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Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Loonacy: the maniacal matching card game

| April 4th 2016 | 
Thanks for checking out my blog. I have a new, much better looking version of this review here: http://www.boardgamebarker.com/blog/2015/12/21/loonacy-the-maniacal-matching-card-game?rq=loonacybar

Loonacy is a fantastic, real time card game for 2-5 players from Looney Labs. There is absolutely 0 text and you can learn the rules in roughly 15 seconds. Even though it is just a short game, playing is highly addictive. On our first night playing Loonacy it ended up being our only game in play. Since then, it has become one of the greatest intro and filler games in my collection. Because learning how to play is really simple, I will focus on why I think Loonacy makes an exceptional intro game, how well it scales between 2-5 players, and who I think would enjoy the game.



How to Play:

Playing is very simple. The goal of the game is to be the first player to discard all cards from your hand. In order to discard a card from your hand, you must match one of the two symbols on it to one of the two symbols on the top cards of one of the various discard piles.

It seems simple, but now for the catch: there are no turns. Like I said at the top, this is a real time card game. This means everyone is going to play at the same time and the top card of the discard piles can change at any moment. Loonacy will test your reflexes and ability to recognize patterns at a glance as you race to rid yourself of your hand of cards.
What if you cannot play a card? You simply wait for the top card of the discard piles to change and hope a symbol you can match with comes up. If you find yourselves suddenly staring at each other with no one able to take a turn, everyone must then draw a card. Make sure to keep the new cards face down until everyone has their new card; that way no one has an unfair advantage. 

Setup:

Shuffle the cards into 1 draw pile.

Turn over the top cards of the draw pile, creating a number of separate discard piles depending on the number of players.

5 Player Setup: Loonacy


4 Player Setup: Loonacy



2 Player Setup: Loonacy












3 Player Setup: Loonacy











Deal each player a hand of 7 cards, players should not look at their cards until everyone is ready to start playing.

Why is Loonacy an awesome intro game?

The board game scene has seen an influx of new gamers and general peaked interest in the past few years. Even so, when I try to introduce someone to the hobby or it comes up that I play board games, I am still often met with, 'What, like Monopoly?' Rather than try to explain what modern gaming consists of, with Loonacy you can say, 'It's easier if I show you and it will only take 4 minutes'.

Obviously you won't always have the opportunity to bust out Loonacy and show someone, but the combination of how fast it plays and how quick it is to explain are part of what makes it an awesome introduction game. Other than eliminating time constraints, this demonstrates that newer games don't always take as long as Monopoly or Risk. And if someone is upset by losing, Loonacy is fast enough that you can just play again.

Examples of Cards: Loonacy
Loonacy has several other appealing intro features besides just being a quick play game. For example, there is no benefit to the person teaching so no one will feel as if you have an unfair advantage. Players will get used to matching various icons and quickly assessing/managing their hand of cards.

Another part of an intro game is the desire to play again. This is often coupled with a sense of accomplishment and desire to do better the next time you play. Loonacy almost always leaves me wanting to play again, especially when it was a close game and I only had a card or two left.

Who would enjoy Loonacy?

Although I would love to say Loonacy is for everyone, it clearly is not. If you do not like speed/reaction games, this is a definite no - even though it is easier and quicker than some of the other similar games I have played. My second disclaimer: if you are not a fan of the standard randomness that comes with Looney Labs games, I would avoid picking up Loonacy. Let us now turn your attention to those who will enjoy Loonacy:

New Gamers: With a low price and small box, it is easy to add to your collection. It is also a fairly unique game and even if you own another reaction game, it is worth picking up this game specifically. It is easy to get your friends to play because there are no cumbersome rules and I always have an easier time getting non-gamers to try a card game than I do a game with a board and pieces. Lastly, a benefit to playing this game is that it gets you used to icon matching and hand management which are big parts of a lot of other games in the hobby, regardless of their complexity.

Casual Gamers: When you do not get to play board games every night or get to play with the same group of people and enjoy lengthy session, two of the most important things to me are setup time and explanation time. Loonacy takes longer to shuffle than it does to setup and explain. Another important aspect of casual games to me is how often they actually get played, since a casual board game budget might not support as many games. I have more than a couple light, filler games, but Loonacy has managed to dethrone them all and shows no signs of becoming a dust collector anytime soon. It's also physically light and small so you can easily bring it with you.

Gamer Gamers: You can never have enough games to introduce to new gamers and Loonacy does a great job filling this role. It can also help you even out your collection, as I think speed/reaction games are underrepresented in a lot of bigger collections. At the very least, Loonacy is a fast filler than you can play while waiting for other players to arrive or wrap up any games that they are already playing. 

How it Scales 2-5 Players

2 Players: The gameplay is fun but gets old a lot quicker with just 2 players. I find you end up drawing a lot more cards which slows down the pace of the game. It seems weird that with 4 discard pile options you would have to draw a card but for some reason with 4 options there always seem to be multiple piles with the same icon on top. Lastly I find 2 player Loonacy to just be less exciting, there is no shouting, cheering, fighting over who is putting their card down first. That does not mean I dislike 2 player Loonacy, it has its place like on a hike, hanging by the pool or when you are desperate to squeeze in even a couple minutes of gaming.

3 Players: The three player setup has my preferred number of discard piles. I find that they all change often enough to keep the pace of the game quick and give you lots of options. Occasionally two discard piles will have the same icon on top but not as often as in the 2 player setup. When we play with any number of players now we almost always use the 3 discard pile setup because it seems to work the best to keep the game flowing. We never timed any of our games but I feel like 3 player games were over the quickest.
4 Players: The setup says to only use 2 discard piles which creates a more intense game than with 2 and 3 players. There is much more competition for the discard piles meaning if feels like someone is almost always going for the same icon as you. I found that with only 2 discard piles we ran into a lot more cases where everyone had to draw a card. Using the 2 pile setup and playing with 4 players felt like games would either be over really fast or really slow, this is why we now use 3 piles instead of 2.

 5 Players: After reading my opinion on 4 players I am sure you can guess how I feel about 5 players all using 1 discard pile. The discard pile is a revolving door of icons and the game can finish before you even play a single card. Or you can get down to 1 or 2 cards and suddenly be back at 7 or 8. I don't think you have to draw cards as often as with 4 players because the icons are changing so often but sometimes you get stuck drawing 3 or 4 cards in a row because no one can make a match. 5 players is my favourite way to play Loonacy, I like the chaos, excitement and volume of playing with 5 players but disliked the 1 discard pile setup. We normally use 3 discard piles but still change it up and play around with different setups and I would definitely suggest doing the same. 

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