GemPacked Cards Preview!!! A What Did You Play This Week Kickstarter Preview
GemPacked Cards Pencil First Games Designer: Eduardo Baraf Illustrator: Katherine Waddell
The What Did You Play This Week Podcast was provided a copy of GemPacked Cards from Pencil First Games in order to do this preview. Photos are using prototype pieces and do not represent the finished project.
The newest offering from Pencil First Games and the follow up Kickstarter to The Siblings Trouble is the completely adorable GemPacked Cards. Eduardo Baraf is back with this gem swapping set collecting game for 2-5 players that plays quickly at all player counts and has some really fun gem swapping to help you get the victory points needed to win the game.
Setup Begin your game of GemPacked Cards by shuffling all the goal cards. Then draw and place one more than you have players on the table. These goal cards give you gem combinations to shoot for during game play in order to gain victory points when you trade in the proper combination out of your hand.
After that, you’ll set out a number of Sun and Nova cards based once again on how many players are playing. These cards also grant victory points for trading in the proper gems to win the card.
Next up, you will set out the right amount of Gemino Pip Tokens, again based on number of players, each player will then draw two of these Pip Tokens for their starting hand. These Pip tokens will represent six of the available colors. Next up you’ll shuffle the GemPacked cards and deal out the number of cards necessary based on player count, for 2-3 players that is nine and for 4-5 players that is twelve. These cards are comprised of the Square and Diamond Geminos that you are going to be trading for with your Pip tokens and other cards. Reshuffle the deck and sit it off to the side as the draw deck and now you are ready to play.
Gameplay On a player’s turn they will buy Squares, Diamonds or any of the Goal Cards or Sun and Nova cards. When the last Pip token is drawn each player will get one remaining turn before the game ends and players then count up their score. But how do you do all that, you may be asking, well, here we go. At the start of a player’s turn if there 7 or more Diamonds on the board(or 9 in a 4-5 player game) the player MAY refresh the whole grid from the draw deck, ignoring any Action Cards that may be dealt. More about those Action Cards later. After the player assesses the board, they draw two Gemino Pips from the draw pile and add them with their collection of Pips. Then the player may perform any of the following actions, in any order and as often as they choose to do:
1) The player may buy a Square from the card grid for two Pips that could create that Square’s color. You can see the combinations that can be made using the chart shown below.
2) The player may buy a Diamond from the card grid for two Square that would combine to create that Diamond’s color.
3) The player can sell a square for two pips that create that Square’s color. Those Pips are collected from the common pool of Pips that have been used previously.
4) The player may buy a Sun, Dwarf or Nova card using the combination needed to purchase those cards. Three Pips for the Sun Card, Five Pips for the Dwarf Card and 3 Squares of any combination of colors for the Nova Card. Each of these cards, along with the goal cards can only be bought once.
5) If a player does not take an action, they can then draw one extra Pip from the Pip pile, essentially passing their turn.
Remember, these actions can be done in any order the players want and as many times as the players like or can which can make for some really short turns and also for some fun nice comboing turns where you are just mixing and matching a lot to get what you want. It should be noted that the board does not refresh though until your turn is over and play passes to the next player.
Also in the Pip pile and in the card grid are multi colored pips, squares and Diamonds, these are Wilds and can only be acquired by combinations as given below. These Wilds may be used in place of another Pip or Square when buying a normal color.
After the player ends their turn the active player refills any cleared spaces on the board with cards from the draw deck. If any of these cards are action cards, this is when those actions take place as soon as they are drawn, starting with the active player and going clockwise, once the card is resolved it is discarded and a new card is placed in its spot until the board is back to the original number of cards on the board. The action cards do different actions, anything from allowing each player to discard a card from the board that is adjacent to the Action Card(Comet) to allowing players to draw more pips(asteroids) or even allowing one player to buy the Sun Card for 3 Pips and adding it to their hand for the victory points. Depending on when they come out these Action Cards can have a huge impact on the game. The Asteroids in general can speed the game up quite a bit and depending on when it happens, can end the game rather abruptly.
Game End As previously noted, once the final Pip is drawn the players all get one more turn to do what they can with their remaining Pips, Squares and Diamonds in order to gain more points. Once everyone has had their final turn, the players tally up their victory points from their cards and the highest Victory Point total wins the game.
Thoughts GemPacked Cards is Eduardo Baraf’s and Pencil First Games’ third game and the first one that I have had the opportunity to play. We've backed the previous Pencil First Games title, The Siblings Trouble as it looks like a fantastic entry into Role Playing within a board game, something that I hope works perfectly for my family. All of the previous games from Pencil First Games are family focused games, and GemPacked Cards continues that trend with this lighter weight game. And it is light, it’s a filler type game with cute artwork from Katherine Waddell. It's a perfect filler game to play when you have 20-30 minutes to spare before bed, which is when it saw the most play time for us and it would also make a fabulous addition to a lunch time game rotation. The mixing of colors has actually been a great thing to teach our 5 year old. Two Primary Pips equal a Square Pip of the same color, but you can also mix and match a little bit to get some secondary colors, Purple, Orange and Green. The younger players may miss a lot of the extra things that you can do to prolong a turn, but they definitely will have fun mixing and matching and making colors. Amongst all that cuteness and light hearted play there is a bit of a thinky element, as long as things stay set up for you, you can set up the turns pretty well and you may have quite a bit to do on your turn with trades to make and goal cards to purchase.
There are a couple of small issues with the game, mainly just dealing with randomness, which is easily forgiven and forgotten in a short lighter weight game like this. A little more annoying, at least in our games, seems to be a first player advantage mainly because the first player is always operating with more Pips than the rest of the players. But once again, that may be our grouping and it’s also easily forgivable in a game like this.
GemPacked Cards feels a lot like you are playing one of those puzzle apps on your phone when you are playing GemPacked Cards, which makes complete sense given that Eduardo has been developing an App for GemPacked Cards right along with the table top game. The app is also super fun so look for that soon, I believe it has been recently accepted on iOS, so it will be available when the Kickstarter campaign launches. The app while fun has no multiplayer and you are strictly trying to solve color and shape mixings as efficiently and quickly as possible, so while it feels similar it’s definitely a separate and fulfilling experience.
We have enjoyed our time with GemPacked Cards and look forward to backing our own copy. Look for GemPacked Cards to land on Kickstarter on September 1st. It will launch with a backing price of $25 plus $5 shipping.