I put a new game on our table along with all my other stuff from the day. My fifteen-year-old son was immediately drawn to the unwrapped box.
“A game I need to review.”
“Nice art. Can I open it?”
“Sure.” I smile. “You can figure out the rules for me…”
He happily spent some free time reading the rules and playing on his own before we found an evening where he, his dad, and I could sit down and play Ruckus: The Goblin Army Game. It was a successful Kickstarter project early this year by Matthew Papa.
(Full Disclaimer: GeekMom received a copy for review purposes AND Matt is someone I chat with at my local gaming store, plus, we went to college together waaaaay back when. He’s a great guy! Okay, back to the review.)
Ruckus has definite curb appeal with its adorable-looking creatures with amusing props and scenes on each card, plus silly names for all the goblins: Both “Jerry” and “Jerry’s Uncle Larry” can help you win. It’s strictly a fighting game, with the winner gaining the most victory points after multiple battles.
My son did my homework for me, and led our family in the first gameplay. There are three levels of play, and we did the first level. It was halting with rulebook checking, and I doubted the “eight years and up” on the box. But by the end of the game, we were getting it. My son and I played a few times on the second level, and game play was smooth and fun. He then taught my eight-year-old niece, who picked it up faster than I did, and quickly trounced me later that week. She loved the art.
So how does the game work? There are four Goblin Guilds: Fighters, Thieves, Clerics, and Necromancers. Each has their own deck with unique characters. The goblins in each army have an attack level, defense level, and special ability. Learning how to best use your army as a unit is your personal battle to win. The strategies vary depending on the guild and which cards you happen to draw each turn.
Everyone sets up their army cards behind a battle screen for two or three lines of attack. After removing the screens, different card abilities are played, the top fighting guilds are determined, and damage is distributed. Eventually only one player is left standing, and they collect a card from a specific deck that usually comes with a Victory Token. There are other rules and ways to get VP points, and another deck of randomness that keeps the game beyond just a power-card fight.
Overall it’s well-designed, though we did have some sticking points, the main one being a power unbalance. After half a dozen game plays, no one in my family could figure out how to win with the Thieves. It may be we are missing something, but that guild seems to be underpowered. My son also felt the rulebook could have been clearer. He also argued that there was a snowball effect with how the cards are dealt back into the individual decks each round, but I disagree on that one.
Ruckus is straight forward enough to keep play exciting for all, while the multiple strategies will make it interesting for many game nights to come. Check it out!