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Subject: [Review]Like a wacky 80's movie about a madcap escape rss

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Seth Brown
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WHAT IS IT?
A quasi-co-operative escape game where one player is the staff of a nursing home, and the other players are all residents trying to escape.



COMPONENTS
4 thick cardboard Player Mats/Guides, 21 thick cardboard room tiles, 3 plastic custom dice, 50 stuff tiles, a bunch of character chits for each of the 4 characters, 6 staff chits, handful of useless plastic stands, rulebook

GAMEPLAY IN BRIEF
Elders all start in a single room in the nursing home, on a bed of their color, with their decoy, which looks the same as their Elder, but has no secret dot on the underside. Your turn is as follows:

1) (Elders only) may recall decoys to their current space or a matching bed.
2) Players, starting with you, each may play stuff tiles which have various effects.
3) Roll 3 dice (ranging from 1-3) and sum the lowest two to move one of your pieces.
4) Roll 3 dice (ranging from 1-3) and sum the lowest two to move one of your pieces you haven't moved yet this turn.
5) (Staff only) Roll 3 dice (ranging from 1-3) and sum the lowest two to move one of your pieces you haven't moved yet this turn.
6) Players, starting with you, each may play stuff tiles which have various effects.

When an Elder comes within 2 spaces in a straight line of an unobstructed open edge, a new tile is revealed (with stuff tiles on the corners and possibly staff if there are any staff rooms). When 3 special tiles have been revealed, a down elevator/staircase tile is added to the map, connected to its twin starting a new (ground) floor. The next special tile adds a secondary elevator/staircase to the upper floor, and the last three special tiles each add an exit to the ground floor.

Any character must stop movement when coming in contact with an opposing character. Any Decoy that touches a Staff member is removed from the board temporarily. Two staff members are required to tackle an Elder, in which case the Staff member gets a capture point and the Elder respawns in a bed next turn. The Staff player wins by gaining capture points equal to the number of players. An Elder that manages to escape through an exit immediately wins the game.



GOOD POINTS

*Original, amusing theme. So often, it feels like board games have the same boring themes. Trading in the Mediterranean, gaining favor in the Renaissance court, swords and sorcery, zombies and sci-fi, all in dozens and dozens of boardgames. I have never heard of a boardgame about old people escaping from a nursing home; it reminds me of a madcap hijinks 80s movie, and I love it. A lot of the Stuff, from the unpleasant puddle on the floor to the thrown bedpan, makes good use of the theme, and it is very funny.

*Different experiences each time. Having played the game a few times, I can confidently say that the game can play out very differently depending on the randomized layout of the modular board, the number of players, or even the stuff tiles that players start with at the beginning of the game.

*Highly interactive game of cat and mouse. Players are definitely playing against the opposing side, rather than just playing the board. There's a lot of chasing going on, and while often the beginning of the game does not have many options, once the board opens up things tend to get more interesting.

*Tough decisions of who to chase. The Staff player in particular has a lot of difficult decisions to make as to which staff members to activate and which players to chase down. You can use two staff members to trap one person in a stairwell, but it will take most of another turn to grab them, and meanwhile you're short-staffed elsewhere and players bolting for the other stairwell haven't been delayed for two turns.

*Lots of varied Stuff. The Stuff tiles are highly varied, and really add a lot of uncertainty to the game. Stuff can let you walk through walls, make other spaces impassable, hamper opposing movement, increase your own movement, or even prevent Staff from being generated in rooms to begin with. This keeps the game interesting up until the final turn because you never know if someone else has stuff to mess with you.

*Variants galore. The back page of the rulebook is filled with variants, which supports the idea that this is very much a framework into which you could build your own games.



BAD POINTS

*Rules are difficult to grok. This is not some complex 4-hour game with a 40-page rulebook. This is a casual game with a dozen page rulebook, of which 2 pages are just individual stuff tile rules. Nonetheless, after reading it twice, I still didn't understand it, and even after playing a full game with constant referral to the rulebook, I had to read it again before I finally felt like I understood everything. Half of the rules are in boxes marked "Special", but which don't add anything but confusion. Terminology is also confusing; player aids tell you to optionally "recall" your decoy each turn, the rules tell you to "place" it, and it wasn't until the end of our first game that I was convinced this definitely meant that you could Move your decoy, rather than just recall/place it if it had been removed from the game. Add in some confusion over placing Exit tiles versus Exit sign tiles and an unnecessarily complicated stuff-letter taxonomy (not to mention the usual unclear edge case scenarios that every game has), and you have a game that, while it can be understood eventually, just took me longer to wrap my head around than I wanted a casual game to do.

*Really not made for low player counts. I think I would have preferred if the game was just listed as a 4-5 player game, but since the box and rules say it's a 2-5 player game, I am forced to note my disagreement. We didn't even try playing it with 2, because our first two games were with only 3 people, and even that didn't feel very exciting. Our subsequent 4-player game was much better, and I can only imagine that 5 players would be better yet. This is a wacky game for a bunch of people, not a game you want to sit down and play quietly with 1 or 2 others.

