As much as I hate most Kickstarter projects, we at the Circus try to expose publishers who aren’t looking for a quick one-hit wonder; we like the idea that Kickstarter allows people to fund long-term companies from their inception. With the market run by bloggers, basically, it seems like it’s pretty hard for a little guy to get noticed. Well, a year or so ago we did a preview for Thrash-Car, which some of us liked and some of us didn’t, but it went on to be a bit of a cult hit. It could’ve stopped there, but in speaking with Dave Killingsworth of SolarFlare Games, he was clear that he wasn’t going to stop with just one game. So, here we are today, with a new game getting ready to launch, and this one is a card game that is not unlike Rummy, except that there’s direct player screwage and lots of dice rolling. Dumpster Brawl is now on Kickstarter, and while I generally am not really all that hot, personally, on card games, I love Rummy, and this is a nice twist on it.
The idea of the game is pretty simple, and places the game well within the realm of “family game”, but it has some gamey elements that makes it different, and arguably, more interesting than just playing Rummy. The first is that you can either take, discard or draw cards from the pile at the beginning of your turn, which is kind-of similar to Rummy, but then you pick another player and then have a dice-off. The winner gets to either stick a card in the loser’s hand, or take one from them. At this point, that’s where things go kind of sideways from a design standpoint. Dumpster Brawl has several play modes, and they all use the above basic principles, but vary from that point forward. The first mode is Round Rumble, and after you’ve done the above steps, you use the die faces to determine how many cards you can discard or draw from the deck. The second mode is Rumble Rummy, which is, again, the same as above, but you can only use the die faces to draw new cards. There’s another mode which is in the box, as a “stretch goal”, but I’m not reviewing that because it’s not “in the box”, unless funding is high enough. In the end, the object is to have three sets of three cards, and nothing else, but with the Rummy version, you can lay cards down and have other people play off your laid cards whereas with the other two versions you have to keep them in your hand.
I guess the easiest way for me to say it is that this game belongs in the trash, but not the kind you take to the curb. It’s a family Ameritrash card game where screwing people over at the right time makes memorable moments. It’s really kind of a refreshing take on a classic card game that features anthropomorphic characters fighting over the contents of a skip. Instead of having four suits of fourteen cards each, as with Rummy, there’s thirteen suits of seven cards each. Also, there’s three “blocker” and “booster” cards which a player can use like a tactical nuke to screw over opponents, as well as some “slug” cards which act as a sort of “Old Maid” card the player tries to get rid of by the end of the game. I guess at the end of the day, I’d call this a more complex version of the classic game, with far more randomness, and a lot more direct interaction. At first, I thought the play time would be a lot longer because of the fact you had to keep at least nine cards in your hand at all times if you hoped to win, but as it turns out, it really only takes about 30 minutes to play an entire match with four players.
At a price point of $25, including shipping, I have to admit that this is a pretty good deal. With a bunch of custom dice and some really great art on some really nice, thick, coated cards, I think this is a good deal. In the interests of full disclosure, I want to point out that this game just showed up in my mail box, unsolicited, and then afterward I got contacted by the publisher. While we don’t like to do Kickstarter Previews, and we REALLY don’t want to get a lot of unsolicited games to review, after I responded with some questions to Dave, he indicated that what I got was the final, boxed version of the game and that there are no rules changes to follow. That was enough to get me to do the review, and I warned him that if we play it, we review it, per the Circus Policies, and that if we hated it, we would put it in a gibbet with its guts hanging out. Luckily for him, most of us liked the game pretty well, so it didn’t come to that.
Now, if I have any complaints the game, it has to do with the fact that I hate when games give me too many different rule sets. I want game designers to pick their best, design around that, and then produce a single game. If I wanted a sandbox, I know where Toys ‘R Us is. We played all of the modes, in the interest of providing a review, though. I don’t like the fact that in two of the modes, you end up with this monstrous fan of cards because you can’t lay any down, meaning that the game has the potential to drag on thanks to the gang up on the leader phenomenon, and I can assure you, it happens. We also didn’t really like the fact that all of the cards have the same value; the cardboard box, which might be a shelter for a homeless rat, has the same value as a pop can, which has a redemption value in some states. We all agreed that we’d have liked the game more had there been some point value associated with the cards so that “going out” was less of a race. We ended up writing numbers on the cards, with the pop cans being a 4 and the fish heads being a 1, and then the game became much more strategically interesting. Instead of just trying to get the matched sets, now they mattered, and people tried specifically to get the more valuable cards instead of simply trying to make matched sets.
Even with those complaints, the game was still really a lot of fun. The game supports two to six players, and our review squad played it as a two player, four player, and six player game. We found that two player games were middling at best, but after the review sessions I continued to play it with my 13 year old, and we realized that only the Rummy version really had legs as a two player game. The other modes aren’t really all that interesting and amount to a bit of a race, but with four and six players, the modes all worked well and were great little fillers. We found that it’s most enjoyable in any mode if you start out knowing you’re playing three matches, and keeping track of the overall score. Even when each card is equal in value, the points system kind of kept everyone interested in the game more, and so I think we’ll be playing this game like that from this point on.
Why Dumpster Diving Is Awesome:
– Really fun, cartoony art fits the theme and spirit of the game
– Fast paced play, loaded with screwage and dice-chucking, kept things fun the entire time
– Simple learning curve and easy gameplay ensures that the whole family can play
– I’ve spent more money at McDonald’s than this game costs, and Dumpster Brawl doesn’t give me projectile diarrhea
Why All I Found In The Dumpster Was Cat Turds:
– I’m not a fan of multiple game modes, especially when they are all 80% identical
– It wouldn’t have cost a cent more to tack values onto the cards and make them different, but here we are
– If you don’t like random, back slowly away from the screen and forget I mentioned this game
– 2 player sessions really aren’t that interesting; it’s mostly annoying
I really like this game, despite my general dislike of most card-only games. Maybe I’m just coming around, maybe this is just a really good implementation of one of my all-time favorite classic card games. All I know is that the art is really fun and imaginative, the game play is brisk and pretty exciting, and there’s a ton of dice chucking. If you’re not a fan of random, or if you’re one of those total dicks who would say a phrase like “I don’t think there’s enough agency in this game”, don’t buy this game. This is a full-on Ameritrash (read: NOT AmeriTHrash) game, and you will utterly despise it with every molecule (read: cubane, likely) of your being. That said, if you like games that don’t take themselves seriously and have 30 minutes to play, hey, have at it. We really like it, and I’d almost say I, personally, love it.
Go back this game, if you’re so inclined here:
Superfly Circus Disclaimer:
This is a PREVIEW of a game, and therefore no score will be listed, and the final product may vary greatly from what I just wrote. We did our level best, in good faith, to tell you all what we RECEIVED, and if the game changes during the production or development cycle, take it up with the publisher if you bought it based on this preview. I can only write about what was received, and as far as I’m concerned, Kickstarter projects are vaporware until they are actually produced and delivered. Caveat muh-vuggin Emp-tity-tor. I, as of this writing, have backed only a very small handful of products, only one of which was a game, so let this be my two cents of advice: Be very careful with Kickstarter “backing” because you can be fucked stupid just as easily as you can get delivered the game of your dreams. Whatever you do, don’t use the above preview as anything other than a review of a game BEING DEVELOPED AT THE TIME OF WRITING, and the game is just as likely to be completely different than was described as it is to be exactly as described.