The Game: Face to Face
- Designers: Steffen Benndorf, Reinhard Staupe
- Publisher: Pandasaurus
- Players: 2
- Age: 8+
- Time: 20 minutes
- Review copy provided by publisher
Well, I’ve gone on record that I’m not a fan of The Game – though I think it’s an interesting activity, I’m not yet convinced that it is a game, and certainly it’s not a game that I want to play. The fine folks at Pandasaurus are well aware of that – but they still approached me to try their newest release in the line, the 2p only version: The Game: Face to Face. This game uses some of the same mechanics, but there are obviously some differences as this game is not cooperative, but rather competitive in nature!
The game is made up of 2 different decks (silver backed or gold backed) each of an identical 60 cards. There are familiar looking 1 and 60 cards with large arrows on them – and each player sets these down on the table. Each deck then also has cards numbered from 2 to 59; these 58 cards are shuffled thoroughly, and each player takes a starting hand of 6 cards from their shuffled deck.
The game is played in turns. On a turn, the active player may play as many cards as they want onto their own two piles, and they may play exactly one card onto one of their opponent’s stacks. As in The Game, you must play at least 2 card to the table or else you lose the game!
When you play cards to your own stacks, you can play to your ascending stack (the one that starts with 1) so long as the card played is higher than the previously played card, you can play to your descending stack (the one that starts with 60) so long as the card played is lower than the previously played card, or you can do the backwards trick. If you have a card which is exactly 10 more (for the descending) or 10 less (for the ascending), you may play the card which then improves your situation on that stack. You are allowed to do this multiple times so long as you have the appropriate cards to do so.
If you choose to play a single card to your opponent’s stacks, you essentially must play a card which improves the situation of your opponent on that stack – that is, play a lower card onto their ascending stack or a higher card on their descending stack.
When your turn is over, you draw cards based on your play. If you only played cards to your own stack, you draw exactly two cards from your draw pile. If you have played a card onto your opponent’s stacks this turn, you draw until you have 6 cards in your hand.
The game ends in one of two ways. If a player plays his 58th and final deck card to the table, that player wins. If a player is unable to legally play 2 cards on his turn, that player loses! There cannot be any ties.
My thoughts on the game
Well, I’ll admit that I was pretty suspicious about the game given its name. Luckily, for me (and TBH for the game), the use of “The Game” in the title is just to create familiarity and drive sales. It is neither cooperative or read-my-mind-y, which to me are the hallmarks of the base game and previous expansions/extensions.
This game is a tactical duel where you still have many of the same hand management problems, but you don’t have to rely on anyone else for your success. For me, this is a vast improvement over the mechanics in the base game.
There is an interesting bit of timing and management as the game progresses. A hand of 6 cards is large enough that you can both work on setting up short term gains with plays as well as trying to save up cards (which are 10 apart) to make large backward jumps on your stacks. Of course, there are times when your opponent can dash your plans by playing a card on to one of your stacks when you’re not expecting it!
Speaking of the decision of when to play on your opponent’s stacks – there is some interesting timing issues here as well. Obviously, you don’t want to do this more often than you have to, as each play to the opponent MUST make their position better. However, doing this is the only way to draw your hand back up to the full limit of 6. However, while you’d like to ideally time this when your hand is getting down to zero or 1 cards; the values of your cards may not allow this; or sometimes you have a card which is only one or two away from your opponent’s card, and this makes it a good choice to play early; even if you don’t necessarily need to fully refill your hand yet.
Games of The Game: Face to Face are quick, taking 15 minutes or so. We’ve fit in a few games between chores, and in the past week, during the halftimes of the Euro 2020 and Copa America matches that we’ve been watching on TV. The game fits perfectly into that timeslot. I’ve never really considered having a class of games in my collection for that niche, but maybe this is the start of that line?
For those looking for a nice quick compact 2p game, this is a good choice. It’s also a great game for all you Benndorf fanboys – and you know who you are, Luke…
This one is surprisingly highly recommended by myself.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Eric M.
- I like it. Dale Y
- Not for me…