You wouldn't know it from the title but Troll Trouble is actually a Christmas-themed game. It's a light family card game, with art by Pedro Villarejo, where 2–5 players are adding each turn to their hand of cards and playing to the table cards that make a matching set that shows a boy (blue set) or a girl (pink set) creeping out from their bedroom (card 1) through the hallway (card 2) to the Christmas Tree (card 3) to take one of the gifts (face-down cards) in the centre of the table. You win if you are the first player to collect three gifts.
This basic game play is super simple, especially as you can only play cards in sequence (ie: you can't play a hallway card unless you have a bedroom card on the table) and you can only have one active (blue or pink) set on the go at any one time. Robert Bryce Milburn's rules say you can play as many cards as you like on your turn, but in practice that means one, two or three - otherwise you'd contravene the rule that you can't work on more than one set at a time. If you don't have a complete set of three cards in your hand but you have one of the bedroom cards, your choice is simply whether to start the set off on the table or just hold onto it in hand and play all three cards in one turn when you've picked up a complete set. Holding onto your cards till you have a complete set also means that if you happen to pick up the cards for the other gender set before you get the card(s) missing from the set for which you had the bedroom, you're readily able to play them. There doesn't seem to be any downside to just hanging onto your cards.
Of course we haven't yet mentioned the twist in this game. That's the trolls. In addition to the cards needed for the blue and pink sets, the deck includes 14 troll cards. When a player completes a set and reaches to take their gift card, any player with a troll card in hand can play it to slap that player's hand. Your troll has devoured the child. You stop the player with the set from getting their gift. The prospect of anyone ever managing to collect the three gifts required for a win begins to seem vanishingly small but, don't worry, Troll Trouble doesn't outstay its welcome because the alternative, and more likely, win condition is to be the first player to devour three children. On the basis of this win condition, expect most games to play in around 10 minutes.
So what looked at first like an ultra-simple set collection game plays in fact more like Happy Salmon (North Star). The focus isn't so much on the set collection as on being the player with the fastest reflexes (in a multiplayer game, several players are likely to hold a troll card so you'll want to be the first to get in that slap). Troll Trouble makes for a decent stocking filler that you can expect to generate much seasonal hilarity - just so long as the slapping doesn't get overly aggressive! It's not an option tho' for Christmas this year - the game is currently on Kickstarter, so you'll be packing it away for next year's festivities. Click here to check out the KS campaign.
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