- Designer: Ken Gruhl
- Publisher: Stronghold Games
- Players: 1-5
- Age: 14+
- Time: 10-15 minutes
- Times played, 6 with review copy provided by Stronghold Games (most solo)
Ripple Rush was a game I hadn’t heard of before I talked to my Stronghold press rep, and then when I saw the box, my mind thought – hey wait a minute, this looks really familiar, maybe it’s a reprint of a German title… When the game arrived, it turns out that it isn’t a reprint at all (in fact, Stronghold is the only publisher listed for it) – but the familiarity of the cover art made me want to play it first from my box of Stronghold/Indie goodies… The game is a pen and paper affair that can be played solo – thus perfect for a rainy night in the Coronavirus era. Sure, I’m not completely homebound any more, but still, more often than not, I’ve got nights at home to fill with mostly solitaire amusements.
In this game, players start with an empty scoresheet, and the deck of cards is constructed for the game. The entire pool of cards is 100; four suits numbered 1-25 in blue circles, orange triangles, green hexagons and yellow squares. These 100 cards are shuffled, and then you make a deck for the game consisting of 20 randomly drawn cards per player. This game deck is placed on the table. If you’re interested in the advanced game, now is the time that you would randomly choose two of the eight goal cards and place those on the table.
The game is played over 20 rounds. In each round, players get to simultaneously participate. Each player is dealt a card from the deck and it is placed face up next to their score sheet. Then, players write this number down in a legal spot on their sheet. The number must be placed in the column which matches the color/shape on the card, and the numbers in each column must be in ascending value from bottom to top. If there is a legal place to write the number, you may write the number in any of those spaces. If your number cannot be legally placed, you move your card to the center of the table and announce that you can’t play it. The other players in the game can each use this number to write it, if they can, on their sheet.
If you have completed a row on your scoresheet with the written number(s), you then get a bonus – this can be seen in the leftmost column of the sheet. If it is a number, you can write that number (5,10,15,20) in any empty space on your sheet. If it is a colored shape with an x in it – you can write ANY number in any available space in the matching colored column. It might be possible that this triggers further bonus numbers.
The game ends when the deck is exhausted, and the game is scored. You score each of the four columns separately, scoring 1 point for each number in your longest chain of contiguously filled spaces. Note, the numbers do not need to be consecutive to score. If you are playing the advanced game, you would also score 3 points for each bonus card if you have managed to complete the row depicted on that card. The player with the most points wins. Ties go to the player with the most fully completed columns.
My thoughts on the game
Ripple Rush is a nice simple flip-and-write game; though upon further reflection, maybe it shouldn’t be classified as that. Each player here gets a unique card each turn to use on their scoresheet. Like many of my favorite roll-and-write games, the challenge here is in the risk/reward of choosing where to write your numbers down.
Well, maybe “challenge” is too strong of a word. In Ripple Rush, you know that each possible number can only be on one card, and you can use your memory of previously revealed cards to help you identify which numbers might be available later in the game. But, realistically, if you draw a 22 of a suit, you’re likely going to put this in one of the top 2 or 3 spaces in that column – so there’s not too much drama with something like that.
In the end, this is very reminiscent of a lighter version of Qwinto, one of my favorite roll and writes. The difference here is that the use of a deck of cards means that the pool of possible results is fixed and there cannot be repeats nor an unusually disproportionate number of high numbers or whatever. The odds are much easier to figure out with the cards.
The one thing which adds a bit more complexity to the game are the bonus numbers. As you only get a bonus number when you fill in a complete row, this might cause you to place a number in a riskier slot in order to score the bonus number sooner. Also, depending on how lucky you think you are (or what stage of the deck you’re in) – you might choose to place a number closer to the center of a column than normal in order to try to increase your score. After all, if you place the 25 at the top-most space and the 1 at the bottom-most space, you’ll need to get six more numbers on that color written down in order to score them both! You might be better off moving them closer to the center in an attempt to join them; however, you risk a lower max score when you do this.
Because of the lighter complexity, the game plays pretty quick. Turns are often made with split second decisions as it’s pretty obvious where a number should be written. Solo games are rapid fire for sure, with my most recent game finishing in about 5 minutes. There is definitely a different dynamic in a multiplayer game as you have the chance to occasionally use numbers that your opponents could not write down. In the solo game, you only get your 20 cards and you’re done.
The components in the game are perfectly adequate. The cards are small and sturdy enough for the game, though I’ll say that trying to riffle shuffle 100 small cards is super hard. I end up usually throwing the cards on the table or on the carpet and doing a good old fashioned kindergarten shuffle. And well the golf pencils are… golf pencils. I have one small quibble with the scoresheet – I really wish that there were a ninth row at the bottom (or top) of the sheet to write down your score in. As it stands now, I’m just cramming the numbers in the empty spaces around some of the bonus numbers. It works, but it would have been nice to have a place to tally up the scores.
I do wish the rules would have specified the distribution of the cards. I mean, sure I figured it out easily enough by looking at the cards, but this seems to be an important piece of information when you’re trying to order numbers on your sheet – and it’s important to keep your numbers contiguous on the sheet. One other small quirk – it’s really weird that the 6 and 9 cards have no orienting line – I suppose you can use the drop shadow on the background shape to tell you which way is up…. But it’s pretty annoying not to have this better delineated.
For now, the game sits at my desk at work, and it’s gotten a pretty good workout this week during lunch breaks. I honestly doubt that it’s a forever keeper for me (As I prefer slightly more complex XXX and writes), but I can see where this would have a good place as an entry level game to the genre or a game for families. It’s very accessible, and has easy decisions that are not intimidating. For now, this is one of my top 2 Ken Gruhl games, the other being Happy Salmon. For now, I am between being neutral and liking it.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
James Nathan: This was not for me. For some reason the unpredictability of the card flip felt more capricious than in something like Qwinto where I have a sense of what the possible values could be. (Though maybe that’s some sort of Monty Hall problem I’ll never understand about choosing the cards from the 100 possibilities before we play.) As Dale said above, there were a few user interface/playability issues, such as shuffling the stack of cards and no place to record scores, that also made it a less enjoyable experience; it also rubbed me the wrong way that the rules didn’t specify the range of the cards. None of these are a deal breaker of course, but it adds up.