My first tabletop game design, co-designed with Compounded designer Darrell Louder, is now live on Kickstarter as part of the VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game (aka VivaJava Dice) campaign. You can pledge to get a starter set of Angry Dice by itself for just $8! Please consider supporting this project – the campaign ends on 7/21/13.
FlowerFall is a card-dropping, garden-building, physics-defying throwdown by Carl Chudyk and published by Asmadi Games. We’ve played the 2 to 5-player version (the pre-release copy printed for Origins 2012) from Asmadi Games but until 11:59 PM on July 20 you can Kickstart a 2 to 7 player version for $15.
In FlowerFall, you and your opponents drop flower cards onto a playing surface consisting of four randomly placed starting gardens. By strategically (or luckily) choosing to throw either flowers in your color or green flowers, you grow gardens and contend for control of the rapidly expanding greenspace. A game can be as long or short as the players make it, but the average game plays in less than 20 minutes, even with 5 players. Scoring can sometimes take longer than actual game play. The winner of the game is the gardener who has control of the most green flowers (1 point per visible yellow center) at the end of the game.
Setup couldn’t be easier – just fling the four starting garden cards anywhere. On the floor, on the table, on the beach, on the dog – wherever. For our simple game, we’re standing up and using a knee-level ottoman to make things tougher. This way we can adjust the difficulty later using our ceiling fan and add random cat interference.
Duck will throw first (she’s pink), while I’ll toss second (blue).
Duck: So that could have gone better. I blame it on the ceiling fan…
Soup: Not quite what I was going for, but a solid start controlling 7 plants. I’m feeling ok about this so far.
Current Score: Duck 0, Soup 7
Duck: My second throw is a little better. I’m barely holding on to four points but it’s still enough to get on the board this round.
Soup: Trying to break up Duck’s little floral empire, I miss my mark, but end up with some hope of controlling the west later. Didn’t really help myself with this throw, but feeling ok.
Current Score: Duck 4, Soup 7
Duck: I, ahem, actually… um, meant to do that. Yup. (Not really.) This game is going swimmingly and Soup’s starting to pick up speed. I’m sticking to the whole ceiling fan thing.
Soup: Now we’re gardening with fire! Duck’s throw ends up in the void and I take control of westgardenland.
Current Score: Duck 0, Soup 11
Duck: If I can’t get the pink flowers to stick, maybe the green ones will magically float the way I want them to. I wanted the card I threw – the near center card of green flowers – to actually make friends with the three-flower garden I had in the back. You’re welcome in advance for those points, sweetie.
Soup: Duck covered one of my blue flowers with a normal green flower card, so I try to get it back while cutting off her other pink flowers from the main garden that’s forming in the center. Feeling good about life right about now.
Current Score: Duck 0, Soup 15
Duck: I’m frustrated. Soup’s running away with the points and I’m, well, not, so I’m actually just chucking cards at the big garden developing in the bottom of the picture. Thankfully, I cover two blue flowers – a fleeting moment of victory.
Soup: Duck flops another point card over my flowers, taking two out of the equation – so I try to get then back and succeed with a gardener’s fist-pump.
Current Score: Duck 0, Soup 18
Duck: At times like these, back up against the wall, I try to rely on crafty strategy to get out of a tight spot. If you believe that, I have a lovely bridge and some land to show you too. In all honesty, this was just a throw that landed well. I was really trying to get away from the mess and start a new garden.
Soup: Duck flops a nice card in the middle of the big garden, so I stupidly try to land exactly on her card and miss – absurdly covering up 5 points in the garden I controlled. D’oh!
Current Score: Duck 0, Soup 11
Duck: So far, one garden has remained untouched. I’m trying to get control of those points so I at least have something to work with. My misjudged throw doesn’t exactly help me on that front, but it does add some confusion to the growing middle garden. I think I may have tied it up.
Soup: DISASTER! After Duck lands a money card smack in the middle of the garden covering up my flowers, adding three of hers to the mix and evening up control (no one gets the points), my card lands in the middle of nowhere in the top-left. I have a sinking feeling in my stomach now.
Current Score: Duck 0, Soup 1
Duck: I really want to get out of the mess in the middle so, of course, that is exactly where my next card lands. I’m starting to think this game is going to be won by the mysterious third player: Ceiling Fan.
Soup: Duck is starting to exert some control and makes her own garden, so I try to fling more flowers and keep the huge central garden going. I’d imagine this is just like real gardening.
Current Score: Duck 3, Soup 6
Duck: Two cards left. It’s close. I’m torn between trying to break away in a small garden or to keep fighting for control of the middle. Apparently, my cards want to fight. (And I should have paid more attention in physics.)
Soup: Duck eliminates another of my flowers while I somehow manage up to cover up two more of my own with more points. That hurt. I’m starting to think Duck has destiny on her side. I try to lure a cat over with a treat in desperation, but it doesn’t work.
