ラムラムパーティー (Lum Lum Party)
Designer: Rei (レイ)
Publisher: 四等星 (4tousei)
Playing Time: 30-45 minutes
Times Played: 5
Lum Lum Party is a game that makes no sense. It is among my favorite 2021 releases, but probably won’t share that same love from everyone. The title is based upon a protagonist in a manga series from the 70s and 80s, Urusei Yatsura, but it seems unrelated to the game in theme or mechanics. The rules, however, give direction on how to search YouTube for this song the designer made about Urusei Yatsura, linked here to inspire you as we talk about the game. Stick around for the whistle, then tempo change!
Lum Lum Party is also a game that makes perfect sense. In short, it is a Bingo-based game, with two wrinkles: you have some agency for choosing the numbers on your board, and you have some agency in choosing the next number that is “called”. It doesn’t sound like there’s anything there.
The number-choosing on your blank board is heads down solitaire stuff…twice, since you have two boards for two rounds of the game. The numbers have three different rules for how to progress across a row that give players some flexibility, though since a number cannot be repeated, I often found myself making sure I wasn’t writing the same digits twice. This is a bit of work – the fun kind! – and like the rubber band stretching for the rest of the game’s zzzip!
The remainder of the game is played turn by turn around the table with players calling out the next number. Well, it’s not quite so loose. The number marches up a track from 1-70, and players choose which of four actions they want to apply to the number – Hop, Step, Jump, or Warp. As you might imagine from their names, these actions apply a varying degree of velocity to the numbers, from moving only one space to rolling various quantities of dice. The quantity of set spaces moved or dice rolled accelerates as the number draws closer to 70, which makes the higher numbers tougher to hit. Once at the upper limits of the track, things get funky. By choosing to advance by a single space, a player is granted 2 points in addition to the number moving and instead of rolling dice a player may choose any space from the first tier for the number to settle on. If you’re paying attention, you’ve noticed that we’ve circled the track and are starting again at the beginning. This process is referred to as Overflow.
Along the way, of course, each number called is marked by everyone if they had written it as part of their sheet in that heads down set up part of the game. Normal Bingo patterns apply: a full row, column, or diagonal allows you the chance to shout “Bingo!” or some other exclamation, like “Salmon!” The first player to Bingo gains 15 bonus points and the bonus decreases by 5 points for each player thereafter.
The round ends after 4 Overflows or when all players have Bingo’d at least once. Play two rounds and the game is over. In addition to the points gained by only advancing by one space in the last tier of spaces or through Bingoing first, second, or third, players also score the tens’ digit for each number in a Bingo’d row/column/diagonal. Now, if you’re putting it all together you’ll see that high numbers score more points (good!) but they’re much tougher to hit as the number tracker flies by (bad!). Those decisions made while making your board may get you some easy bingos, but will they be high enough numbers to score the big time points?
The game is simple and straightforward. There doesn’t seem to be much action. And there’s not! The fun is found in the drama of the rolled die, wondering midroll if the result will show the number you need to hit for that double Bingo climax. The fun is found in plotting your own success…or demise before the first action has been taken. The fun is found in pleading with your opponents to only move just. one. space. Instead of rolling all three dice like a maniac! Sure, our fates are entangled with that little number tracker disc, but the stars we’ve written for ourselves are so often different that we tug it along in our own ways. And who knows, maybe you’ll get to mark down some of those misses on the next Overflow. There’s a certain comfort in knowing you may be able to clean up as the number passes by again.
And there’s a certain comfort in nostalgic mechanisms. Bingo was a part of road trips, classroom activities, and hanging out with grandma. And it has always felt good to cross things off, which becomes even more satisfying if you’ve made the things to cross off yourself (write the article about Lum Lum Party. Done!). レイ (Rei) has tapped into some id-like responses for me with this game. It is not a game that makes you think hard at all, but is one where you can simply join the flow, adding your trimtab of actions when the rhythm comes to your beat.
And if you’ve figured out how this game connects to Urusei Yatsura beyond the title, you’ve gotten further than I have! Sometimes love comes from things that don’t make sense.
Thoughts from the Opinionated Gamers
James Nathan (9 plays): This is also one of my favorite 2021 releases – I’m nearly out of sheets! It can go from camaraderie and cheers to betrayal and boos, as players join in a congo line of successive +1s before one player zigs to roll 3 dice – only a single number shy of the one you really needed! The first half ends, and I’m reminded of a Rocky & Bullwinkle clip, as Bullwinkle insists _this_ time he can pull the rabbit from his hat. In 9 games, I’ve made 18 different boards, and it happens to me each time – “Eureka! I’ve got it – this will be the perfect board”. You already know that it never is, but the trick that the game pulls off so well is the sincerity of your belief that the next time will be different. The game pleases some of your more primal gambling desires in a way that is unusual in the hobby side of the scene, where such things can be dismissed for their luck elements.
Joe Huber (1 play): This is one of my favorite 2021 releases as well – that just means a lot less in my case than in Rand’s. Unfortunately, my single play included one person who really didn’t care for the game, which made for a less-than-ideal experience; from my point of view, though, the game is at worst enjoyable and unique – and might be better than that.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! James Nathan, Rand L.
- I like it. John P
- Neutral. Joe H.
- Not for me…