A while back, I reviewed Imagicien (BLAM) which can be pithily - and not dismissively, I might add - summarised as 'gamers' join the dots' and ended the review jokingly remarking that I was off to design 'gamers' colour by numbers' and 'gamers' spot the difference'. Well, apparently I was a bit late to the party on the latter: twelve years late to be exact! Christophe Boelinger - he of Dungeon Twister (Edge Entertainment) fame - got there long, long before me. This summer, I was en route to the home of William Shakespeare (he's dead, in case you missed it), when I stopped off for a very important meeting at the Board's Eye View's regional office in the Cotswolds; coffee and biscuits were most welcome, but what was needed was a distraction for my son, who had just spent four hours struggling to keep occupied during several traffic jams. On a shelf, I spied Difference, which I had noticed on BoardGameGeek recently, but not investigated... this seemed the perfect opportunity.
Difference is a spot-the-difference game from Gigamic which uses the same mathematic principal that powers Dobble (Asmodee/Blue Orange) - also released in 2009 - just with fewer cards. There is a fascinating video analysing the maths on Stand Up Maths, if you have time to dive down a rabbithole. So, the way Difference works is that, within each of the four sets of increasing observational difficulty, every pair of 25 cards shares two differences. The 2–4 players pick a deck then set one card aside 'face down' and divide the remaining 24 cards between them into face up stacks. To begin, the set aside card is flipped in the centre and each player tries to spot the two differences between their top card and the central one. When a player gets both right, they place their card on the centre stack and now everyone has to find the one other different difference between their own card and the central one. (once you start playing, it's not as confusing as it sounds!)
It is key to mention that the art - important in any game, critical in a game about observation - is very much up to the task here. Carine Hinder, Line Paquet and Stéphane Poinsot have created four scenes - Circus, Castle, Lake, and Dragon - depicted colourfully and cleverly, with hues changed and objects added, enlarged, or removed altogether to create the differences. The game, though simple, is still testing, especially on the more difficult pictures, with all the games we played finishing close, just one or two cards apart. That said, we struggled with the hardest picture (the Dragon) and could not find some differences even when we teamed up! Thankfully there is an optional rule to put the top card of your stack to the bottom for 'fresh eyes' later; there is also a variant to display multiple cards in your stack simultaneously which can help, too.
Difference has, unsurprisingly, an issue with replayability: repeating the same deck is less rewarding than the initial play and merely changing opponent would be unsporting. Other than that and the difficulty, the only problem we had was reading the game's few rules in the first place: tho' the game's components are entirely language independent, the rulebook supports an incredible 23 different languages, but consequently the body font is only 5 point and hard for older eyes to read...
...which was not a problem with Difference Junior: in this variation on the theme, the rule sheet is a folded piece of paper but the design and font are way more legible. Actually, even tho' the age range here is listed as 4-7, we had more fun with the Junior version because the game had a good flow and any frustration with a single card was short-lived. In this version, the colourful scenes are an Ice Cream Vendor, Pool Party, Motorbike and Witch School, and the game is played the same way, though no multiple card variant is to be found here.
Overall, we enjoyed Difference and Difference Junior and are happy to get the word out there for these unique small box games to get more exposure. Both titles are distributed in the UK by Hachette BoardGames. I would not say these are games for every collection, even for every gamer parent to buy for their kids, but their peculiarities would suit specific circumstances extremely well: a children's game club, a holiday home and a family-friendly café are all places I could see parents being glad that this particular pastime made the difference between a happy occupied family and a grumpy bored one.
(Review by David Fox)