Game Night Fight Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 8 and up (publisher suggests 12+)
  • For 2 to 8 players
  • Approximately 45 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Emotional Coping Skills
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Play a game about playing a game while you play the game

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek rejected!
  • Child Geek rejected!

Overview

If you have ever played a table top game, be the medium board, dice,  or card, you know that the most carefree of games can become a troubled experience. Sometimes people feel picked on, become passive aggressive, and in the most extreme of cases, walk away angry or flip the table in full-out geek rage. Don’t laugh; I’ve seen this happen during a particularly heated game of Candy Land. The point is, games not only bring out the best, but sometimes the worst in people. Who knew it could be so much fun?

Game Night Fight, by Upland Road, is comprised of 95 cards, 8 Angry chips (red), 8 Amused chips (yellow), 8 Annoyed chips (orange), 8 Skipped chips (blue), 8 Player pawns (in 8 different colors, one per player), 2 Retaliation chips (black), and 1 game board. Not included, but fun to play with, is years of game play experience and gaming horror stories you will undoubtedly want to tell while playing this game.

Game Set Up

Note: Prior to playing the game for the first time, you will be required to assemble it by placing stickers on the 34 chips. This takes all of 10 minutes, but plan your game evening accordingly.

To set up the game, first place the game board to one side and have one player be in charge of moving all the Player pawns that will go on it. We strongly suggest you set up the game in this manner based on personal game play experience. Our Player pawns were continually knocked down by players angrily flipping cards or tossing discs. I know, right? Adults…(rolls eyes).

Second, have each player select a Player pawn color and place it on the “Start” space (which is conveniently labeled “start”) on the game board.

Third, hand to each player 1 Angry chip (red), 1 Amused chip (yellow), and 1 Annoyed chip (orange). Each player should take their chips and place the Amused chip in front of them. The other two chips should be turned face-down. Place the Retaliation chips and Skipped chips to the side for now.

Fourth, in the deck of cards, find the Queen Ender card and set aside. Shuffle the entire deck and then place the Queen Ender card at the very bottom. Now deal out to each player 5 cards, face-down. Players are welcome to look at their cards, but should keep them hidden from their opponents at all times. Place the deck of cards in the middle of the playing area face-down and within easy reach of all the players. This is the draw deck.

You are now ready to play! Determine who the first player is and remember “it’s just a game”.

Anger Management

More than anything, Game Night Fight is about anger management. Or, to be more precise, chip management that represents the player’s current “in-game” emotional state as the game progresses. At the beginning of the game, per game set up, every player has the Amused chip showing. This is meant to accurately represent the current state of most gamer’s who are sitting down to play a game with friends and family. As the game continues, this will change. Bad plays, bad players, and really poor luck can shift a player’s mood from amused, to annoyed, to downright angry. Likewise, really good plays, excellent company, and abundance of luck can shift a player’s mood from angry, to annoyed, to terribly amused (bordering on giddy).

The player’s mood, as represented by the chips (I can’t stress this enough) will determine two very important things in the game. First, effects of some of the cards which are dependent on the player’s current emotional state, and second, which direction a player’s mood can climb to more peaceful heights or how low it can go down in the dumps. As the game progresses, the players will be shifting their chips based on card plays by them and their opponents. Regardless of the source, the emotional slippy-slide always goes from amused to annoyed to angry, and back again in reverse order. On the cards, going from Angry to Amused is represented with an icon of ice cubes (cooling off), and going from Amused to Angry is represented by a fire (heating up).

Almost all cards are dependent on a player’s emotional state (again, according to the chips, people) and cannot be played until such time the emotional state matches what the card requires. Additionally, there are three types of cards that can be played which have their own rules of when they can be used. These are Green cards, Yellow cards, and Red cards.

  • Green cards can be played at any time in the game, in any order, and can always be played with Yellow and Red cards.
  • Yellow cards can be played on the player’s turn or out of turn, and can only be followed by Green cards (that is, cannot have a Red card played before or after it).
  • Red cards can be played only on the player’s turn as their turn, and can only be followed by Green cards (that is, cannot have a Yellow card played before or after it).

The trick to the game is combining the right cards, with the right emotional state, at the right time.

