Simple concepts in board gaming can be very successful, especially when it comes to attracting the mass market: whatever their design merit, Top Trumps and Uno (AMIGO / Mattel) are ubiquitous games which have clean rule sets, worldwide presence and are highly accessible. But, generally, you don't bring them to a game night. When experienced board gamers want something quick and simple as an opener, filler or closer, they reach for a game with more depth and guile, like Coloretto (Abacusspiele), No Thanks (AMIGO / Asmodee) or even Fuji Flush (Stronghold). I'll tell you now that Similo was a big hit with my family and other non-gamers, but has it got enough craft to overcome its mass market presentation and reach 'hobby' status?
Similo is a co-operative card game designed by Martino Chiacchiera, Hjalmar Hach and Pierluca Zizzi in which one player gives clues to the others, hoping to identify a single card out of twelve on display. Over five rounds, they play a card from hand face up, either portrait or landscape: if the former, it is similar to the target card; if the latter, it is not. Each round the team eliminates one card, then two, three, four and one again; if the last remaining card is the target card, the team wins.
Yes, it's simple, but it is fun in small doses and the beautiful art by Xavier Gueniffey Durin both engages the players and adds to the game play. What constitutes 'similar' is at the clue-giver's discretion... and available cards in hand. Obviously male/female is a big clue, but qualities such as old/young, good/evil, American/European are all excellently illustrated. Without the 'perfect' card in hand, factors such as clothing, royal heritage, story, facial features and even background colour can be clues to the target card. It works well and engenders a good amount of team discussion, while the clue-giver has to refrain from flinching when a drifting finger pauses over the target card.
At the time of writing, Similo comes in two versions, Historical and Fables: the former, real figures from history, like Abraham Lincoln, Boudica, and William Shakespeare; the latter, characters from classic folk tales and IP-free literature, such as Alice, Snow White and the Three Little Pigs. Of these, Fables works better because the third 'gender' of non-human adds a welcome extra layer. The two decks can be used in combination to make the game a touch harder, too; recommended for keeping the challenge up. No doubt there are more packs in the offing, which will keep things fresh as each deck has just 30 cards and around 20 of them are used in every game. If and when more appear, we'll endeavour to show them off on Board's Eye View.
If I have a niggle - other than the wry comment that each game is quite similar to the last - it is that the penultimate round of four cards being eliminated becomes almost the whole game, leaving an often redundant 50/50 at the last. Making the eliminations 1-2-3-3-2 smooths the process and ends the game with more tension.
Similo feels most similar to Timeline (Asmodee): another one-note, instant access, low complexity game that hugely benefits from quantity of content. Perhaps there might be a Challenge-style big box in the future, but for now even though it is packaged in a plastic flip-box, Similo fills the niche between mass market and hobby gaming well enough for it to earn a spot in a corner of my game night bag.
(Review by David Fox)