Brawling Beasties, claws, dice and googly eyes! Squirmish, a review.

Squirmish : a card game of brawling beasties. A review.


Earlier this year we were at PAX east in Boston where we visited the Gamewright booth and got  a chance to play a card game with a standout wacky design that was slated for a release later this year. We had a very fun time with it and could not wait to play more. That game was Squirmish and has since become available for purchase.

Gamewright is known for their family friendly tabletop games such as “Gonuts for Donuts:, “Sushi go”, “Chomp” as well as renowned survival coop games “Forbidden island” and its successor “Forbidden Desert”. Their games are usually easy to pick up and play, family friendly, yet still involve deeper strategic gameplay for more veteran players. 
With the release of Squirmish, Gamewright dives into the popular field of card battle games also known as deck building games. A first for the company as it turns out. 

As a card battle game, Squirmish stands on its own with a unique comical style and multiplayer mayhem for two to four players. The game actually had a release a few years ago as a self published title and now is distributed under the Gamewright umbrella with a new version 2.0. In the game you control a variety of weird characters in an epic battle to see who is the baddest beastie in town. It is like a card game version of a wrestling battle royal, of crazy characters with their own unique catchphrases unique personalities and abilities. 

Goal

The goal of Squirmish is to knockout opponent monsters in the game by depleting their hit points. If your attack deals the final blow to a monster, you keep the card as a victory point. Three victory points and you are the winner. But be careful, other players might have an “ace” up their sleeve that can foil your path to success.

Setup

The box includes four dice, seventy Squirmish playcards and a bag of green googly eyes, (YES I said googly eyes!!!), and a seven page how-to-play manual.

What's in the box?

Each player starts with a die and six cards. The googly eyes go in a share pile and are used as hit markers. This is a good time for each player to look at their cards and familiarize themselves with the information on the card. You will find a portrait of the character and its name together with some stats such as hit points and attack damage, a battle cry, and abilities. All players place one of their cards face down on the table and reveal them simultaneously. The player with the lowest hit points for their character will place their card first. Then the gameplay continues clockwise around the table. A card, other then the first one, will always have to be attached adjacent to another card on the deck. Once all players place their card the game continues in the same order. To stay free of confusion each players will place a card in play faced towards themselves. This way you can easy identify which cards are yours and which are your opponents.
Checking out stats is part of the game.

Gameplay

A turn involves the following steps : Attack, Resolve any abilities, Place or move a card ( if you wish) and draw a card (if you wish).

Attack 
This is possibly the easiest step of the whole game, other then drawing a card. On your turn you pick a card you own and declare its attack of another card. Roll a die and check your card for the result of your roll. If this is your first time attacking with this card since it was in play, you get to read it's battlecry out loud for a +1 damage/healing. Usually lower numbers result in a standard attack, while higher rolls have an added effect.  Some cards don’t do any damage but heal instead, a useful thing to either heal your own beasties, or perhaps those of another player in an effort to prevent someone else from running off with their last victory card. Once you verified the result of your roll, you add or remove damage counters as needed (and yes that means googly eyes), then resolve any abilities that each card in play might have. 

Abilities
Some abilities trigger when you attack while others activate as a defense when someone attacks you, a third group is so zany they could activate anytime. In all cases you read the description of the card and follow what it says. It is beneficial to remember the abilities of all cards in play, as there results cane very influential on the course of the game when triggered. For instance you can have a card that counters if any of the other cards of that player are attacked, or a healing spell could go off somewhere on the board. And this is where the strategy portion of the game comes into play. Using cards that complement each other in some way forces opponents to rethink any attack plan twice before committing to it. They will have to figure out if the negative effects of attacking another player are outweighed by something good, if they can counter it, or if they are better off taking a different path all together and play a different card.

Place or move
Once the attack and ability phase are resolved you can either move a card or place another. Depending on your play style, you might play with a lean crew on the table or work to build a large army to overpower everyone else. But keep in mind that you can only have five cards in play at a time and each card has only four sides available and always has to be at least attached with one side to the play area ( the Squirmish) on the table. When placing a card you can also replace any card you have on the table that is not damaged yet but that card will have to be discarded. In some cases you might want to get your card out of dodge and decide move it instead of playing another one. Moving is done by swapping position with another adjacent card.

Draw
Lastly you may draw a card if you wish to do so. You cannot have more than five cards in your hand, if you go over this number you will have to discard one.

Game experience

Squirmish is incredibly easy to setup and get started. The manual is short and to the point and from the get go it gets you in the frame of mind that the game is silly and fun. We tried a two player and a three player game and though both were fun, but it felt the game really shines with a third (or fourth) player as the dynamic changes a lot. Two player games can still be fun, but the added chaos of more players to keep an eye on ( read: backstab ) is just that much more exciting.
Zee..bel..be..zub..?

The biggest challenge was to to deal with the abilities portion of the different cards as at times they seemed a bit ambiguous or confusing in how to resolve. We would re-check the manual a few times to make sure we understood its effects correctly, but could not find a reference. So while we played we would discuss it and agree on how an effect worked. We never had any real conflict over this, but keep this in mind nonetheless. The abilities determine so much of the game, you definitely need to be able to read, and comprehend, in order to play this game. And to be fair, the manual states this clearly from he start (10+/ NO babies ).

Due to the quick setup, short game length (20-30min avg) and easy gameplay it is easy for everyone to jump in quick. We soon had a lively table of giggles, fist pumps and exciting shouting. The victory shout was especially deafening, especially because it involved stealing a card away from dear old dad.  The hilarious characters are all hand drawn by Steven Stwalley, who also created the game. Seeing their silly designs when placing a card and reading their even more hilarious descriptions out loud, made the game a fun experience throughout. The screaming of each of the unique catch phrases at initial attacks was just the cherry on top.
Rolling that die with some fierce effort

Conclusion

Usually games by Gamewright deliver in their promise of an easy accessible, family friendly game and they do not disappoint with Squirmish. With it they delivered a wacky, zany game that can help develop skills in comprehensive reading, probability, strategic thinking and even conflict resolution. Though not a hardcore strategic game there is enough depth here to get down into the weeds a little more and start developing strategies and play styles. At times you can get surprising results from combining different cards in play that you had not anticipated and everyone is blown away by its result. 
As mentioned before, there can be some confusion or disagreement on how a card works and for this purpose it would be nice to be able to look up answers to these questions in some reference guide.

The card art is funny and sets a great tone. There were quite a few pauses in gameplay to admire some card that had a silly name, drawing or crazy effect. Hopefully the game will have expansions in the future to introduce new wacky monsters.

Squirmish is great for the whole family as long as all players can read and comprehend the information on the cards and is also a fantastic warmup game for any game night.

At a budget friendly price everyone should be able to find a place for Squirmish in their game collection.


Game: Squirmish
Publisher: Gamewright
Price: $14.99
http://www.gamewright.com
Buy on Amazon



2 comments:

  1. Thanks much for the wonderful review! FYI, if you need rule clarifications on any card abilities, you can submit your questions here on the Squirmish website: http://squirmish.net/faq

    The quicker solution, of course, is this from the rules

    "NOTE: Any serious dispute over interpretation of a particular ability on a card should be resolved with rock-paper-scissors. Any silly disputes should be resolved by hitting each other with socks filled with jelly."

    Note that some jellies (such as hot pepper jellies) can burn the eyes, so you may want to use protective eyewear when employing this technique.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I tried to get to a jelly sock battle , but they were to agreeable ... darn

    ReplyDelete

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