SLUGBUG! Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 7 and up (publisher suggests 12+)
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • About 30 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Reading
  • Hand/Eye Coordination & Dexterity
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Hand/Resource Management
  • Reflex & Speed

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Time to jump into the car, but the trip need not be boring – let’s play SLUGBUG and see who wins and who is sore!

Endorsements:

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

Overview

Now you can play the classic game of smacking the person next to you in the car whenever you see a Volkswagen Beetle at home without the hitting or driving! Takes a lot of the childish fun out of it, but also all of the pain. What is not reduced is the speed and close attention to detail. While you won’t be punched in the shoulder for being slow, you’ll be just as sorry to lose points. Think fast and slap the slugbug first or pay the price as your opponents laugh at your slow misfortune.

SLUGBUG!, by J Squared Games, is comprised of 67 Slugbug cards, 35 Driver cards, 1 Speedometer card, 1 Final Destination card, and 1 Car token.

Gassing Up

To set up the game, first find and remove the Final Destination card (which sounds ominous, but really isn’t) and the Speedometer card. Then separate the remaining cards to form the Slugbug and Driver decks. After shuffling both decks, remove the top third of Slugbug deck and shuffle in the Final Destination card. Place this third at the bottom of the Slugbug deck, but do not reshuffle. Place the Slugbug deck in the middle of the playing area, leaving room for a discard pile.

Now deal 3 cards from the Diver deck, face-down, to each player. Once the cards are dealt, place the Driver deck in the middle of the playing area, face-down. Place the Speedometer card, face-up, next to the Slugbug deck with the Car token on the “0 MPH” spot.

Example of what your playing area might look like after game set up

Select a first player and begin.

And Away We Go

The game consists of each player taking a turn that has two steps. On a player’s turn, they will complete the following in sequential order.

Step 1: Draw a Card

The player draws 1 Driver card from the Driver deck and adds it to their hand.

Step 2: Play a Card

The player now selects one of the cards in their hand to play. There are several different types of cards in the Driver deck. What they are and what they do are briefly summarized here.

Flip Cards

These types of cards will do two things when played. First, they will adjust the location of the Car token on the Speedometer card (either increase or decrease the speed) and then require the player to flip cards from the Slugbug deck. After the Car token is adjusted on the Speedometer card, the number it is located on will indicate how many Slugbug cards to flip over. One at a time (as fast or as slow as the player likes), they will now draw and reveal the top Slugbug card to the entire table by placing it face-up in the middle of the playing area. All players now do the following:

  • If the card shows an image of any part of a classic or modern Volkswagen Beetle, the first player to shout “SLUGBUG!” and slap the card takes it and places it in front of them
  • If the card does not show an image of a Volkswagen Beetle, but a player slaps it accidentally, the card that was slapped and a previously won Slugbug card are discarded by that player
  • If the card does not show an image of a Volkswagen Beetle and is not slapped by any player, it is discarded

This continues until the player has revealed a number of Slugbug cards equal to the number of cards indicated on the Speedometer card.

Additionally, there are two special flip card types available to the players. These are “Rule Change” and “Are We There Yet?”. “Rules Change” cards will not change the Speedometer, but will determine what type of Volkswagen Beetle can or cannot be slapped for one round of play. If the player slaps wrong, they are penalized in the same way as if they slapped a non-Volkswagen Beetle.

The “Are We There Yet?” card will not change the Speedometer, but will multiply the number of cards to be flipped that round. This card will only be used for one round of play, but are not discarded after use because they stack throughout the game, increasing the number of cards drawn based on how many cards of this type are on the table.

Grab Cards

These types of cards will not change the Speedometer or cause the player to flip cards from the Slugbug deck. Instead, they will either ask the player to complete a simple task, rewarding them with the ability to take a Slugbug card, or simply let the player take a Slugbug card from another player, from the deck, and even collect all the Slugbug cards won so far and deal them out to the players (starting with yourself). Either way, the player is going to get a Slugbug card for their effort.

Punch Cards

These types of cards, named because they directly mess with opponents, make players discard Slugbug cards and miss turns.

Once the player resolves their card and any flips, their turn is over, the card they played is discarded (unless stated otherwise), and the next player starts their turn.

End of the Road

The game ends when the Final Destination card is revealed. All players now count their collected Slugbug cards and the player with the most wins the game!

To learn more about SLUGBUG! and read the full rules, see the game’s web page.

Prediction

I have fond, albeit painful, memories of playing Slugbug with my brothers when I was a kid. We’d get bored during our big family summer vacations and scan the world whizzing by for anything interesting. Inevitably, one of the three brothers would spot a Volkswagen Beetle and shout, “SLUGBUG”!, followed by a quick punch to the other brothers’ shoulders. At which point, it was GAME ON! We’d start smacking each other left and right while our parents looked at their watches wondering how long they could keep their cool before pulling the car over to the side of the road, threatening to sell us to medical science.

They never did, thank goodness, but the threat was enough for us to cool down and play other games. Until we got bored again, that is. It was only a matter of time before we would get impatient with the road, the car, and with each other. When we reached our limits, we started to see Volkswagen Beetles everywhere.

