Preview Review of Swamped

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Recently I was given the opportunity to play test a upcoming new game. I received a prototype of the game with everything needed to play. This is my thoughts and opinions on the presented materials. Enjoy!

Swamped is a game by Ben Gerber, published by Bellwether Games. It is for 2-4 players. It will be coming to Kickstarter later this year. In this game, players are hired adventurers that are trying to find natural treasures that are lost deep inside a perilous swamp. They will share a common goal but may have hidden motives that may cause players to turn on each other and disagree on the direction that the boat should take. The player that can make sure that the team collects at least 3 treasures and can also fulfill their own mission in the process will be declared the winner.

To begin, the starting map card is placed in the middle of the play area. All of the coordinate cards and “Let’s Move” cards are turned so that their map side is showing. The cards are then shuffled. The top card is placed next to the starting map card, connecting the two together. The boat and crocodile tokens are placed on their appropriate spots on the map. The 4 treasure cards are placed on the table with the “0” side up and pointing towards the swamp. The croc card is placed with the “1” side face up. It is placed so that the symbol indicating the number of players in the game is pointed towards the swamp. The adventurer cards are shuffled and each player is dealt 1 card face down. The remaining card are set aside, not to be used during the game. Players are dealt 3 cards from the deck of map cards that was previously placed on the table. The remaining cards are placed face down. Play now begins.

The game is played over a series of rounds. Each round is played out in a series of steps. The first step is to play or discard a card. As mentioned earlier, there are 2 types of cards, coordinate cards and “Let’s Move” cards. Coordinate cards are played so that each corner of the card points to a different player. These can be played to start a new set of coordinates or played on an existing set of coordinates. When starting a new set, the card is placed on the table with one of the corners pointing towards the player that played it. A new coordinate set of the same color as the top coordinate card of another set can not be placed. When played on an existing set, the card increases the number in the player’s corner and may be placed on any set that doesn’t already have a “Let’s Move” card on it.

The “Let’s Move” cards can be played on any set of coordinates that don’t already have one of these cards on it. The card is placed on top of the coordinate cards so that all 4 corners of the cards beneath it can be seen. Once this card is played, the players are able to move the boat. Starting with the player that the white corner is facing, players move the boat token the number of spaces that is pointing towards them. The boat can not be moved diagonally and must be moved as many spaces as the numbers on the cards. It can’t move through trees and it may not move back to an older map card once it moves to a new one. If the boat moves over or lands on a letter, the team collects that particular treasure. This is shown by rotating the treasure card of the type that was collected. Once all players have had moved the boat, the player that played the “Let’s Move” card mus move the crocodile token towards the boat based on the number shown on the croc card. If the croc token passes over or lands on a “K” space, it’s movement is increased by one. This is shown by rotating the croc card.

A player can also discard a card instead of playing a card by placing the card face up next to the deck in the discard pile. Once a card is discarded, the player may rotate any set of coordinates that do not have a “Let’s Move” card on them by 90 degrees clockwise. After discarding, the crocodile token is moved just like was stated above.

The next step is to draw a card from the deck. Once the player either plays or discards a card, they must then draw a card to bring their hand back up to 3 cards. Once this is done, play passes to the next player in turn order who must then either play or discard a card.

This all continues until either a third “Let’s Move” card is played, followed by moving the boat and croc tokens or no players have any cards left in their hand. In either case, the round ends. Players then count up the numbers in the corner of each of the top cards in each coordinate set. The player with the highest sum, wins the round and can move the boat 3 additional spaces. A new round is then started. The coordinate cards and “Let’s Move” cards are shuffled again to form a new deck. The top 2 cards are drawn from the deck and lined up at the end of the swamp to make it larger. Players are then dealt 3 new cards. Play switches to the next player in turn order and is played just like before.

The game continues until one of the following conditions is met. If the boat moves off the card by moving onto the space with the arrow, it’s said to have entered the main channel and is no longer in the swamp. If the players collected at least 3 “K” treasures the mission was a success. Players then reveal their adventurer card and add up their points. The highest point total wins. If the players didn’t collect enough “K” treasures, the mission was a failure and everyone loses. Another way to end the game is if the croc lands on or moves through the space that the boat is on or vice versa. In either case, the boat is swamped and again the mission is a failure with all players losing. The final way to end the game is if there aren’t enough cards to deal 3 to each player at the start of a round. In this case, the players have run out of time and once more the mission is a failure concluding another player loss.

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COMPONENTS
With this being a prototype copy, I won’t get deep into details about the quality of the components. Basically what you get is 16 coordinate cards, 6 “Let’s Move” cards, 1 starting swamp card, 5 adventurer cards, 4 swamp treasure cards and 1 croc card. There is also a boat token and a crocodile token. At this point, the artwork is very basic but it conveys that sense of being in a swamp. The coordinate cards all look like a compass so they give a great directional sense to them. The remaining cards don’t have much art and are mostly text based but again, this is a prototype. In any event, you get the sense of what the designer is trying to evoke with the different pieces. I will hold off on any kind of judgment on the components at this time and simply state that it appears that things are headed in the right direction.
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RULEBOOK
The rules, like the components are also a prototype. They can be downloaded from the BGG game entry page. I read through it and found it very simple to understand. Everything you need to know is there and there are pictures and examples of how the game works. It does seem to jump around a bit as certain topics seemed to be disconnected. This will cause you to flip a page to find everything that you need. Hopefully this will be addressed and ironed out before the final print is produced. Honestly though, it’s not a big deal as there’s not a lot that you need to understand. It’s just mainly basics that are easy to remember. In any event, I will once more hold off on my judgment. What’s here isn’t bad but does need a little work.
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GAMEPLAY
The game is quite entertaining and simple. It gives a sense of adventure and exploration. I like the movement mechanic. You will work to fulfill your secret goals which may go completely against the other players goals. The boat will go this way and that in a sort of semi co-op way. You will either work together to a certain degree or you fail together as a group. It’s a very interesting concept. It’s not hard and is a game that can be played quite easily be pretty much anyone. I like the way that the cards interact with each other. The design is really quite unique and unlike anything I’ve seen before. It definitely beats a simple roll and move mechanic that could have been used here instead. The game plays fairly quickly with most sessions lasting from 20-30 minutes. It’s a nice little filler game that will do it’s best to entertain you.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Swamped is a light card game of treasure hunting deep in the swamp. The movement mechanic is quite interesting and simple. The artwork is fairly basic at this point but is headed in the right direction. It’s fairly simple to play and makes a really good filler game. Most games sessions last no more than 30 minutes. It is definitely a game that fans of the action/movement programming mechanic will want to keep an eye on. It even embraces a bit of the hidden role/agenda as well as touching on the semi co-op style. Fans of games like the Star Trek and Star Wars Attack Wing, as well as Relic Expedition might enjoy the simplistic design of this game. I look forward to seeing the finished product for this one. I enjoyed the game and think it is worth giving a try. The cool part is that the print and play version of the game is available in the game files section of the BGG game entry, so you can actually try it out. I’m confident that it will be as enjoyable for you as it was for me.
8 out of 10

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For more information about this and other games, please check out Bellwether Games at their site.

http://bellwethergames.com/

Also keep an eye out for the Kickstarter page coming soon.

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About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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