Updated: Dec 12, 2019
Remember those innocent childhood days when you’d sit and play the card game Happy Families? This simple game from Moody Macaw will trigger memories of those halcyon days but it will bring you up to date with a jolt.
Make & Break is essentially a set collection game. Each player starts with a hand of five cards. In their turn, they draw a card and either play a single action card or put down a pair of cards as a couple. The persona cards are male or female and each indicates that person’s sexual orientation: straight, gay or bisexual. Couples have to be formed with the appropriately matching sexual partner, so the bisexuals are very much the jokers in the pack because they can be paired with either sex (tho' you can't, for example, pair a bisexual male with a lesbian female).
Couples can be married (including same-sex couples: this is 2017, after all) by placing a ‘proposal’ card on a couple previously played to the table. The rules specify that the player flips a coin to see whether or not the proposal is accepted (we used a 50/50 die instead). If the proposal is accepted (heads on a coin flip), then the proposal card stays in place signifying that this is a married couple. If you flip tails, the proposal is rejected. The couple split up and both they and the proposal card are thrown onto the discard pile. Cards representing children can be played to married or unmarried couples, again regardless of gender. Whether due to game play or social commentary, a break up results in they too being thrown onto the discard pile.
Other special cards that can be played include a ‘happily married’ card, played on top of a proposal card. This makes the couple immune to any of the various negative cards that can be played on them by an opponent, including ‘divorce’ and ‘extramarital affair’. The latter incentivises a ‘take that’ approach to play because it (and the ‘secret affair’ card playable on unmarried couples) splits up two couples and lets the player who plays the card take one partner from each to form a new couple for themselves, provided they can make a sexually compatible couple. The jilted partners are discarded. Unmarried couples can be subjected to ‘break up’ cards, although a ‘patch up’ card can defend against this, as well as against a ‘divorce’ card played on a married couple who are not ‘happily married’.
The rules have players score when they lay cards (10 points for a straight couple and, controversially, 20 points for a gay or lesbian couple; 5 points for a child; 10 points for a marriage). This affects play because it means there is less of a need to play defensively as the ‘take that’ element is less marked than it would be if there was end-game scoring. On the downside, the games comes with no counters or other means of scoring – so you’ll need a pen and paper. In a game like this though, with continuous scoring, it would have been better if tokens had been supplied so that they could be accumulated as cards are played to the table. There was obviously scope to make these thematically relevant (perhaps, heart-shaped tokens).
Make & Break plays quickly and is an amusing lightweight card game. The 17+ on the box seems unnecessarily coy and cautious, however. There is nothing risqué in this game: there are no elements of Cards Against Humanity. Divorce and break-ups are commonplace and there is increasingly widespread acceptance of same-sex couples. In an age when kindergarten reading books can include references to such things, do we really need to protect children from exposure to the topic in card games?
Make & Break benefits from cute, attractive artwork but it has been cheaply produced: the box is flimsy and you’ll need to find your own scoring solution. On the plus side, that economy is reflected in the price: here in the UK, from next week it will retail on Amazon at only £9.99. The rules are clear and easily understood, and the game incorporates options for variants (team play and ‘single parents’). Worth checking out.