Gnomes seem to be everywhere this year. “Gnomeo and Juliet” is in theaters, my mother-in-law is writing a book featuring a gnome, and “Oh Gnome You Don’t” just hit the shelves. It seems that gnomes are the zombies, or Cthulhu, of the 2011 Spring season. So of course we had to write a review of this phenomenon’s board game side of the mania.
“Oh Gnome You Don’t!” is a sassy, jewel collecting, gnome wedgieing, roll and move game from “Gut Bustin’ Games”. These are the same folks who make “Red Neck Life” and “Trailer Park Wars“, but unlike their other games Gut Bustin’ went out on a limb and did something different this time: They hired an artist.
Previous games from this company have included slews of photos of trailer parks or beat up cars (or in a new game they have in production: garage sale junk). The photos are funny, but it was really nice to see them doing something else. Actually, the first thing the group I played with commented on was just how pretty the artwork for this game is. Two Tree Illustrations did an excellent job.
As usual, I have to take my hat off to Lisa Bowman, the games creator, for her excellent instruction sheet. I swear I got more giggles out of reading the rules then a grown woman probably should. I mean, dang. But more then just funny, her instructions are written in such a manner, that you don’t need to read the whole booklet in order to get playing, which I’m sure all the designated rule readers in the world will applaud along with me.
So the game begins with a pack of gnomes (the players) setting off on a trail through the forest to collect gems. The end result of making it to the finish with the most gems in hand. How do you do that? By selling trinkets at gnome shops, mining, and beating up your fellow gnome for what they have already acquired.
The basic turn consists of rolling a die and moving that number of squares, playing a card, and then drawing a new one. Chant after me: ROLL, MOVE, PLAY, DRAW. The card playing is really the heart and soul of this game, with the rolling and moving simply acting as a catalyst for battling as well as the game’s end.
There are a few different types of cards, each with different inherent abilities. Item cards are trinkets or food that you can sell at shops located on the board. There are also action and reaction cards that let you do things to your opponent such as send them forward or back on the board, or make them drop some gems along the way.
The other kind of card each player possesses is a “brawl” card. These are what resolve the battles, and determines how much loot you beat out of your opponent. Each card has a number and an amusing description and picture. The number is really the only “important” thing though. Both players choose one of these numbered cards and reveal them at the same time. The player with the highest number has won the battle and receives the difference in gems from their opponent (if I played a 10 and you played a 7, I would win 3 gems from you, because 3 is the difference between 10 and 7).
“Oh Gnome You Don’t” unfortunately had one major flaw, which seems to accompany all Gut Bustin’ Games: It takes too darn long! Given the mechanics, it’s not exactly riveting enough to want to spend two hours playing it. It’s a good filler game, not the main course, however the run time doesn’t allow for it to fall into it’s proper role at the gaming table. Playing with my group we determined that what this game really needed was another die or two. One player even suggested substituting the one six-sided die that came with the game for three four-sided dice, this way you always moved at least 3, but didn’t ever move more than 12, thus setting a good pace. If you find the game is too long for your group as well, I would suggest trying out these alterations for best fit.
My final opinion? While “Oh Gnome You Don’t” doesn’t have any ingenious mechanics, it’s amusing. It’s a good fluff game, as long as your group can figure out how many dice are optimal for you to play with. It’s also really nice to see the company attempting to branch out into drawn art, rather then relying on photos. “Oh Gnome You Don’t” is another example of Gut Bustin’ doing what Gut Bustin’ is gnome to do (sorry couldn’t help myself). They take our classic childhood games, like Life and Candy Land, and revamp them with a new theme and a lot of humor.
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