Saturday, November 30, 2013

Famous Games Co. Card Games: Stocking Stuffer Series #1

Card Games
Tennis, Baseball, Golf, Yacht Racing, Car Racing, and Football
Designed by Rob Bartel
Published by Famous Games Co.
2 Player Small and Quick Sport Themed Card Games

Stocking Stuffer Series
This is the first in a six part series of smaller games that I think would make great "stocking stuffer" presents. Easily able to transport and play just about anywhere, these games are great for travel. All of these games have pretty simple concepts that make learning each game go by quickly so you can get right into the fun. These games also offer short playing times (no longer than an hour for each with most averaging around 30 minutes or so). As you consider holiday gifts this year, don't over look the "smaller" games, as these games may just be the games that get the most play time. We don't always have a couple of hours to play our favorite strategy game or old classics such as RISK (where the setup time alone could be 30 minutes) so a lot of us grab a fun game that we know will be short (and yet each minute will be entertaining and enjoyable). The other great thing about these "stocking stuffer" sized games - the price point, with no game being more than $25. Check them out and see which one(s) you may want to add to your holiday this year!

Famous Games Co. Card Games
I came across Famous Games Co. through seeing a tweet by Casual Game Insider a while back. I was very intrigued when I came across a picture of Famous Forehand being played. For those unaware, I really enjoy Tennis, and I have been developing a Tennis themed card game slowly over the past few years. When I saw what Famous Games Co. had done with their version, I was impressed. The game I'm working on is a lot more in-depth, but what Rob Bartel has really done is create six different mini card games (each comprised of just 11 cards and a fold-out informational card) that have a great matching sport theme applied to them. Their are two games that are considered beginner level games (Tennis and Baseball), two games that are intermediate (Golf and Yacht Racing), and two that are advanced (Car Racing and Football). All of the games are really simple to learn, but some are more involved than others.

For such small games, these games sure do hold a lot of enjoyment for those willing to get up off the bench and play. The games offer a nice variety of game mechanics across the six different games. The games can be purchased as a set or individually from the Famous Games Co. website and at the end of this blog you will find a limited coupon code that can get you $5 dollars off your order of a complete set (first 10 to apply the code).

Each game is made of good quality cards that sport (pun intended) wonderful artwork. The themes are applied well to each game and each really does give you a nice feel of the sport (a very difficult thing to do with the small amount of cards). These 2 player card games keep it simple so that players don't need to bog themselves down with trying to understand complex rules or deep strategy, but they leave it light enough that you can just enjoy the game mechanics and feel of playing that sport on a table top with a friend. In my case, these are games that I can see me and my wife playing on weeknights where work and life may be crazy (the games provide a lighter game that we can enjoy without adding any additional stress to our pile from earlier that day. Great relaxing games.

Some may struggle with the price ranging currently from $5.49 to $6.25 depending on which game (or $37.25 for the entire set - time to utilize that coupon found below to bring it down by $5). Others may find the games too simple for their liking and will either wish the game was expanded to be a little more complete, or they would rather spend the 30 minutes setting up their next Axis and Allies game. These games may not appeal to everyone all the time, but the games are well done and I think most of you would find yourself enjoying the well applied themes and game mechanics that these little 2 player card games provide.

I will briefly discuss each game separately focusing on the things I like or dislike about each game. The rules and instructions for the games are provided on 2 cards and are easy to understand. If this wasn't easy enough for your, the Famous Games Co. website provides great step by step instructional tutorials (very well done). Some of the games will require a pen and paper to keep track of score and other markers/tokens may be required for game play as well (usually a few pennies or other change, or even tokens from other games). My favorites listed in order would probably have to be Tennis, Football, and Car Racing but I did enjoy each of the games. Overall, 2 fingers up, or 7/10 stars for these light minimalist card games.

Famous Forehand (Tennis)
The tennis game is really the most simple of all and yet I enjoy that simplicity (again, a little bias since this is my favorite sport). The back and forth feel and strategy of ball placement is indeed captured and utilized well. I just wish there were more cards! Each rally just seems to end too soon. This is just me wishing there were more cards for each rally. Four cards just doesn't feel like enough, I just want to keep playing each point. With the few number of cards, some people may get too familiar with all the cards and this may take some of the fun out of it. But the game is so simple and using the cards as the two halves of the tennis court is just an awesome idea. This is one of the games where the "required" penny and pen and paper really isn't needed. It is pretty easy to keep track of where the ball is and the score without a penny marker etc. This gives me hope that my tennis game will be enjoyable too!

