Cradle to Grave
- Designers: Gary Kim, Hope S. Hwang, Yohan Goh
- Publisher: Bloom Games
- Players: 2-5
- Age: 8+
- Time: 30 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by Bloom Games
Bloom Games is a new imprint from Korea that is working on bringing new games from Korea to the market. At SPIEL 2022, they had two small format cards games: this and Memory Island. While Memory Island was targeted at the youngest end of the spectrum, Cradle to Grave is a move strategic and competitive affair.
Here – you vie in a contest to not grow old (and die). The deck of cards in this game have ranks from 1 to 9 on them (and a few special cards). To start the game, each player is dealt a hand of 6 cards. From these cards, players secretly and simultaneously choose two of them to create their starting age. When all have chosen, flip over the cards – with the left card being the 10s digit of your age and the right card serving as the units.
Each turn has two phases.
1] Play a card. Choose a card from your hand and do one of three things with it
- Raise the age of your adjacent opponent – play a card that is exactly one higher than one of your opponents cards and increase their age. For instance, you could change a 13 to 14. Or maybe go from 53 to 63.
- Use a special card – there are 4 special cards which could allow you to draw a random tens card for someone, to swap the tens and units cards of a player, and a special 0 card which can only be played on yourself, but can be used to change a 9 to a 0. (this is the only way to play a card on a 9) There is also a special card that negates the action of a special card played on you.
- Raise your own age – if you cannot or choose not to do one of the above choices, then you must play a card that raises your own age. If you do not have any cards you can or want to play, you are obligated to play a “9” on yourself. Choose any card from your hand, flip it over and use the 9 which is on the back of every card and play it on yourself.
2] Replenish – draw cards until you have 4 cards in your hand.
Once a player has an age of 91 or more, there is a jeopardy check that occurs at the start of his turn. Flip over the top card of the deck and add the revealed number to the player’s current age. If the sum is 100 or more, the round ends (and I guess you die). Each player scores points equal to their current age (and the player who triggered the end of the round has to include the addition of the card drawn from the deck!). Alternatively, if the draw deck runs out, the round also ends immediately and in this case all players simply record their current age.
Play for a total of 3 rounds. The player with the least accumulated age is the winner. No tiebreaker is noted.
The game plays fairly quickly, as the choices are admittedly usually pretty straightforward. Most of your card play only occurs when you have a card exactly one higher than a card on the table, so it doesn’t take long to assess your options. If you have one of the four special cards; there is maybe a bit more strategy figuring out when to play said card – but honestly, most of those choices are pretty straightforward too.
There are times when you’ll end up having to play a special card as a less than opportune moment – i.e. you don’t have a card that affects either of your neighbors, and an inefficient bonus card play is still better than changing one of your own numbers to a 9…
Much of the game seems to revolve around getting a “0” special card or a flip card and then holding onto it until you get close to the 90s, and then getting your age back to something manageable. From what I’ve seen, players that are skillful enough to draw these cards from the deck more often tend to do better.
The art is pretty basic, with the cards being devoted to the numbers for the most part. I do wish that the 6 and the 9 were indexed somehow. Sure, the cards have the same background contour on all of them, and if you orient your cards all the same way, it’ll be evident which is a 6 and which is a 9 – but there’s still a fair bit of room for confusion with that.
Cradle to Grave is a cute little game, and one that has been a nice opener/closer for us this fall so far. I look forward to seeing more of these small game designs from Korea.
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor