs out of cards, the round is over and the score is tallied. Pretty basic stuff, right? The difference comes in with what is counted as a set. “Set” might be the wrong word here, because you are not playing down cards that match. Instead, you are playing down cards that make up a sentence. The sentence must be grammatically correct, except for punctuation. Sentences were comprised of insults that you are flinging at an individual. Such as : You/are bigger than a barn/and smell like a bucket full of armpits.
Did you notice something about that insult? It was surprisingly clean. Sure, it is insulting, but I and my players were all hoping for something a little bit dirtier. Perhaps we have been tainted by games such as Cards Against Humanity, but it was that kind of raunchy insulting that we felt was lacking. However, I also wouldn’t feel comfortable playing a game with that kind of raunchiness with my family. So there is a trade off.
However, ultimately, the question must be asked: Was it fun? While it wasn’t “squirt coke out your nose” funny, it was amusing. There was giggling about insults that were made, especially when the object of the insult was someone the defender didn’t like anyway. There was quite a few instances of “You’re right, my sister is a ______” from one of our players. It made for an entertaining evening, with an entertaining game that I would play again.