Famous Fastballs (Baseball)
I was really surprised when I opened this one. I wasn't sure what I was expecting, but this game is actually a hand gesture game (along the lines of rock-paper-scissor). The cards provide a nice layout that is used to keep track of outs, runners, who is up to bat, the score, and so forth. The game is each player choosing at random different hand signals. Depending on the combination of the two results the batter may get struck out, walk, or get a hit. If they hit the ball, then players move on to a different set of gestures (choosing a number between 0 and 3) to determine the result of the hit (will it be a home run, or did the pitching team get a double play - allowing them to remove 2 runners from the bases). The hand signals and cards really fit the theme well I think, especially thinking about the different signals that catchers give to pitchers etc. I found myself getting a little tired of repeating the hand gestures though, but you could do a similar thing utilizing the cards but using dice instead to determine the outcomes. Again, well done and thought out game.

Famous Fairways (Golf)
From the mini-golf dates to pretending that I know what I'm doing on the golf course, my real life experience with golf isn't that great. Golf however seems to be just one of those sports that you should know how to play (especially if you are going to be doing any sort of business with anyone, or so I have seen and been told). Choosing the right club is something that I understand the concept, but in practice, I really have no clue what I'm doing. In Famous Fairways, players pick clubs to place their ball (within that given club range) down the fairway closer and closer to the hole. Originally I didn't think there was much strategy to the game, but I quickly realized that there was more strategy to this little game than golf balls found at the bottom of the Par 5 lake. Sometimes the longest range club isn't the best or you may want to enter a hazard. Cards are shuffled and dealt out in a line equal to the Par for that hole (Par 3, 3 cards - Par 5, 5 cards). Each card has 4 possible ball locations and each is riddled with either water, bunker, or rough hazards each effecting you in different ways. A great little pocket sized golf game that will require some 9 markers or so to keep track of ball location and club choice.

Famous Flagships (Yacht Racing)
This game is a fun game, but I didn't catch the theme as much as I did in the other games. Players take turns playing 1 of 3 cards in their hand that moves their yacht either clockwise or counterclockwise around the center wheel 1 to 3 spaces. The player obtains points (written down on paper or kept track mentally) equal to the number of markers on that space plus the number of dots. The player then puts all markers from that spot into the center and places markers from the center to the left and to the right of their boat. First to 50 wins. A very interesting concept (and I guess trying to steer into the wind to get the most speed each turn does provide some applicability to the theme) that again I wasn't seeing much too it at first, but as the game progressed, I started realizing that I should try and figure out what my opponent was going to play so that I could be ready for my own strategies as each time you play a card that round, you will switch that card with what your opponent played.

Famous 500 (Car Racing)
This game really offers great variability and you get to customize your very own race car each game. Will you start with speed points (or victory points) or will you stock up on tires and fuel hoping that you will not need to take a turn to make a pit stop later in the game? Also, you can play on different race tracks as well that can be downloaded or you can create your own! I love the customization portion of this and the different available tracks. You really do need a pen and paper for this game though to keep track of damage to your car and points. Players will be choosing from 3 different cards in their hand and hoping for each segment that they are the fastest car (scoring one more speed point than your rival). The speed points can be used later in the pit stop to restore your car (for beware, if you drop below zero in any category, you are out of the game!) but they are also the means of victory (the player with the most at the end of 3 laps - again, you can vary this - is the winner). Great replayability on this one - a light custom car racing game.

Famous First Downs (Football)
Last, but definitely not least is the great football game! This game uses the most game markers, but it may just be the funnest one of the bunch (I know, I said the Tennis was my favorite...). The offense has 3 double sided cards that will have certain plays of the 9 showing that can be run. Offense lays down one of the 6 options, then defense will pick one of their 6 defensive cards and put it face down. Offense then picks one of the highlighted routes he wants to run and defense then reveals their card to see if they subtract any yardage or block any gain etc. I really like this game mechanic. Each side can gain momentum tokens for completing first downs or blocking gains and these can then be used to influence the game further (even create a fumble or interception). Do you try for the long pass, get the field goal using some extra momentum, or just put the ball to avoid giving your opponent a leg up on their offensive run. The game plays very well and I think provides the most enjoyment (other than perhaps the very simple tennis back and forth that I live for) out of this set of games.

Closing Remarks
Rob had a great vision of creating simple card games that 2 players can sit down and easily enjoy game after game without the fuss of a lot of components or complex rules. These minimalist sport themed games are well themed and have great solid game play. Simple hand gestures, 'club' placement, and card choices are transformed into nice feeling sport games that I think players will enjoy. Some have more replayability than others and for some, I just wish there was a little more to it. If you are looking for some quick light 2 player card games with some twists, go check out these card games at and that is How Lou Sees It!

Enter this Coupon Code for $5 off if you purchase the entire set. Only available until January 1st and to the first 10 people to enter the code. Enjoy! (Code = LOUC-XFA2)

A big SHOUT OUT to Famous Games Co for providing these free review copies. Check out the video review below for more on what each game looks like!

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