Current Score: Duck 3, Soup 1
Duck: I’m going all in, with a Hail Mary drop to hopefully win it all. Based on the meager gains I make (only covering one flower) it’s going to come down to the final drop.
Soup: As the final card falls to the ground, it of course lands in the worst possible location, covering up what little hope I had, and connecting the gardens together in one very green pile of defeat, narrowly avoiding the shutout. I am humiliated as a gamer and a florist, and may never recover.
Final Score: Duck 22, Soup 1
Soup Says: This particular play with Duck was rough, but I still highly recommend FlowerFall. It’s cheap, fun, and with the new version can play up to 7 players of all ages. My only gripe is that the scoring can get a little thorny, and can take longer than the actual game itself, but it wasn’t annoying enough to overcome the fun I’ve had with it every time. It’s a breath of fresh air for me and would be a great addition to any collection. I also can’t help but think it would make a good drinking game somehow.
Duck Says: In real life, I don’t have a green thumb at all. I’ve killed kitchen counter herb gardens, an African violet, and even a shrub in our front yard (who knew shrubs didn’t like being repeatedly front-ended by the car?). Apparently, this carries over to real life. I’m no good at this game. In the handful of times we’ve played, I’ve won twice (including this game) and I can’t tell you how I did it either time. I can’t play strategically – laws of physics and aerodynamics will inevitably get in my way – so I’m left with luck which also doesn’t always turn out in my favor.
I struggle with the balance of strategy and luck in this game. If I’m going to lose to Soup, I’d rather it be because I did something ridiculous rather than because I misjudged wind speed or something like that. At the same time, I love the chaotic scoring and the ability of the game to change so quickly. Yes, I might drop cards badly but there’s no guarantee anyone else will drop well all ten times… I haven’t had a disappointing experience playing and every group we’ve played with has had tons of fun and been pleasantly surprised. This is an awesome quick game, a great game for young gamers, and a funny game after something thinky. There is a significantly challenging and delightfully refreshing experience in this little box.
We Say: If FlowerFall sounds rosy to you, hop over to Kickstarter and pledge your support. The campaign ends on July 20.
We’re not receiving any compensation for this review. It’s the Wild West, pardners, and it’s every game for itself!
Welcome to the inaugural Duck/Soup Game Review! We hope our perspective on gaming for two can help you decide what to bring to your gaming table.
Who We Are
Soup is an experienced boardgamer and fledgling playtester while Duck is a novice gamer who prefers cooperative gaming and never likes anything on the first play.
Mark Chaplin’s Revolver is a 2011 release from Stronghold Games that we discovered at Origins 2012. It goes for $25-$30 and plays in around 20 minutes once you have the rules down.
The Scuttlebutt (Quick Take)
Revolver is a crazy back-and-forth 2-player shoot-em-up that will keep tension high as wild swings occur between the ambiguously good lawmen and the sympathetic band of villains. It has a high punk factor and severe unpredictability – give this one a few plays on each side before deciding if it’s for you.
The Whole Kit and Caboodle (Components)
Duck Says: We love a well-organized box! It can take a minute to learn to read the cards but the iconography is generally clear and the flavor text, particularly card names, is rich with the best of the Old West.
Soup Adds: The tin is pretty awesome, and stores everything perfectly with a great hinged lid. The well-drawn cards are easy to shuffle, play well with the theme, and feel like they’ll hold up to some abuse.
We Agree: This game really does play like you’re in a good ol’ fashioned gunfight. It’s chaotic, unpredictable, and there is a lot of luck involved. As the outlaws, you really feel like you are on the run, doing everything you can to delay the lawmen as you make your way to the train and watch fellow gang members fall one by one. As the sheriff, you feel like a hunter, breaking through the outlaws defenses while picking the gang off.
The art is great, the characters have backstories in the rulebook that make you question which side is actually good, and there is a ton of flavor.
Ease to learn
Soup Says: Setup is quick and easy, although you need a decent amount of room as the outlaws. It’s almost best just to jump right into a game with the rulebook and just start playing, learning as you go. There are some specific cards that need clarification, but the rulebook does an ok job with most of them, despite some flaws. The game definitely takes a few plays on each side before you can formulate any real strategy, as the two sides play very differently (and almost oppositely).
Duck Says: I have an extremely low tolerance for rules-learning, something that, as Soup has pointed out, is contrary to learning a new game but the rulebook satisfied even my demanding threshold. That said, it was much harder for me to learn to play the Outlaws– aided, I think, by the caveat that the Outlaws have only three spots to place cards in each battle while the Law has unlimited places. But it seems that the Outlaws can develop a specific strategy and commit to it while the Law is incredibly dependent on the luck of the deck.
