Before you do anything else, start the music file below. And then, let it be known that you have exactly 4 1/2 minutes to finish reading this review. Which might be hard, because you’ll be dancing along in your chair the whole time…
4 1/2 Minuten
- Designer: Joachim Reif
- Publisher: moses. verlag
- Players: 2-6
- Age: 8+
- Time: 4.5 minutes
- Times played: game: 8, with review copy provided by moses. music: >70 and counting (it’s now my alarm music on my phone!)
4 1/2 Minuten was a game that I knew nothing about prior to Spiel 2019. As you may have read in my No Return review; I usually don’t pay much attention to the games from moses as they are often literary based and almost always in German only. For many of their new releases, EN rules are available online, and the game components themselves are language independent.
This game is one of those rare things where the game itself is just better than average, but due to the provided music and the overall experience, it’s a game that keeps coming back to the table for more and more plays. And, that, in my book, makes a successful game.
So, the game itself can be thought of as a cooperative Uno. The deck is made up of 95 cards. Play starts clockwise around the table and the goal is to play all the cards in the deck before the end of the timer. Which is always 4 1/2 minutes. Which can be done on a timer app on your phone. Or you can use the fantastic music provided by moses on their website – which has been embedded at the top of this article. If you’re not listening to it now, go back to the top, hit play, and then start reading again. Players start the game with a hand of 4 cards. Whenever the timer of choice is started, all players flip up their cards and play begins. The players’ hands will always be face up on the table so that everyone can see what needs to be played.
There can be two different discard piles in the game. Obviously, the first player to play starts the first pile, and at any point, any player can choose to start the second. When it is a player’s turn to play, he must play a valid matching card to one of the two discard piles. But first, let me explain the cards.
There are number cards in four colors. Like Uno, there are reverse cards which reverse the direction of play.
There are also +2 cards which cause the next player to draw 2 cards prior to their play; but unlike Uno, this is not a penalty but rather a mild bonus as that player now has more cards to choose from when making their next play.
There are white backed wild “traffic light” cards which can always be played and change the color of the stack to either of the two colors shown on the card.
There are arrow cards which allow the player who played it to declare the next player who plays – it could even be himself again.
Finally, there are “X” cards which have a white background – so they can be played at any time. However, when played, they shut down the pile they are on for the next three card plays. Once three cards have been played to the other pile, the color of the X on the card becomes the card of that stack on which it was played.
OK, so now that you know the cards, you have to play a valid card on your turn – that means a card which matches either the color of the top card on a discard pile OR one that matches the symbol of the card on top of a discard pile. Once you have played a card, draw a replacement from the deck to bring your hand back up to 4. (In the rare case that you have 4 or more cards, you do not draw.) The next player then quickly takes their turn.
If you are unable to play a valid card to either discard pile, bad luck. You take the cards in your hand, place them facedown in a pile near you and draw 4 new cards. The next player in order now takes their turn.
So, the game goes around the table; sometimes changing direction with a reverse card, sometimes skipping players with the arrow card – all the while, the infectiously peppy and happy music plays in the background. The music will give you cues when you are halfway through the time and then where there is a minute left.
As you are playing, you always need to be mindful of what cards your teammates have so that you can play a card which will hopefully allow them to play on their turn. Of course, don’t take too long to examine the cards on the table because this game won’t wait for you. Sure, everyone else will be bouncing in their seats, dancing to the little ditty, but at some point, they’ll start yelling at you to quit wasting time.
There is a certain art to playing the “X” blocking cards; it helps to look ahead to make sure that the next 3 players have a path to play cards on the single pile that is left over. We’ve found that it’s good to count out loud as the next 3 cards are played to make sure that everyone knows when the X’d pile is back open. Also, we’ve found that it never pays to wait until the end of the game to try to play the Xs. This pretty much guarantees that people will have turns where they can’t play a card; and well… that’s bad.
So, you play until either the song ends or all the cards have either been played to a discard pile (or have been set aside due not being able to play on a turn). Now, it’s time to score the game. The group takes a penalty point for each card left in the draw pile or face up in a player hand. The group takes 2 penalty points for each card which had to be set aside after an unplayable turn – thus, each unplayable turn generally is an 8-point penalty…
When the scores are tabulated, you can compare your score to this rubric:
- 0 minus points – Unbelievable! You are the champions!
- 1 to 15 minus points – Good job! You are the real deer!
- 16 to 35 minus points – You’re getting the hang of it!
- 36 to 60 minus points – Not Bad! Deer for more?
- 61 to 90 minus points – Better luck next time!
- 91 and more minus points – Don’t give up, keep on trying!
That’s all there is to the game. It’s lightning fast – well, it’s always pretty much 4 1/2 minutes. There’s always been laughing and dancing while playing the game with the official music, and it has yet to fail to bring a collective smile to the table. So far, the best score that I’ve been involved in is minus 8; but I think I’ll keep trying to do better.
And, sure, the song is a complete earworm, so you’re welcome for that too.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
James Nathan (3 plays): I mean, sometimes it’s fine for a game to just be pure fun and this one is –that’s notably aided by the whimsical soundtrack, which is also now my phone’s alarm.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Dale Y (music)
- I like it. Dale Y (game), James Nathan, Craig V
- Neutral. John P
- Not for me…