- For ages 4 and up (publisher suggests 6+)
- For 2 to 6 players
- About 20 minutes to complete
- Memorization & Pattern/Color Matching
- Risk vs. Reward
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Make your opponents sneeze, while trying not to sneeze yourself!
- Gamer Geek rejected!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek approved!
Sneeze, published by Cambridge Games Factory in 2005, is a simple card game that is essentially a pumped-up version of Snap.
The game consists of two decks of cards:
- A “Sneeze” deck containing multiple copies of potential allergies (Cats, Dogs, Dust, Pollen, Smog) and Windy Day cards
- An “And Now…” deck containing rule-breaking cards – these cards require reading skills, but there are simplified rules for playing with pre-literate children
Game Set Up and Play
Each player begins the game with one allergy card drawn from the Sneeze deck, placed face up in front of them.
In clockwise order, players take turns drawing a single card from the Sneeze deck and placing it in one of two “pools” in the center of the table, an upwind pool and a downwind pool. The player must decide which pool to add to before drawing the card. If a Windy Day card is drawn, the upwind and downwind pools are interchanged; if an allergy card is drawn, it is added to the pool. A player “sneezes” if his allergy is matched by cards in the upwind pool; a player with multiple allergies sneezes if all of his allergies are represented in the upwind pool. More than one player may “sneeze” simultaneously, and at times the active player will make themself sneeze. Whenever someone “sneezes”:
- Sneezing players acquire an additional allergy card (to a maximum of four cards)
- All cards in the upwind pool are discarded
- The active player and any sneezers each draw And Now… cards
While you might think that gaining additional allergies should make one more likely to sneeze (in real life), in fact the reverse is true in this game. Having more cards means that more matches are required to make you sneeze, and any duplicate allergies (e.g., two Pollen cards), must be matched by duplicate cards in the sneeze pool.
An alternative way to spend one’s turn is to play an And Now… card. These cards have various effects, such as rendering oneself temporarily immune from sneezing, acting as a allergy wild card. Alternatively, any And Now… card can be played in order to flip two Sneeze cards to add to a single pool.
Ending the Game
The winner is the last player to have fewer than four allergies, or the first player to make 4 players sneeze simultaneously.
I picked up Sneeze as part of a bargain lot of Cambridge Games Factory games, having never heard of it before that. It sat on my shelf for a few months until a few weeks ago, when my children were pleading with me to play a game with them just 30 minutes before I had to leave to go to the airport. We had already had a feast of gaming that weekend, as we do most weekends, so I was looking for something very simple to pass the time, and this is what I grabbed. Beyond that, I really had no idea what to expect before we plunged into playing this game!
Despite the unpromising start, we had a fantastic experience that first time, diving into the game within 5 minutes of opening the box. Even though we committed several rules errors – entirely my fault, sloppy reading – that did not seem to affect play balance or enjoyment, so the game is robust from that perspective. Player choices are limited, so there are no difficult decisions and the game proceeds at a rollicking pace. As players accumulate more allergies, the rate of sneezing slows, so that pace drops off towards the end of the game, but never so slow that it drags. It also leaves all players with reasonably equal chances of winning, no matter what happens.
The winner is determined more by good fortune than by good play; players are spectators more than they are participants, but, as in sports, even spectators can have great fun. Simply put, this is a simple game that satisfies simple pleasures, and it can’t hurt if players have simple minds. For example, every Sunday, we enjoy a delicious roast dinner and then I travel to the airport and fly interstate for the working week. Sneeze has become our regular post-dinner pre-airport game: the perfect opportunity for me to wind down, although it seems to wind my children up! Not a problem for me, since my wife has to put them to bed.
Gamer Geeks will lament the lack of strategy; the game is extremely, almost entirely, luck-driven.
Parent Geeks will appreciate a truly light filler game, something that fits easily into a busy schedule.
Child Geeks will enjoy the brightly colored (some would say garish) cartoon artwork and take great delight when the sneezing occurs.