Of course, this game has nothing to do with hitting or physically touching any other player. This is a reflex dexterity game that requires the players to identify shapes. The concept is the same as the physical version of the game it is named after, but lacks the visceral game play associated with it. This immediately makes it a game I’ll be happy to share with my family and friends (because some of my friends, especially my wife, can hit really hard).

Teaching the game won’t take long, but figuring how to play it did. The rules to SLUGBUG! are not very well written and leave a lot out in the way of specifics. Honestly, I’m still not sure I am playing it right. I had to spend a good 10 minutes with the game just thinking it through before it started to make sense. It bothered me that such an easy game could be so difficult to grasp, but poorly written rules will do that. For example, it isn’t hard to set up a DVD player, but with really bad instructions, you might as well be trying to build a satellite with a bit of twine and some popsicle sticks. Yes, a bit facetious, but pretty much on the mark when it comes to the level of frustration one feels.

But after I read between the lines and thought it through, the game play started to make sense. Once that hurdle was cleared, it was easy to teach it to all the players. For Parent and Gamer Geeks, took less than a minute. For Child geeks, it took only two.

After I taught the game to my little geeks, I asked them their thoughts of the game so far.

“Simple game! Flip the card. Find the car. Slap the car. Win the car.” ~ Liam (age 7)

“Oh, yeah! I’m going to get the cars first, Daddy, but I want your help with the reading.” ~ Nyhus (age 5)

Both little geeks make excellent points. First, it is a very straightforward and simple game. Second, if you can’t read, the Driver cards are going to be a problem, but the rest of the game is going to be a breeze. Let’s see if the game leads us down the road to happiness or leaves us all busted and bruised.

Final Word

Both of my little geeks did very well with the game. It helped that I took the time to quickly show them several visual examples of classic and modern Volkswagen Beetles before we played. There are a lot of cars in the game that look close to but are not the right kind of car to slap. As a very nice touch, the rule include a list of numbers that corresponds to the Slugbug cards that can be slapped. We referred to this list a few times when the players started to debate if the card was a winner or not. In the end, both of my little geeks walked away from the table feeling good about the game, ugly towards each other, and ready to play the game again after they cooled off.

Parent Geeks and Gamer Geeks didn’t enjoy this game much. For Gamer Geeks, they simply turned their nose up to it and didn’t give it anymore attention than what was needed to play and finish the game so we could play another game. Parent Geeks were much more open-minded and played the game with enthusiasm, but it didn’t win their hearts. One Parent Geek said, “it has some fun elements to it, but there is nothing to really do but slap cards.” Well said.

As my oldest little geek begins to flip the card, both players hover above it, hands at the ready!

Gamer Geeks, not much to this game that would terribly intrigue you. The special Driver cards and hand management add a little variety and thought, but not much else. Ultimately, this is a simple speed game and that seldom satisfies a Gamer Geek. Players have the ability to shift the speed of the game, which is a very interesting twist, but all this does is determine how soon the game will end. It should come as little surprise that the Gamer Geeks kept the Speedometer revved as high as it could go so as to quickly get to the Final Destination. Again, some neat ideas in this game, but it falls well short of being a gamer’s game.

Parent Geeks, the ability to mess with other players is overshadowed by the core of the game which is slapping the bejesus out of the cards and smacking the table. The fun is in the table trash talk and the light swearing that will ALWAYS come up. Ultimately, it will entertain but not enthrall, leaving all the players hungry for more. Even the non-gamers, who had no problem playing the game, were ready for something else when the game was over, but not another game of the same. Enjoyable but also forgettable.

Child Geeks, we think you’ll enjoy this game, even though the Parent and Gamer geeks didn’t. Why? Because it is fast, fun, and terribly chaotic. Plus, you get to smack the table, which is something we are guessing you don’t get to do too often. Be careful not to slap too fast or too slow! Too fast and you’ll make mistakes (and most likely hurt yourself, too). Too slow and you’ll never get a Slugbug card! Simply pay attention, never second guess yourself, and you’ll do great. Don’t be afraid to use those Driver cards, either! Especially the ones that allow you to steal cards from Mom and Dad! Don’t steal from the grandparents, though, as they might stop spoiling you.

I personally don’t find this to be a bad game, just not one I’d request to play. With my little geeks, however, I’ll never turn down a game. It is fun, fast, and short. It also serves as a quick filler or a great starter for my family when we play games to get everyone jazzed up and in the mood for more. But would I buy it? No, I don’t think I would.

When the game rules need work and I have to work harder to learn how to play the game than I really should need to, the game immediately looses points. The game rules are way to vague in some places and blatantly missing information in others. The rules really need to be cleaned up and as soon as possible. I can’t imagine that many people would spend the time I did to try to figure out the game. Most likely, they would read it, become confused, then irritated, and put SLUGBUG! in their Goodwill pile. A shame, really, as there is a fun game here.

But, if we look past my displeasure in feeling stupid because I can’t make sense of the game rules, you still have a fun little game. Just not a great one. But not every game needs to be great to be played. If they entertain the players and get the gaming table in an uproar, I’d say the game is doing just fine. If you are looking for a fast paced card game where a sharp eye and a fast hand is key to victory, give SLUGBUG! a look.

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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