*Kingmaker in the extreme. While naturally any multiplayer game is going to have some element of the kingmaker problem, the situation I found myself in at the end of one game was the archetypical Kingmaker; I was far from an exit, and another player would exit on their turn. I had the option of doing nothing and letting the other Elder win, or placing an obstacle in front of them so the staff player could catch them and win. I could choose which other player won, but neither option was appealing. One of our other games saw another player in the same position.

*Useless plastic stands. The game comes with a number of little plastic stands, ostensibly for the character chips (although I'd think with the dotted bottoms, keeping the chips flat would be easier) and especially the nurse tokens. However, attempting to slot one of the nurse tokens into a stand ended with nothing but frustration and a chewed up corner. I presumed the other person was doing it wrong, so I tried, and then we had two chewed up corners. We even used a swiss army knife to try to pry apart the stand, but no luck. These stands simply do not fit the game pieces, and consequently, are useless and frustrating.

*Player abilities, while optional, are not equal. Two of the characters have an ability that may only be used if sharing a square with another player's Elder (not decoy). Given that you aren't really even on a team with other players to begin with, this happens exceedingly rarely, and end up being much less useful than Red's ability to make an adjacent character unable to move for a round.

*Feeling of powerlessness comes too often. Rolling snake eyes (which happens often when you're using the two worst dice with a 1/3 chance of rolling 1) means that you move nowhere. Various opposing stuff can nuke your movement for a turn as well. And if you finally can move, after two fruitless turns, you may just be too far behind the game to do anything but approach the staff as they chase someone else towards the exit.



CONCLUSION

Bedpans and Broomsticks is a very particular type of game. It's a quasi-cooperative escape game that's somewhere between Betrayal at House on the Hill, and Zombie in My Pocket. This is a game for 4-5 players that relies on heavy theme, and the tension between cooperation and wanting to be the one to win while running about a modular board slowly being revealed. The rules need an interpreter, but leaving that aside this is a cats-and-mice escape with a funny frametale if you can get past a few annoyances (which I could not).

IS IT FOR YOU?

Do you like wacky escape games that straddle the line between cooperative and competitive, like Betrayal at House on the Hill and Zombie in my Pocket? Are you looking for a game with a funny and truly original theme? Do you like the idea of chasing (or being chased) around a nursing home by your friends as you unleash random event stuff at each other? Then if you've got 4-5 players, this game might be for you.

Conversely, if you are easily frustrated by difficult-to-understand rulebooks, the feeling of powerlessness that comes from wasted turns when you feel like you can't do anything useful, games where you are competing against people on your team, or just games that feel somewhat anemic when played with only 2-3 people, you may want to pass on this one.

*Review copy provided by publisher
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Matt
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Sounds like something one of my board game groups would enjoy, but the clumsy rulebook and decent probability of wasted turns will have me hold off on looking into this.
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J Emmett
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Osirus wrote:
*Feeling of powerlessness comes too often. Rolling snake eyes (which happens often when you're using the two worst dice with a 1/3 chance of rolling 1) means that you move nowhere.

Do you mean you figuratively move "nowhere" (but actually get to move two spaces), or do you mean if you roll all 1s then you literally don't get to move at all? If that's a rule, I missed it (not unlikely, in a rulebook that only infers in a variant rule that the Staffers player normally starts with one Stuff, a rule not mentioned in the sections for Setup or Stuff).
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Seth Brown
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Gravey wrote:
Osirus wrote:
*Feeling of powerlessness comes too often. Rolling snake eyes (which happens often when you're using the two worst dice with a 1/3 chance of rolling 1) means that you move nowhere.

Do you mean you figuratively move "nowhere" (but actually get to move two spaces), or do you mean if you roll all 1s then you literally don't get to move at all? If that's a rule, I missed it (not unlikely, in a rulebook that only infers in a variant rule that the Staffers player normally starts with one Stuff, a rule not mentioned in the sections for Setup or Stuff).


Yeah those rules really could have been clearer. But no, I meant figuratively. In a game where you're trying to run around or past people, moving 2 spaces is pretty much a wasted turn.
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J Emmett
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I'm back.

Osirus wrote:
Terminology is also confusing; player aids tell you to optionally "recall" your decoy each turn, the rules tell you to "place" it, and it wasn't until the end of our first game that I was convinced this definitely meant that you could Move your decoy, rather than just recall/place it if it had been removed from the game.

That's the way we were playing, but after my first Decoy-capture, I'm thinking it's the other way around: that even though the player aid doesn't say it explicitly (surprise, surprise), the Decoy can only be recalled/placed if it's been captured. The three things that make me think that are:

1) The rulebook says captured Residents (i.e. Elders and Decoys) are removed, but then only goes on to detail what happens to Elders, and not Decoys. This rulebook likes to chop up rules and sprinkle them all over the place, so I could infer that the recall/place step in the turn sequence is the rest of the rule for captured Decoys, and only meant to apply in that case.

2) Sending a Decoy already on a tile to a bed is a dead giveaway. I suppose you could do that to block a door or chuck a bedpan near a bed, but that's a round where there's no mistake where your Elder is.

