TKO, LIE, and SHH
Designed by Chris Handy
Buy from Perplext
An endemic problem in tabletop gaming is narrowing down the choice of games to play for any given session. I’m always trotting out six or seven medium to large box games every time we have company or I’m carrying a tote bag full of games to my local gamer meet up only to have them sit unplayed in favor of something someone else brought. Fortunately Chris Handy at Perplext games has come up with an alternative to the unwieldy totebag of games: a series of board games called Pack O Game.
Microgames are very popular right now, but Handy takes that to a new extreme. Each game in the Pack O Game series consists of a deck of cards about the size of a pack of Bubblicious gum with a varying range of complexity, gaming mechanics, playtime, and number of players. This makes it easy to carry a whole library of games in a hip pocket.
TKO feels like Nintendo’s Punch Out as a card game. Played similarly to rock, paper, scissors, players choose an action (blocks or punches) in secret on their action card and reveal what they’ve chosen simultaneously. Points are scored if a player effectively blocks a punch or lands a punch. The first player to five points on any action wins the round and the first player to win two rounds wins the championship belt. (An actual tiny cardboard belt!)
LIE is a bluffing and bidding game, so players have to be good at both lying and counting cards. Each card has a different die face printed on the top and bottom. All the cards are piled face down and shuffled around and at the beginning of the game, each player draws five cards from the pile. They quickly choose which end of the card they want to use, face that die upward in their hand and begin bidding on how many of each die they think will be showing around the table until one player declares “Lie!” to challenge a player’s bid. Bidding has to increase numerically and losing a round results in a smaller starting hand the next round, so the game gets really intense as it progresses.
SHH is basically a co-op Scrabble. The players have the twenty-six letters of the alphabet divided among them and must spell words by laying single letters at a time until they agree that they’ve spelled a real word, and if it’s not spelled correctly everyone loses the game. The only catch is that the entire game is played in silence. When a player lays down a card, they often have a specific word in their head and as the other players begin to go in another direction, the rule-silenced player can only gesticulate wildly in response. It’s incredibly fun and addictive.
These are the perfect games for both newbies to tabletop gaming or those who feel like they’ve seen it all. And their portability and low price tags make them excellent games for convention lines or as gifts for new couples or college freshmen who want to make quick friends. A lot of microgames feel underwhelming because the designers have sacrificed game-play weight for size, but these three entries in the Pack O Game series feel immersive. When playing these games my big grin made up for the diminutive card size.
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