Irrational Emotional Entertainment

On the player’s turn, they will first draw a card from the deck and add it to their hand. They then select a card from their hand and play it to the table, reading it out-loud.  At this time, other players can play Yellow and Green cards to add to the effect of the card, ignore it, or redirect it. Based on the final outcome, the position of the Player pawns are adjusted on the game board and chips representing the player’s current emotional state are adjusted.

It is perfectly possible that a player might have a Skipped chip. If they do, on their turn they do not draw a card, but instead remove the Skipped chip. Skipped chips stack, meaning the player can have more than one on them at a time. Until the player has removed all the Skipped chips, they cannot play Red cards or draw cards, but they can still play Yellow and Green cards.

Once the player has completed playing their cards (if any), the next player in turn order now takes their turn. This continues until a player wins the game.

RETALIATION!!!!!

As soon as any player takes the lead in the game, they immediately become a target. This is signified by being given the Retaliation chip. In the future, anytime a “negative” card is played (that is, hurts the player’s chances of winning by taking cards and points away), the player who has the Retaliation chip must always be the target for the card or be included in the group who is getting affected.

The Retaliation chip moves to the player who has the most points at the end of each player’s turn or through a card’s action. As you can imagine, the Retaliation chip moves around a lot during a game, but it is also perfectly possible that a player is doing so well that they keep the Retaliation chip turn after turn after turn.

Winning the Game

The game ends as soon as a player crosses the finish line on the game board with their Player pawn or when the Queen Ender card is played. If the Queen Ender card does end the game, the player closest to the finish line is the winner.

Game Variants

There are several game variants included in the game that can be used. They are summarized here.

  • 2-Player Game: when playing with only 2 players, you will deal in a 3rd “ghost” player. They have their own cards but what card they play is always random.
  • Clear Leader: whenever a player is 3 or more spaces ahead of all the other players (without yet winning the game), they can only keep that lead if they immediately pontificate about their eliteness. This player immediately changes their emotional state to Amused. Failure to do this correctly penalizes the player 2 spaces backwards and shifts their emotional state to Annoyed.
  • Hard Luck: whenever a player is 3 or more spaces behind the next to last player, they can announce how poorly they are doing, blame something random, and then advance their Player pawn to 1 space behind the next to last player. Consequently, the player who just got bumped up immediately changes their emotional state to Amused.
  • The Grudge: the last player to win a game (be it Game Night Fight or any other game) starts the game with the Retaliation chip.

To learn more about Game Night Fight and read the full rules, see the game’s web page.

Prediction

There are two aspects to this game that make me a bit wary. First, the game is pretty much an inside joke. All the cards in the game will be instantly recognizable and familiar to any person who plays a lot of board games. For those who are not, there’s a lot of the game narrative that will go unnoticed  The problem here is that much of the player’s level of amusement is going to be based on their understanding of the game’s narrative. My concern is that players who don’t get the joke won’t be laughing or cracking a smile during our play sessions.

Second, this game is all about piggy backing, player attacking, and being aggressive. If you have doubts about this statement, you need only glance at the Retaliation chip to know it is true. Games that  have heavy player interaction and victory conditions based on how well other players outdistance their opponents by tripping them can be an emotional roller coaster. Players start to feel attacked, picked on, and singled out. No one likes being bullied.

Other than that, the game itself is really rather straight forward. The different emotional states determine card effects and the card types determine card play. While unique it ins approach, the game mechanisms are not altogether unfamiliar with any of my test groups. This should make the game fairly easy to teach and demonstrate.

My 5-year-old cannot play this game until he gets better at reading (a geek skill he is practicing at every day). My 8-year-old should have no problem playing this game because of his geek skills and his game background. He’s played much more complicated games and done well. I don’t foresee any technical problems, honestly, but I am concerned about the emotional impact. And so, after teaching the game to him and showing him some examples of play, he was ready to get to it. I asked him his thoughts on the game so far based on what he had learned.

“I don’t really understand what the game is trying to do, but I understand how to play and win.” ~ Liam (age 8)

Despite not getting the “inside joke” that is pretty much the entire game, he can break through the narrative and theme to recognize the gears that make the game turn. This ability will serve him well and I hope it is enough to keep him interested and engaged. If not, there are always other games to play. Let’s get to it and see if Game Night Fight is a pleasant skirmish or ends in tears.