3) Why, and how (thematically), is the Decoy allowed to teleport around the board?

What do you think?

This game really needs a FAQ. Or a re-written rulebook.
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Seth Brown
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Gravey wrote:

1) I could infer that the recall/place step in the turn sequence is the rest of the rule for captured Decoys, and only meant to apply in that case.

2) Sending a Decoy already on a tile to a bed is a dead giveaway.

3) Why, and how (thematically), is the Decoy allowed to teleport around the board?

What do you think?


I made all of these arguments when we were discussing the rules in our first game, because I was convinced that obviously you could only recall Decoys that had been removed. The counter-arguments that convinced me otherwise for our second game (and subsequent games) were:

1) Unless decoys were being zapped every turn, there'd be no reason to put that rule atop a turn order chart; presumably decoys disappearing would be a lot more rare.

2) Moving a Decoy to a bed from anywhere means you know it's a decoy; only moving it to the Elder allows you to confuse the staff, and that's true whether it's moved there from off-board or not.

3) Thematically, the decoys are just "random other residents who distract the staff for you", so if one is captured, another one pops out of their bed to help you. (While dubious, I find this thematically no less probable than the idea that each of the escaping residents has a personal decoy made up to look like them.)

But really the main point that convinced me was just the wording of the rules; while I had assumed obviously you could only recall removed decoys, nothing in the rules specifically said to move only removed decoys. My general guideline for rulebooks is to let go of my assumptions and only follow the rules that are actually written, counter-intuitive though they may be. And while this rulebook was admittedly harder to follow than most, nowhere did it specify that the decoys being moved had to have been removed from the board on the previous turn. That (along with point 1) was enough to convince me that my first game assumption had been made in error.
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J Emmett
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Osirus wrote:
But really the main point that convinced me was just the wording of the rules; while I had assumed obviously you could only recall removed decoys, nothing in the rules specifically said to move only removed decoys. My general guideline for rulebooks is to let go of my assumptions and only follow the rules that are actually written, counter-intuitive though they may be. And while this rulebook was admittedly harder to follow than most, nowhere did it specify that the decoys being moved had to have been removed from the board on the previous turn. That (along with point 1) was enough to convince me that my first game assumption had been made in error.

Okay, barring a FAQ, I can get behind that. It's probably best not to start second-guessing this rulebook anyway, and placing Decoys, removed or not, isn't really an abuse of "The rules don't say I can't!" as, say, summoning a Tyrannosaur to eat all the Elders.
 
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Frederic Moyersoen
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The purpose of the decoy is to confuse the Staffer. So, you are allowed to put him back in the same space as your Elder at the start of each of your turns.
If this should not be allowed, the decoy can quickly become useless.

Please accept my apologies for any confusing wording in the rules. Although I've checked the rules, edited by Mayfair Games several times, it probably slipped to my attention.
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Seth Brown
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Frederic Moyersoen wrote:
The purpose of the decoy is to confuse the Staffer. So, you are allowed to put him back in the same space as your Elder at the start of each of your turns.
If this should not be allowed, the decoy can quickly become useless.

Please accept my apologies for any confusing wording in the rules. Although I've checked the rules, edited by Mayfair Games several times, it probably slipped to my attention.


That's how we ended up playing it after the first game, but very nice to have official clarification; thanks!

EDIT: I should also add, it's always a delight to see the designers reading the BGG forums, and I hope you don't take anything negative I said about the game personally!
 
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Frederic Moyersoen
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Although I prefer positive comments, you should know that the designer feels a little bit like a scenario writer. What the movie director (or publisher in this case) makes about it is more or less out of his control.
So, I don't take it personal.
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Chuck Rice
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Chuck from Mayfair Games here.

If you got a demo of Bedpans and Broomsticks at Gen Con I taught you the game

You can indeed move your decoy either back to your position and to any bed of your color at the start of your turn.

You are sacrificing something by moving to a bed of your color, in that everyone knows who the decoy is.

However, there are several reasons why this might be useful.

First, your decoy can act as a "blocker". When you move your decoy to a bed, you still get to roll to move it later in your turn, meaning you can move it in the way of a staffer, forcing the staff to stop, at which point it THEN is forced to move back into the square of your actual player. Then you can mix them up again.

Second, your decoy can pick up stuff for you.

Hope this helps, from someone who spent the last four days teaching the game on two tables simultaneously
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Shoosh shoo
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just a quick question about the decoy movement... I thought in the rules it says that when a decoy is neutralized it is immediately removed from the board. Does that mean for the rest of the round the corresponding Elder has no decoy out on the board?

The way I understand the rules is that when a decoy is caught it is removed from the board and it doesn't get put back into play until the start of that Elder's turn.
 
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Seth Brown
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shooshoo wrote:
just a quick question about the decoy movement... I thought in the rules it says that when a decoy is neutralized it is immediately removed from the board. Does that mean for the rest of the round the corresponding Elder has no decoy out on the board?

The way I understand the rules is that when a decoy is caught it is removed from the board and it doesn't get put back into play until the start of that Elder's turn.


That's correct.
 
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