As time goes by and more people enter this wonderful hobby, I get a little sadder that they likely won't experience the older games which laid the foundation on which today's spoiled-for-choice stacks of games are built. One of the early pioneers was James Ernest, infamous for his 'no frills' Cheapass Games which consisted of rules, cards and tokens printed on white cardstock, and a note to provide your own box, dice and pawns. Minimalist restrictions can lead to some great innovation and the most enduring of those titles are now being given new editions... with actual art! One of the early Cheapass titles was Falling (1988) in which players are parachutists trying to be last to go splat in real-time card play: a great theme!
Following in those bootstraps - though with considerably better production values - today we have Jolly Dutch's Boogie Beasts by Alexander Kneepkens, with art by Henk-Jan Hoogendoorn. The 3 to 8 players (more is better, the rules stress) are anthropomophic animals putting on skydiving formations; no anvils here, tho'. The real-time aspect is replicated too, but split into two timed phases: first negotiations with your fellow falling furries about what you plan to do (well... what you say you plan to do); second, some manic card playing with no backsies, as players try to ensure the jumps that they are in succeed while sabotaging the others.
In addition to a returning hand of character cards each player is dealt some from a deck and all of these are played face down on the jumps. Play a 'Yes' character card and that jump is one you're fully committed to; play a 'Maybe' card and the jump may or may not go ahead, depending on the other players who do the same; play 'No' cards as bluffs. Blagging, rather than honesty, is the call here. After the timed round of playing cards, each formation - both group and personal - is calculated to determine whether it took place at all and, if so, how much each player in that display scored. After four jump runs, the final tallies show who the winner is.
The heart of Boogie Beasts is the player interaction and willingness to 'find the fun'. Wacky games land on their feet or splat face-first depending on the players' engagement and how much they enter into the spirit of the game. Although it's trite to say that any game can be fun with the right group, this type of game demands that all go along with its zany premise and play as intended, otherwise it becomes a chaotic mess. Well, a mess... the game is meant to be chaotic!
Boogie Beasts has a lot of little rules that can be hard to remember straight away, but once players wrap their heads around the probability of their jump succeeding, it works well on the level it aspires to. The mechanical framework is sound enough for a family or bunch of friends to have a good time, as long as someone doesn't mind doing the obligatory maths at some point.
(Review by David Fox)