Updated: Mar 15, 2021
If you’ve never heard of Rick & Morty, this game will probably be meaningless to you. Go and track down the Rick & Morty cartoons on Netflix. Watch a couple of episodes. Get hooked. Watched them all. Then come back and read more about this game.
If you are already a Rick & Morty fan, or if you’ve just followed my recommendation and discovered them, you will be champing at the bit to play this hidden identity card game. Bizarrely, this is a card game based on a single specific episode of the Rick & Morty cartoon (the fourth episode of season 2 to be precise). In that episode, there seems to be a growing number of guests and extended family members in the Smith household - some seemingly ordinary and some downright bizarre. It turns out that the house has been invaded by alien parasites who propagate by implanting themselves in cherished memories…
Rick and Morty Total Rickall is a card game that recreates the pandemonium of that specific episode. The game can be played as a fully co-operative game where all the players are ‘real’: a tableau of character cards is laid out equal to twice the number of players. Underneath each of the character cards is placed a facedown identity card that will indicate whether they are real or a parasite. The identity cards are randomly selected but the ratio of parasite to real identity cards is 3:1.
Players each maintain a hand of three action cards and they use these to try to gain information as to which of the characters are real and which are parasites, and to shoot characters that they believe are parasites. When a majority of players believe there are no parasites left in the tableau, the game ends. The characters’ identities are revealed. If there are no parasites, the players have won. If there is even one parasite remaining, the players all lose. If, over the course of the game, four real characters are shot, then, again, the players lose. To add to the mayhem, players simultaneously select the action cards they are going to play but they resolve the actions in turn order. The upshot of this is that the situation may well alter between you selecting an action and it being resolved.
Advanced Mode is broadly similar but, in this version, each player also has a character and a hidden identity card. This means that one or more of the players may be a parasite and will be rooting for the parasites to win. There are action cards too that have the effect of switching a characters’ allegiance during the course of the game… Though players' characters can be shot when playing the Advanced Mode, players are not eliminated from the game. That is a big plus for Rick & Morty Total Rickall that scores it above many other hidden role games, where elimination means sitting out the rest of the game. In Advanced Mode, the game ends with a final ‘dinner table’ round where the players who are real have a last chance to shoot those they think are parasites.
Rick & Morty Total Rickall perfectly captures the madcap science fiction theme of the cartoon series and it turns out to be a rather better game than it has any right to be. Many full co-operative games suffer from ‘alpha player’ syndrome, where one bossy player ends up dictating everyone else’s actions. That really isn’t an issue in this game because players aren’t allowed to share all the information they have, including the action cards they hold. On the downside, there are action cards that shuffle identity cards and so risk making play more random than most game players will be comfortable with, and there are cards that mandate actions: these can lead to accusations that the game is playing the players rather than the other way around. Of course, arguably that is entirely consistent with the theme.
As a committed fan of the show, this game was a must-buy for me. The problem I had was that for a long time it simply wasn’t available for sale in the UK. I ended up having to personally import it from the US. Now, however, it has wider distribution, so the rest of you have no excuse for not snapping this up.
(Review by Selwyn Ward)