Setup for Revolver is really easy. Five unique battlefield cards are placed between the players in a specific order. These cards serve as the game’s timer, and provide changing benefits to the Outlaws. Finally, the Derail the Train card is placed near the train and the Mexican Border card, which starts off buried in 12 wooden blocks, is placed on the Outlaw’s side of the table.
The Law and the Outlaws each receive and shuffle a unique deck and the Outlaws keep track of the Colty gang using 16 unique character cards played in front of them.
The Lawmen win if they can kill the entire gang before they reach the final spot on the train or if they kill the Outlaw Cortez before the train departs. The Outlaws win if either Crow survives the final round on the train or all blocks are removed from the Mexican Border card. Play begins with the Outlaws and goes back and forth until one of the win conditions is met.
This game, Duck is playing the Outlaws and Soup is playing the Lawmen. Each player draws 5 cards.
Example Round 1: Repentance Spring Bank
Duck Says: The last time we played, Soup theorized that the key to winning as the Outlaws is knowing when to keep cards back, so I’m going to test his theory. My primary goal for this game is to win by surviving the train battle.
After drawing cards, I have two I know I need to hold onto – The Jackson Clan (a +5 free play on the train) and a card that will remove a blocker played by the Law. I need to keep these, and enough additional cards so that if I’m forced to discard, these two will be safe. I play a Yellow Boy Rifle (bring the Outlaws power to +2), discarding a card. I also play a card to advance the clock one round. Not the start I was hoping for…
Soup Says: After drawing two cards, the pickings are a little slim. I have 2 blockers, but I only need to have three total power to kill an Outlaw this turn. I play both blockers, one at each of two future battlefields. Then I play a Deputy (+2) and a Bounty Hunter (+1 and draw a card), giving me the 3 power I need.
The turn ends, and since the Lawmen are up 3-2, one of the gang members at level zero dies. Sorry, Bullet…
Gang members are killed in order from lowest to highest, with the Outlaw player able to choose which member is removed and taking the appropriate penalty or bonus as instructed on the Outlaw card.
This particular game ended up being very close, with the Outlaws eventually narrowly escaping with the loot.
Duck Adds: Hand management was particularly important for both sides, perhaps slightly more for the Outlaws, but having the right cards to counter Law actions helped me. Like an Old West gunfight, the game became about knowing when to make a move and when to concede a lower-level gang member in order to help advance the game.
Will this gunfight leave your partner giving you the mitten?
Soup Says: You bet your saddlebags it will. Almost every card you play will affect your opponent negatively in some way. Thematically, this makes a lot of sense, but it can be pretty stressful, especially as the outlaws. Go into this one knowing that the punk factor is severe – it can be tough to stay cool when you feel threatened.
It takes a few plays to get the hang of the back and forth nature of the game. It moves fast and doesn’t pull any punches, but each new setting provides a sort of soft reset for each side to gather its bearings. The game can feel pretty unfair at times, but stick with it, as extreme swings in momentum can occur with every shot fired.
People with short tempers or who are sore losers are better off playing the lawmen, as it’s easy to feel cornered as the outlaws.
Duck Says: As a competitive 2-person game, the only other person to target is your partner and, depending on the luck of draw, it can really feel as if the other person is single-handedly ganging up on you (no pun intended). But the game can also turn on a card, so stick it out (up?): commit to the shoot out theme, and to the possibility of the next card being the one you need to turn the battlefield in your favor.
This is definitely easier said than done, though, in a game driven by luck. In one of the two games we played to actually make it to the train, I really thought I had the Outlaws cornered. But a few well-pulled plays, and a subsequent drop in my own luck, meant Jack “the Crow” Colty was safely headed out of town and Ned McReady was dead twice over.
An early-ending game can be as much about the cards you draw as the strategy you use, so don’t be discouraged and just reshuffle, redraw, and replay.
Is Revolver a game to ride with river with?
Duck Says: I think it will be. Admittedly, it’s kind of a downer to reach a point in a game where you know you don’t have the cards to prevent the other side from running away with the win but repeated play has given me the opportunity to see the value of a good strategy (and that uneven games appear to be rare). I can definitely see this on the table when we want to play a game put don’t have a ton of time to commit. It’s becoming more fun as we both become more adept and is much more fun when the game is close, as it was the last time we played, than when one side runs away with it all.
Soup Says: Heck yes! Just go into it with the right disposition, and this game is a blast. It’s not really made for the sensitive, overly thinky, or angry, sore-loser types. But if you want a wild, luck-of-the-draw, violently swinging shootout that plays very quickly, then this might be right up your alley.
Check me and Jacki out on Dice Hate Me’s podcast, The State of Games Episode 22 – The One About Two Pairs!
Sometimes when you’re gaming, it’s better to be sitting back with an easy pair than dealing with cleaning up after a full house – if you know what we’re saying; and if you listen to this podcast you’ll certainly get the reference. So grab your significant other, pour a glass of your house finest and let The State of Games bring you closer together. You’re welcome.