ORC is a 2-player area control game where you are each battling for control of six different territories. The game plays in about five minutes, with the winner being the one that earns the most points from conquered territories, and also any native Orcs remaining in hand. The game consists solely of 30 cards, and each card represents two of the possible six Orc clans involved in the battle.
The game begins by selecting three cards from the deck so that all six clans are represented; these will form the six territories to be conquered, also known as the battle line. Four cards are then placed face-down next to each territory to form the stockpiles. The remaining three cards get dealt out with one to the first player, and two to the second. The game box is placed at one end of the battle line, and the game can begin!
Each player’s turn will consist of deploying Orcs and drawing reinforcements from the stockpiles. Orcs are deployed by selecting a card from your hand and placing it next to a territory; the facing of the card will determine how many Orcs, and of what color, you deploy to that territory. Next, draw two cards if you played a single Orc, and just one if it was a double. These cards may come from any of the available stockpiles.
When deploying your Orcs, there are certain rules of war that must be followed: The color, or ‘clan’, that you select to deploy can not match the color of the territory you are deploying to, nor can the color be the same as your opponents if they have already deployed to that territory. Additionally, once you have started to deploy a specific Orc clan to a territory, only that same clan can be played there in the future. Instead of deploying, or if you do not have any legal moves, you can also choose to discard a card and then draw 1 or 2 cards from any stockpile.
When a stockpile is emptied, then a Territory Battle begins in the associated location – the player with the most Orcs deployed to that territory wins the battle. The winner flips one of his cards face-down to mark the territory, and all other cards from the battle are removed from the game. If the battle is tied, the territory adjacent to it will determine the winner (adjacency is always towards the game box); whoever won that territory wins the tie. This tie can stay “frozen” until the battle occurs in the adjacent territory, effectively upping the stakes!
Once battles have been resolved in all of the territories, points are scored. The winner of each territory will score 1 or 2 points, based on the number of Orcs on that territory. Additionally, for each Orc in your hand that matches the color of a territory that you control, you’ll score one point. The player with the most points is the winner.
ORC is a very fast, tactical game. Luckily, it does not feel lacking and actually provides a pretty full experience. I would definitely go with the suggested “best 2 out of 3” when playing, especially for how fast it plays. I also appreciate that it’s a solid game that can easily fit into my pocket, since it’s the size of a pack of gum. ORC is an easy one to break out during a lunch break at work or while two of you wait for someone else to set up another game.
Gym, one of four games in the second Pack O’ Games series, is a game that tackles the age-old schoolyard conundrum—picking students for sports teams. Played in two phases, you initially take turns drafting your team of twelve from a lot of 24 kids, and fixing the schedule of events to be played in the second half of the game.
Each kid has two skills specific to two different sporting events, and those values play a part in the latter half of the game where four of the six events are chosen. Bullies and coaches make an appearance—pushing event times and mediating events, respectively—as you attempt to build the strongest squad for each event. The events are scored based on the skill of the players for that specific event and the difference goes to the player who scored highest. To win, you must have the highest cumulative score once each event is scored.
Twelve kids are placed face up to start the draft and once drafted, in alternating turns, the final twelve are lined up. It’s fairly straightforward as you pick some of the higher skilled players, but among the 24 total kids are six bullies. These bullies are weaker skill-wise, but are the only way to alter the schedule of events. What makes this interesting is knowing how many bullies remain; this creates a challenge between drafting more skilled players versus altering the schedule to cater to your selections thus far. The four events furthest along the timeline are those that are selected for the area control portion of the game after drafting is finished.
With two of six events not being played, some kids will not be as valuable in the events. But, no need to worry: the meat of the game is manipulation. In the second half of the game, you’ll play kids to events, enabling actions as designated by the specific event or the active kid’s skills. Actions include exchanging kids from your hand, swaps and switcheroos, and the ill-conceived “Force a Kid” which forces an opponent to play a randomly selected kid next turn. Because of actions that allow for the pickup of your opponent’s kids, your number one draft isn’t necessarily going to remain yours throughout the game, which can make draft considerations appear less meaningful.
There are a fair amount of decisions to be made in the game, but most come later in both phases. Initially, I found myself haphazardly drafting or playing the obvious choice to start each round—pick a kid with the highest skill and later play a skilled student at the appropriate event. But, as you and your opponent go back and forth, tossin’ kids about willy nilly from one event to another via the actions, the gameplay becomes more interesting and calculable. I imagine frustration, like that of repressed memories of days being left till last in gym, could set in as you fight to keep kids in the events you want them. Luckily, the game length is brief, so there’s really no need to get worked up. Just take a lap. Overall, Gym is a fairly impressive game with small strategic decisions for short bursts of amusement.
