Game Review: “Shenanigans” by Kazam Games

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At first blush, the cards in “Shenanigans” look a lot like a standard set of playing cards, with one major difference: there’s only one “suit,” and that’s lucky clovers. As luck would have it, the good folks over at Kazam Games gave 3-Sided-Die the chance to playtest and review a prototype of this new card game.

How do you win?

The goal of “Shenanigans” to have the least number of points among all players by the end of the game.

How do you play?

Each player is dealt nine cards. You arrange the cards into a three-by-three grid and turn any two of them face-up. The rest of the deck is put into the center of the table and becomes the “draw pile.” The top card of the draw pile is turned face up and put into a separate “discard pile.” The person to the dealer’s left starts the game.

When it’s your turn, you choose a card from the top of either the draw or discard piles. If you take a card from the draw pile, you can swap that card with any one of yours or put it into the discard pile and pass the turn to the next player. If you take a card from the discard pile, you have to swap it with one of yours. The card you swapped goes into the discard pile, and you pass the turn. It doesn’t matter whether you switch one of your face-up or face-down cards, but your new card is always turned face-up.

The three-by-three grid for a two-player game of "Shenanigans," with the draw and discard piles in between.

The three-by-three grid for a two-player game of “Shenanigans,” with the draw and discard piles in between.

Each of the cards in has a point value of 1 through 10. Kings, queens, and jacks are each worth 10 points, and the aces are worth one point. Jokers not only serve as a “wild card,” but have a negative value of -2 to drop your overall points. There are two cards unique to “Shenanigans”: a “pot of gold” card that’s sort of a “super joker,” worth -5 points as well as a wild card; and a “mischief” card that’s literally “good for nothing” … it’s worth zero points and is not wild.

The “pot of gold”: one of the unique new cards in “Shenanigans.”

Three cards with the same value across, up, or diagonally in your grid is a “three-of-a-kind,” which cancels out the points of those cards (totaling zero). To keep your points low, swap out your higher-point cards for lower-point cards, make as many three-of-a-kinds as you can, or (why not) both.

“Three-of-a-kind,” with the joker helping as a wild card. Together, these cards are worth -2 points (zero for the three-of-a-kind and -2 for the joker).

What can’t you do?

You can’t turn a card face-up without swapping it from the draw or discard piles, you can’t look at any of your face-down cards (sorry, this isn’t Magic: The Gathering, folks), and you can’t choose among the cards in the discard pile; you can only draw the one on top.

When does the game end?

The turns, or “rounds,” end when one of the players has swapped out all of their face-down cards. At that point, each of the other players gets one last chance to swap a card from the draw or discard piles. They then turn up any other face-down cards they have and count the total points on all of their cards. Whoever has the lowest number of points is the winner.

The end of a two-player game. My cards, at the bottom, totaled 5, while my opponent’s totaled 8.

We do enjoy making shenanigans!

Overall, we found “Shenanigans” to be a fast-based and rousing alternative to traditional card games. The setup and rules may sound daunting, but the game is deceptively simple, quick to learn, and a lot of fun to play.

What’s delightfully unexpected in “Shenanigans” is the tension. In the test games we played, there were a few times one of us drew a 10-point card and had to make the hard choice of soaking up the extra points or discarding it and give the next player a three-of-a-kind. Then there was the hope of pulling off a three-of-a-kind by swapping a card from the discard pile, only to find that the face-down card we swapped was the exact same value. These “shenanigans” had us howling with laughter, especially the turns of fate late in the game. The games went fast; a two-player game can easily be finished in five to 10 minutes, and rules say an average game lasts seven rounds.

The box top promised us “skill, luck, and frustration,” and it deftly delivered on all fronts. Give “Shenanigans” a go in your gaming circle … it might just be the “pot of gold” you’ve been questing for!

About brightmatrix

brightmatrix is a long-time casual gamer. His gaming journey has included Magic: the Gathering, the first, second, and fourth edition Dungeons & Dragons, and the first wave White Wolf games from the late 90s. If you are a denizen of the Twitterverse, you can read his posts on Magic, web development, puns, and other shenanigans at @brightmatrix.

Magic: The Gathering – Why I Play Standard vs. Legacy

Temple of Triumph enchanted by Evil Presense

Just over a year ago, I moved a few hundred miles away from my Magic playgroup. I’ve found a superior game store (Super Games in Alpharetta, GA), but it’s a bit of a drive for me, so I don’t get to attend Friday Night Magic or pre-release events more than every couple of months. As a result, nearly all of the games I play these days are with friends over the computer, mostly using Facebook Messenger (which I’ll cover in a future post). These are casual games that don’t stick to a particular format.

My toughest Magic opponent is consistently my fellow author on this blog, Jinx the Bard. Jinx likes to play Legacy. He’s a “kitchen table” player like myself, and doesn’t frequent Friday Night Magic or tournaments. The deck builds he dreams up, even the ones in development, are brutal and ruthlessly effective. I’ve found myself several times across the virtual table from a turn two Avacyn (courtesy of graveyard and reanimator shenanigans), been mana deprived by Sinkholes, have learned much respect and revile for Gigadrowse and Steel of the Godhead, and now dread the opening play, “Swamp, Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual, Phyrexian Obliterator, pass to you.” To state the obvious, the sheer power level of certain Legacy cards are simply unmatched in Modern and Standard.

I, on the other hand, prefer to play Standard and Modern. Despite having first learned to play Magic in 1996 with Revised and Fallen Empires, I have an aesthetic dislike for the pre-Eighth Edition frames and stubbornly refuse to play them.

Some folks think I’m crazy to play Standard vs. Legacy. “Why don’t you both play the same format?” or “Just get him to play Standard” are the typical responses. Well, from Jinx’s standpoint, if he’s got the cards, why should he have to limit himself to a certain subset? Also, it’s my conscious choice to stick to my formats and stay out of Legacy. I enjoy the puzzle mentality of putting together a reliable and efficient Standard deck that can not only hold its own at Friday Night Magic, but can prove a formidable opponent to what Jinx throws my way. It’s become a point of pride to be able to defend myself against those turn one Obliterators using a much smaller (and often, much weaker) pool of options.

Pitting my Standard decks vs. Jinx’s Legacy builds has also helped me tune the deck I’ve been playing at Friday Night Magic since the Return to Ravnica block (red-white Boros aggro). Sure, there are Constructed archetypes to deal with, and someone at the game store is always mimicking what the pros are playing at the tournament level. However, I’ve come to discover that, if my build is strong and versatile enough to handle Legacy, it’s much better suited to stand up to the current threats in Standard. For example, I was so surprised to learn how well a “kitchen sink” Orzhov build I was testing did vs. several types of Legacy builds that I’m strongly considering taking that to my next visit to Super Games.

Going up against Legacy’s more numerous and diverse threats also helps me better understand how newer mechanics, such as Heroic and Devotion, interact with a broader range of combat situations and interactions than what I might find in Limited or Constructed environments. My sharper understanding of the rules also benefits Jinx, who has come to rely upon my knowledge (and poring through the Gatherer database) to settle any questions or disputes.

Sure, these types of matchups are more challenging and can often be frustrating, but they’re quite a lot of fun as well.

Author’s note: Special thanks to Kirsin Koch for his review and editing of this essay.

About brightmatrix

brightmatrix is a long-time casual gamer. His gaming journey has included Magic: the Gathering, the first, second, and fourth edition Dungeons & Dragons, and the first wave White Wolf games from the late 90s. If you are a denizen of the Twitterverse, you can read his posts on Magic, web development, puns, and other shenanigans at @brightmatrix.