Dale Yu: Review of Dancing Queen

Dancing Queen

  • Designer: Chok-Sien Hiew
  • Publisher: self published by Cili Padi Games
  • Players: 2
  • Age: 7+
  • Time 10-20 minutes
  • Played with copy provided by designer/publisher

Says the designer: “Dancing Queen is a 2-player, 9-card game about bringing friends to a dance party. You and your opponent both have in mind a particular dance to perform. Will you get your way? How many boys and girls should you bring? Will you bring a girl secretly dressed up as a boy to foil your opponent’s plans? Both players start with a secret goal, and need to manipulate the gender mix in play to fulfil their goals. There are opportunities to swap your secret goal and to change the gender of a dancer. When a round ends, you reveal your goals to compare who has done better. There are instant-win conditions on some cards. If you manage to achieve these feats, you win a round immediately.This short and tricky card game features bluffing, setting traps, pushing your luck and reading your opponent.

I was approached to try this game, which happens to be the 2021 BGG 9-Card Nanogame Print-and-Play Design Contest Best Overall Game.  As a result, it was already on my radar as a game to try.  It is available in a print-and-play form on BGG, but I got a really nicely produced and sleeved set in the mail.  Though it is a 9 card game, the set I have actually has 25 cards in it!  9 actual game cards as well as 7 trophies, 8 reference cards and a disco ball card…

The game is pretty simple.  In each round, the deck is shuffled and each player draws a card.  The cards are split into halves, the blue “K” side and the pink “Q” side.  Players simultaneously decide which half to play; and the cards are played face down to the table.  The side of the card which points towards the opponent is the side being played…  Once both players have played their initial lead dancer; the player who has the disco ball will take the first turn.

On a turn, you have two options, draw a card or pass.

If you draw a card, first, if you have it, pass the disco ball to your opponent.  Then draw the top card from the deck and then read it.  You can either play it as you new lead dancer or play it as a backup dancer.  Dancing happens in pairs, and your cards are matched up with your opponent’s dancers when possible.  The two lead dancers are always paired with each other.  As backup dancers are played (or moved into position), they pair with an opponent backup dancer; and once paired, the backup dancers will never un-pair.  

If you play a card with a rotate icon on it, you can rotate any card on the dance floor except your opponent’s lead dancer.  Simply twist the card around to the opposite gender.  We’re in the modern world now, and there are no restrictions on the genders in your dancing couple – you can have one of each, two Kings or two Queens!

Don’t forget after any card is played and resolved, if the instant win criteria on your lead dancer is met – reveal it and win the round!

You can also choose to pass – and this might cause the round to end.  If you pass and you already have one fewer card than your opponent, the round ends.  If your pass is the second consecutive pass, then the round ends.  Otherwise, when you pass, you keep the disco ball and your opponent gets a turn.  You also have to pass if you already have 4 dancers, this is the maximum amount allowed on a side!

The round also ends for sure when 8 cards are in play – four for each side.  

Whenever a round ends (without an instant win), each lead dancer is revealed and is scored; the player who has the highest scoring lead dancer wins the round.  Cards score anywhere from 1 to 4 points, and all the scoring criteria are based on the cards in play; certain distributions of genders, certain number of cards in play, etc.    If there is a tie, the player who currently holds the disco ball wins the round.  The game is played until one player has won four rounds.

My thoughts on the game

Wow.  There’s a lot of strategy in just these 9 cards. You start with your initial lead dancer and then you are constantly planning afterwards.  Each time that you draw a card, you have to decide on where to place it – do you make it a backup dancer and continue on your original strategy, or do you make it your lead dancer because you think you can do better?

You have to always be watching for the instant win criteria.  First, you don’t want to miss your opportunity to claim the win for yourself!  But, just as important, you want to know what the possible other criteria are to not set up a win condition for your opponent… 

There is a nice back and forth with the opponent as you try to improve your own situation as well as trying to figure out what they are trying to do.  Bluffing is certainly a big part of this back and forth because it is possible to change the lead dancer at each card draw, so you maybe shouldn’t put too much belief in the initial card plays… but then again, if you don’t, you might let your opponent have lots of time to set up a big scoring combination!

Each hand goes quickly; after all, only a total of 8 cards will be played (and the first two happen in the setup) – I’d say that each round only takes a minute or two to play.  Our first games were a bit slower as we were getting used to the rules, strategy and the cards; but after a few plays, with more familiarity of the game, rounds were lightning fast.  Well… until those occasional times when a player really has to take a minute to stop and think about what they are doing or what they think the opponent is doing… or what they think the opponent thinks about what they are doing so that you can do the other thing?!

The dancing theme is interesting, and I like the way that the theme is furthered with real song titles (that often match up to the scoring criteria underneath).   The art on the card backs is nice, and the information on the card backs is easy to understand.  All of the important information is nicely summarized on the summary cards.

The game comes with a bunch of extra cards; and while they are not fully mandatory for play, they do help things run smoother.  Each player gets a set of 4 cards that shows all the possible halves of the cards.  The trophies and the start player disco ball could be tokens, but making them cards gives a nice uniformity to the components (and it was also probably easier just to make this 25 card deck for the printer and not need additional components).  Heck, I’m a little surprised the rules weren’t printed on cards too!

Dancing Queen is a delightful little game that easily fits in your pocket and provides a lot of punch for its size.  If you want to try it yourself – https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/338086/dancing-queen  

It’s actually going into my travel bag now, as it is definitely a game that will fit on a seat back tray table – and I have a number of flights coming up in the near future!

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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