In RUM, players are pirates rummaging through a recent shipwreck to collect sets of colored rum to gain sway with the Captains and earn points. The game is comprised of 21 double-ended Rum cards, (one end of which has a single bottle of the seven available colors with the other end depicting two bottles of mixed colors), seven Captain cards (one for each color of rum), one Castaway Clock card and one parrot card. To start, you’re going to need a shipwreck to explore, so mix the Rum and Parrot cards together facedown to form said shipwreck, while each player draws one card as their starting hand and three cards are flipped face-up to form the beach. The Captain cards go in the center of the table with a starting value of one.
On your turn, you can do one of two things: draw one Rum card from either the beach or shipwreck, or play a set of Rum cards from your hand. When playing cards, only one end of the card may be used, and the value of each set equals the total number of colored bottles shown on the chosen side, including the rum cards that are face-up on the beach. Given that multiple colors might be represented on the played cards, this means that multiple sets may be played at once. If the value of the colored set(s) you have played is higher than the current value of the corresponding Captain card, you gain control of the card. The new value of the Captain card is now equal to the size of the set played, and counts towards your earned point total. As the value of a Captain card increases, so too does the size of future sets that must be played to claim it, making it harder for opponents to steal that Captain away. For instance, if the current value of the blue Captain card is three, and I play four blue bottles, I gain control of the captain card and its value will increase to four. This counts as four points towards my score and also requires other players to play five or more blue bottles to steal this Captain card in the future. Beware, though, because besides brute-force bottle-collecting, there’s also a crafty way to sneak Captains away from your opponents; by playing a set consisting of the three single-bottle cards from a particular color, you can claim that Captain despite its current value!
To mix things up further, the Parrot can cause havoc when he shows up, forcing players to discard Rum cards back to the shipwreck which can really take the wind out of your sails. The Parrot also advances the Castaway Clock, which acts as a game timer, but also increases the number of Rum cards that players must discard when he shows up. The result being an incremental escalation in the tension of each decision going forward. The game ends if one player has amassed enough Captain cards to surpass the point threshold (based on player count) or the Castaway Clock reaches eight at which point the player with the most points is the winner.
RUM has many moving parts that keep you engaged throughout its short play time. Similar to a game like Siggil, you must pay careful attention to what, and from where, your opponents are taking cards. With set values and owners continually shifting you need to understand the optimal set(s) you should be targeting and/or defending. As far as micro-games go, I am again impressed with the overall production and development of these new Pack-o-Games as they continue to build upon the clever and engaging game play we saw in their predecessors.
SOW is a mancala-style card game about gardening for two to four players. With a secret objective in hand, players must work to plant and gather the flowers that are most valuable to them, while keeping their opponent’s grubby mitts off of their hard work.
To begin, the game is set up in a stylized windmill pattern, with the four wheelbarrows forming a square hub in the center of the table, while twelve rows of cards are then laid out. Two to each wheelbarrow, with one additional angled row between them. Cards are dealt out seed-side up, keeping the flowers hidden, while the special Gopher and Windmill cards are placed on one of those in-between spokes, each on opposite sides of the layout. If there are fewer than four players, setup remains the same, but one or more wheelbarrows will be considered unowned.
On their turn, players will choose one row containing two cards or more, and begin redistributing them one-by-one around the board in the current direction of play (clockwise to start, but this can change!). This is where you’ll need to plan carefully, as it’s only the row in which you place your final card that you get to activate. The two special cards are an exception to this, however, and you can use one of their actions if they both end up in the same row during redistribution. The gopher eats flowers, while on the flip side, the watering can allows you to collect any one flower in one of your rows, and the windmill card controls the direction that cards are placed during the turn.
When plotting your moves, keep in mind that each flower contains two colors, and the color of the seed packet gives a hint to the flower that you’ll find, as it will match one of those two! After distributing all of the cards, if the last card placed was a seed card, it and all matching-color seeds in that row are flipped over to show their flowers. If it was a flower card, and in any player-owned wheelbarrow row, the active player chooses one color that is present in that row, and the owner of the wheelbarrow collects all matching flowers to add to their score pile.
The game will continue in this fashion until all possible moves have been exhausted. At this point, players reveal their secret color, and score points based on the flowers they’ve collected; three points per flower with a matching center, two if you’ve matched the outer color, or just one point each, otherwise.
In playing, I’ve found SOW to be a quick, enjoyable little exercise in planning (and perhaps a touch of misdirection, if you can fool your opponents into what color you’re going for!), and I remain absolutely charmed by the “pack o’ gum” style production and packaging of these pocket-sized minigames.
The League of Nonsensical Gamers would like to thank Perplext Games for providing us with a prototype copy of Pack O Games – Set 2 for this preview. We were not compensated for this preview.