Trick Or Treat – Tricks You With Its Youthful Look, Treats You With A Box Full Of Awesome

Patrick Leder, the designer of one of my favorite games, Five Fingered Severance, Kickstarted a game a while back called Trick or Treat (ToT), but it totally went under my radar because I’m not really keen on Kickstarter, in general, and I don’t normally dig pure card games very much. Well, a couple weeks ago, Patrick contacted me about reviewing the game and because I loved FFS so much, I figured I’d give it a go, especially as one of my core goals for starting Superfly Circus was to tell people about games they might not have heard about. So, I got a review copy, and after a couple days of thinking about playing it, we got it to the table and were pleasantly surprised. After 9 plays in four days, I can tell you that not only did I absolutely love it, but every single person of the 7 other people that have played it loved it as well. 

Before I tell you about the specifics of ToT, I should probably tell you what it is: it’s a two to five player card game that acts like a board game, and the theme is about a bunch of kids trick or treating. The booklet and the promotional stuff on Kickstarter call it a “Rummy-style” set collection game, but I find almost no resemblance to Rummy at all other than the fact that you score by collecting sets. It’s not like any pairs or runs will score; you always have three goal cards that show specific sets that you’re trying to complete, but if someone completes a goal set before you can, that goal comes off the board and you’re screwed out of the points you were looking to collect. I guess there are some similarities to Rummy but only in that there’s sets involved, and there’s a sort of tableau system to take cards from, but that’s about it. This is so much better than Rummy in a lot of ways, and I really love Rummy, so it’s high praise indeed.

Before I go too far, I’d like to tell you about the production. It comes in a small deck box that is just the right size for the decks, and it has a rule sheet that looks to be one-third of an 11 by 17 sheet, lengthwise. The cards are all decent and thick, with cartoony art that would make you believe it’s a game for kids; the art is reminiscent of the Wii game, Guilty Party. It’s not bad art at all, but if I had to drill down to one descriptive word, that word would be “simple”. All in all, I was pleased with everything, especially the very well written rule sheet, which can be read in one sitting on the pot. The card layout is really smart, with the key bits written right on the cards to remind everyone what’s what. Even the icons make sense, which is a rarity.

The only single complaint we all had, which in my book is a big one, is that there are required components missing, a ‘la Munchkin: the game requires tokens which you are told in the rule book to go and find, such as pennies or whatever. I hate that, and to be honest, I had to get about forty pennies to play a four player game because so many can be in play at once. In fact, I initially grabbed maybe 20 of them and we ran out and I had to go back to the piggy bank to get more. I’m sure that it would’ve been a stretch goal or something down the road, but in the end, they were missing, I was inconvenienced, and if you want to play this at a cafe or something, you’ll need to use three tables’ worth of sugar packets which may get you thrown out of the place. That, and I don’t want to use pennies, which may be seen as an endorsement of the idea that Abe Lincoln really is a Vampire Hunter or some such bollocks.

Now, earlier, I said it was more like a board game, and this is because there’s three main types of cards, one of which are location cards, and these are laid out on the table for the players to visit and perform actions on. Players each get a player card which they continually move to locations in order to collect cards or screw over opponents, and so it’s really more of a poor man’s board game in that respect. Because I didn’t have a felt table and I’ve already committed to giving Superfly Circus reader Craig G. (who gets it because of a post on our Facebook page), I didn’t want to jack up the card edges so we forewent using the player cards and dropped some horror-themed miniatures down. It made the game much quicker, and really, who wouldn’t want to be represented by a werewolf who is tearing a man’s legs off? It’s not required, but it’s just that my table is really slick.

ToT isn’t just about running around the board and getting candy sets quicker than the next guy, though. I mean, that’s the goal, but that’s not all that you do. Each location card, of which there’s never less than seven, has a special ability that you play. Some get you cards, sure, but others do nasty, nasty things. The Alley card allows you to move the Bully character, which is the ToT equivalent of the Grim Reaper in Talisman, and who allows you to not only block a location, but also allows you to steal a card from every player on the card that was affected. The Haunted House location allows you to discard up to three cards, and for each card, you put three “fear tokens” (the coins I talked about) on EACH opponent’s card, robbing them of one point per token at the end of the game. The tokens can also be removed from your till at the Haunted House if you spend cards there in the same fashion, but only you get to discard the tokens, whereas everyone else still has them.

On top of the location and treat cards, there’s also “trick cards” which spice up the game. Each is a rule-breaking card, and some help you while others hurt others. The “Move the Bully” card allows you to put the Bully on someone’s space, knocking them off the board and taking one of their cards, while the “Sneak” card allows you to move onto a space with the Bully or that already has a player there, both of which are normally illegal. There’s several more cards as well, with truly different effects, so it’s not just a bunch of “take that” cards that are all alike. These cards really do change the game because you are always cognizant of the fact that someone can nail you with one, so you have to try to remember if someone took one off of one of the tableaus.

The game isn’t as quick as I first assumed it would be, and in fact, the game took about an hour to play through with four of us playing. Turns are actually really quick, so the fact that it’s an hour should indicate that there’s a lot of stuff you’ll be doing. You can truncate the game to your timetable by getting rid of the “set cards”, because the game ends when you run out of them, essentially, so if you have a half an hour, dump half the cards and you’re all set. It doesn’t outlive its welcome, and one of the truest signs of a great game is that you run out of turns before you “feel done”. I was always left wishing I had one or two more turns at the end, and I never got tired of playing it. In fact, I’m writing this right now, dead tired, because I was up until 2:30AM last night playing this game. We played two in a row, and they all demanded it, which is another sign that it’s a great game.

The long and short is that this is a great little backstabbity, adversarial game, one that is a little more than a filler and a little less than a main event, but one that myself and every single person who played it wanted to play again and again. With it having only a few blemishes, the worst being the lack of tokens, this is one hell of a great value at around twenty duckets. I sure wish it had funded more because from the KS page, I see that the stretch goals would’ve been nice to have had.

Why Stealing Kids’ Candy Was Never So Much Fun In Real Life:
– Fast, furious game play with little down time makes this exciting and engaging
– The backstabbery really rustles my jimmies and adds drama to the game
– It plays more like a board game than a card game
– Length of play is variable and is perfect for the game style
– This would be a cool asynch-play IOS game someday (hint, hint, Patrick)

Why I Want To Steal All Of Patrick’s Shit:
– Not a huge fan of the art, although it’s effective and isn’t ugly or distracting
– Direct sales only for now, so no Coolstuff discounts

I really love this little game, and I’ve already contacted the designer to buy the game since I’ve committed to giving this copy up as I noted, per Circus policy, and if you want a copy, you have to get it direct from Patrick, whose website is here, or via BGG private mail; his user name is GreenM. The response was overwhelmingly positive from the Circus Freaks, which is not the norm, and this is the kind of game you can sit and play over and over, glass of spirits or beer in hand, and never really get sick of it. Many people gave this game a perfect 5 Star rating, but since I view it as incomplete due to the lack of a required component and was vocal about that, many people backed their score down to a 4.5 Star rating, which ended up being the average.

4.5/5 Stars

Find the Kickstarter page, complete with video, here:

Buy it here:

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