In this modern tabletop gaming renaissance, I believe that simple card games get a bad rap. All too often, I see lower ratings usually based on claims of no strategy, too much randomness, and a lack of replayability.
I must disagree because I find these games perfect for many situations: introducing new gamers, playing with a party, road trip games, etc. Not every game is about dozens of pieces, textbooks for rules, or long-term maneuvering.
I think that’s where Looney Labs does their best work – producing fun games that are perfect for families, gamers of all skill levels, and people who just want to get together and have fun.
I enjoyed their Chrononauts series for its educational (and silly) style, but in particular, I love Fluxx. I’ve found no better card game to play around a picnic table, at a party, or a family reunion.
When I heard LL was coming out with a new game and that I could playtest it at Awesome Con, I jumped at the chance. This past weekend I was introduced to the latest in easy, fun, and fast games: Get the MacGuffin.
Get the MacGuffin is probably quicker and smoother than any of LL’s other games. The whole concept of the game is to hold onto your cards while hopefully making others lose theirs – the last person with cards wins.
What makes MacGuffin different from others is the complete lack of a draw phase. Each game is primarily limited to the cards dealt in the beginning – from that point on it’s up to each player to see how long they can keep their cards while being forced to use them.
Each turn, a player must perform one of four actions: use an Action card, play an Object in front of you, use an Object that’s in front of you, or discard an Object. If at any point you have no cards to play and no Objects in front of you – you’re eliminated.
So where’s the strategy? It’s in the cards you’re dealt, which can do everything from nothing (biding your time) to shuffling up everybody’s hands (and re-dealing) to using Object abilities to stay in the game.
Cards like the Crown or MacGuffin allow you to avoid your final fate, remaining in play for another round. Unfortunately, there are also Action cards that can steal or destroy these objects, and everyone will do what they can to be the last person with cards.
One downside is that what you’re dealt in the beginning can hinder you; if your hand has no Actions or Objects that let you steal from others or remain in the game, you’re mainly using up cards until you’re done. Luckily, the other players don’t know what you have – even if it seems your game is over from the start, a Wheel of Fortune or Vortex might land you something completely different.
Although the theme is independent of the gameplay, something is amusing about the “spy” motif and artwork. Get the MacGuffin is based on the eponymous trope, and the cards used imitate a mad dash to assassinate, steal, or buy the essential object that will win you the game.
The psychedelic neon of the artwork is less harsh than games like Dinosaur Island, although I’m not sure why designers have recently been in an 80’s type of mood. I do appreciate the larger card design, which makes the text more legible and helps the game stand apart from its LL cousins.
Gameplay is ridiculously fast, and we never saw a game last more than 5-10 minutes. Unlike Fluxx, which can end up with convoluted rules and can reshuffle, MacGuffin maintains a consistent play time and style.
Given its fast play style, Get the MacGuffin also works well with a variety of group sizes, from two players on up to party-sized (11 players). Although I was unable to test it at its maximum, I did find the game enjoyable (and still quick) even in larger groups.
Like many of Looney Lab’s products, I’m sure there will be detractors – after all, you are playing the same game and premise repeatedly. You do the same with everything from Uno to Go Fish, however, and I think Get the MacGuffin has much more enjoyability than those classics.
If you’re like me and enjoy the simple, fun, and fast games that are perfect for hanging out, groups, or families, then MacGuffin is right up your alley. Just watch out for Spies or Interrogators and try to act casual as you wave or throw up a peace sign.
Get the MacGuffin hits shelves on Thursday, April 5th. 2-11 players, 5-10 minutes, Ages 8+.
I give Get the MacGuffin a sneaky 4 backups out of 5.