Final Word

Everything was going really well until about halfway through the game. That’s when my little geek jumped ahead and was suddenly the target of Retaliation. He was then given the Retaliation chip again via a card. Then he snuck ahead by one point and was, again, the target of Retaliation  This proved to be too much for him and he quickly started to lose patience and interest  By the time the first game was over, he was done with it and those who were playing the game with him. After a week, he agreed to play the game again with the same results. It took two weeks until he agreed to play the game a third time which he won, but he still felt belted and bruised, making his victory rather sour. When he was ready to talk to me about it, he said the game was “not fun to play, win or lose”. When I asked him to explain himself further, he gave it a good minute of thought and said, “It’s like trying to run a race, and every time you get the lead, you are dragged back.” Well said. Clearly this game is not meant for little geeks. At least, not yet.

Parent Geeks had more or less the same experience as the Child Geeks, except there were far less tears. Equal amount of grumbling, though. In fact, some colorful language, too. I’m sure the Child Geeks had choice words in their heads, but knew better than to speak them. The Parent Geeks had no such qualms and let fly their words that colorfully expressed their level of frustration and joy. The Parent Geeks played the game very well, but didn’t care for the theme or the reason behind the game. They saw it as nothing more than a game where players stampeded to the finish line and didn’t care who they stepped on to get there. While casual and light in play, the overall atmosphere created by the game (that one Parent Geek called “downright passive aggressive”), did not appeal to them. The Non-gamers didn’t enjoy it from the very start.

Gamer Geeks loved it. They were laughing and swearing, crying and shouting. The game played fast, played light, and was cutthroat from start to finish. Not a single game we played ended any friendships, but there was much name calling and sucker punching to be had. The table talk was aggressive but jovial. Indeed, one Gamer Geek said the game was “therapeutic” and another suggested it was a great way to “let off steam”. The theme and narrative were much enjoyed, but more so the high level of competition and player interaction.

My wife gives my little geek a look of sympathy after he was bumped back 2 points…by her

Gamer Geeks, this is a light game perfect for a game filler during your game nights. It is casual enough to slap down on the table and play in a minute, but deep enough to keep you engaged for a good 30 minutes. Player interaction is constant and the real challenge is staying under the other player’s radar while attempting to position yourself for a big win at the end. The game never overstays its welcome and the last card in the deck ends the game automatically, ensuring that the game will come to a satisfying conclusion for some. Perhaps the most enjoyed aspect of the game was how well it reflected back to the players their own infighting and pettiness when it came to game playing. There was much laughter around our table as we recognized ourselves in the card descriptions and told and retold jokes and stories about our past game plays. Gamer Geeks, this game is for you.

Parent Geeks, this is a very well designed game, but it was designed with a specific group in mind. You are not this group. Which is, to a certain degree, upsetting. Game Night Fight is clearly intended for those players who have the time to sit at the gaming table, really get into a game, and be exceptionally passionate about its play. Parent Geeks can be just as passionate, just as focused, and just as dedicated as the Gamer Geeks, but not as intense. Oh, goodness, no. In the end, this game depends heavily on the player reaching back into memory to give each card a story. If you lack the stories, the game comes across as rather dull and mechanical. The real life of the game comes from the players, and it is the gaming veterans who will have the most fun as they play the games and tell their war stories. So, Parent Geeks, this game is for you, but not yet.

Child Geeks, this is an easy game to teach, an easy game to play, and a hard game to love. It’ll slap you, bite you, kick you, and punch you. And that’s even before you’ve had a chance to take your turn! This is a game about getting in front and staying in front by pushing everyone behind you down. In real life, you wouldn’t tolerate this type of behavior. Therefore, it is hard to deal with it during a game when you have no choice but to “grin and bear it”. And that’s a very hard thing to do. Even adults have difficulty doing that. So, for you Child Geeks, this game is not a good match. I won’t go so far as to say it is a “mean game”, because it certainly isn’t. What it is, however, is a game without remorse or sympathy.

Personally, and despite the fact the game made my oldest little geek cry, I really enjoyed it. It was fun to play the game with my peers and fellow Gamer Geeks. The game is simple, but has enough for me to think about to keep me engaged. I spent the majority of the time either creating roadblocks or redirecting them. I only won once and that’s because the person in front of me messed up. That was a sweet victory, folks.

If you are a Gamer Geek, have played many games, or consider yourself something of an elitist, then do put Game Night Fight on your table. You might not win, but you will always leave the table with a smile regardless of your current emotional state.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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