Theme&andn’What is it?
Something strange in the neighborhood
Dark things are afoot in your small town. Things have been happening; dark things. Random bits of destruction, scared pets, and the odd sighting. The feds have come to town to investigate. Now, one of your friends has gotten lost. There’s a monster roaming the back yards and neighborhoods. No one seems to know what to do. It’s up to you and your friends to search the town, find clues, save your friend, defeat the monster, and save your town.
Snallygaster Situation is a cooperative board game set in the Kids on Bikes Role-Play universe. With one player taking on the role of the lost kid and everyone else playing the kids looking for them. You’ll need to work together by searching the board and leaving clues with a deck of special lost kid cards. If you can do this while avoiding the monster and the feds you just might avoid doom and save the day.
Roll the Dice and Unleash Excitement
I’m familiar with the Kids on Bikes game, but haven’t played it yet. I like the setting and idea behind it. That combined with the games mashup of Mysterium like communication and deduction board searching had me excited to play.
While Snallygaster Situation is a cooperative board game, the play happens in two parts. One player will take on the role of the lost kid. The lost kid can only communicate with the rest of the group by playing lost kid cards. These cards have multiple effects and one of them must be played every time the lost kid takes a turn. The cards will move the feds; two sets of adult authority figures who are following set routes around the board. They move the monster, one of four that can be chosen in the game. Each monster has different rules and effects that govern how it acts during the game. The cards also place a search token on the board to give the players items to help them succeed, story based clues to defeat the monster, or additional quests to pick up useful tokens to help move more effectively; these come with a price.
The cards also include an image that will help the lost kid direct the other kids to their location. The images can be a street name, the name of a park, or a type of neighborhood feature. The cards are placed in one of three discard piles and allow the lost kid to hint at their location. They might play two cards with street names to show an intersection they are near or a card with a bar-b-que to show that they are near a grill. However, they might have to play a card with no helpful images due to hand constraints, or the other parts of the card such as monster movement might place the other kids in danger.
The lost kids gets a second town board to keep track of things such as the position of the lost kid, places they or the monster can’t go, and other information based on the scenario. For example, if you’ve chosen Bloody Mary as the monster she uses hidden location rules and won’t appear on the main board unless she’s attacking someone or certain scenario requirements are met.
After the lost kid goes, two of the other kids will take their turns. They will choose one of their 4 wheel tokens; a set of tokens with different numbers and effects on them that set how far the kid can move. The standard for this is 3, 4, and a 5 that allow orthogonal movement or a 2 that allows diagonal movement. Once a player choses their token they flip it over, move the number of spaces selected, and if they finish their movement on a street space may move one additional space to reach the grass. Once they’ve used all four tokens or visited a tree house they can flip them face up and have access to all of them again. Player’s movement is also modified by the type of movement item they have. Each kid is given a movement card from a random stack that will allow special movement. The rollerblades, Thelma and Louise, allow players to grind on fences giving them extra movement or the bike replaces the diagonal 2 with an 8 space movement chip.
Kids use their movement then interact with the spaces they are in. This can be to flip a search token, item token, or perform a goal search action. Search tokens allow the kid to draw a card from the item deck. These cards can be useful items, ritual pieces, or additional quests. Item tokens will give the kid extra movement when spent but will cause things to happen on the board such as moving the feds or the monster. Goal based searches might include looking for the lost kid, trying to reveal the monster, or some other scenario specific event.
Once two kids have gone the lost kid goes again. This continues until the kids have successfully completed all of the scenario goals or the doom track has reached its end. The doom track is the games timer. When certain events occur, such as the feds completing a lap of the board, the monster attacking a kid, or an unsuccessful search for the lost kid then the doom track will advance one space.
The Adventure Begins in Your Own Back Yard
I played this as part of a digital demo so can’t really comment on the physical components.
You Got the Touch
I like the art. It’s bright with a nostalgic 80’s feel that I found comforting. Everything was clear and well laid out. Things were easy to understand at a glance.
Cute. Clever. Mischievous. Intelligent. Dangerous.
This is a deduction game with a bit of limited communication. There’s a puzzle being assembled with how the feds move, how the monster reacts to things, and how the lost kid can communicate. You need to balance that with a little bit of luck in how things come out of the deck. In my game we had a bit of good fortune with some of the cards we needed to win popping up right away. However, there are things that I feel can mitigate that nicely.
You Remind Me of the Babe…
The box says 8+ and I think that’s pretty accurate. The game felt fairly middle light but doesn’t take long to play and the rules are simple enough that you can easily play with younger kids if you help them when needed.
Goonies Never Say Die
TLDR: I like this game. I had fun with it and it scratches a lot of different itches. I really enjoy the use of cards as a communication tool from the lost kid. I like Mysterium, which has a similar mechanic and really enjoyed reacting it with it here. It felt thematic and reminded me of the old 80’s movies where someone is lost and you could only get vague messages from them.
The exploration as the group was fun. It was an engaging puzzle trying to figure out where to go, how to avoid the feds, and figure out where the monster was hiding. We played the Bloody Mary scenario and she’s the only one who’s hidden the other three monsters have different mechanics.
The setup changes the game. Each kid has their own unique wheels card drawn randomly from an eight cards. Each one gives different abilities and bonuses. They all feel different and it adds to how the game plays.
I also think the game will work really well with families. It’s spooky in that gremlins sort of way that’s boo scary without inducing terror. I like that, this is a game I can play with my niece and not worry about the content of the game.
As a negative, the game does rely on a randomness. I stated it in the body but my play through had some good luck with the ritual cards we needed to draw. The deck holds five cards and we only needed three but the first two cards we drew were rituals. It took a few more after that to get the third one, but I can see that swinging the other way and dragging the game out.
We didn’t advance the doom track very far over the course of our game, and so I didn’t really feel any tension about winning. However, that might have come down to luck again. There were only two kids in our game which made it more difficult for the monster to come in contact with us trigging an attack and advancing the track. Likewise we had an easier time avoiding the feds because there were less of us to get in the way. I would like to play some more and see how the game scales at higher player counts, but it’s pretty fast and I think it would be fine.
Overall, I had fun. I got to help solve an interesting puzzle, deal with a creative quest system, and have some fun. All in about 60 minutes.
This is a win for me.
Anyway, I always say try before you buy and I mean that even here. Though I understand that is significantly more difficult these days. You can preorder the game from Renegades website and if you pick it up without trying it but enjoy games like Mysterium with a bit of deduction then I think you’ll like it.