Steal the Cookie: Preview

Everyone knows elves love baking cookies even if OSHA might object to their unsafe working conditions–who puts hot ovens inside trees?  But did you know that gnomes are willing to work really hard to steal them? Fairway found out the hard way that gnomes will stop at nothing to prevent other gnomes from making off with their precious cookie when he reviewed Steal the Cookie by Bradley Gaurano. Steal the Cookie is coming to Kickstarter, soon.

Steal the Cookie is a three- to six-player card game. In it, players are tasked with being the player with the Almighty Cookie at the time the Sacred Cookie Jar is created.

Initial Impressions ^

  1. Adorable gnomes doing silly and, sometimes, malicious things is somewhat amusing.
  2. The game plays pretty quickly, but it’s not as quick as it should be at times.
  3. The game play is in line with Uno or Exploding Kittens. There’s plenty of take that action in this game.
  4. The art and graphic design leave a lot to be desired.

Game play ^

In Steal the Cookie, players are dealt a hand of five cards.  Following the set up rules, one of the five cards in someone’s hand will contain the Almighty Cookie Card. Players will try hard to keep possession of the Almighty Cookie a secret.

The Steal the Cookie deck also contains four segments of the Sacred Cookie Jar as well as three primary types of cards: action cards, interrupt cards and stop cards.  All these cards are shuffled together to form a draw pile.  Players then roll a die to see who goes first.

Steal the Cookie is played over a series of turns. On your turn, first, you will draw a card.  If you draw a Stop card or a Cookie Jar card, you immediately reveal it.  The Cookie Jar card is played face up in the middle of the table and then your turn will continue.  If you drew a Stop Card, it’s effects are immediately resolved and your turn is over.

If you didn’t draw a Stop card, then you add the card to your hand and can play up to one Action card from your hand. When you play a card, they’re played face up onto the discard pile. The effects of the card are resolved immediately and then play passes clockwise.

The deck also contains “interrupt” cards.  These cards can be played during your turn or other players’ turns and can counter the effects of action cards, stop cards or other interrupt cards.  The game permits players to play a series of interrupt cards against each other that are resolved in reverse play order.

The game continues until all of the cookie jar cards are revealed. The player with the Almighty Cookie at that time wins.

On the green ^

The theme.  There’s definitely something amusing about the idea of bickering gnomes fighting over a cookie and the idea that gnomes are attacked by things like snakes and unicorns and bears. It’s yet another game where I found my son just reading the flavor text and looking at the illustrations.

Play time.  The game is necessarily limited to one pass through the deck.  By the time you get through the cards, the four cookie jar cards will be revealed. Unlike some games in this genre, like Uno, the game will end.

Where it comes up short ^

Even though the theme had potential, it left quite a bit to be desired.

The Cookie.  Let’s start with one of the main mechanics in the game: the Almighty Cookie. The Almighty Cookie is like the inverse of the Maid in Old Maid.  But the idea that players are going to keep this card hidden at all doesn’t really play out in reality.  Even with large numbers of players, it takes all of a couple rounds to know who has it.

Nevertheless, even if you know where it is, it hardly matters.  Whether you’re able to actually take it or hold onto it is almost entirely arbitrary. Indeed some of the Stop cards all but guarantee that you can’t hold onto your hand.

Graphic design and art.  The cards in this game leave a lot to be desired. They’re pretty boring: mostly white cards with small, centered art, and text boxes. It feels boring. And it doesn’t further the playful gnome theme at all.

What’s more, considering what the cards do, there is a lot of text presented at the bottom of the card. I’m not sure this was the best layout options since cards are unreadable when fanned out. Players end up just cycling through cards and reading them.

The fonts aren’t terrible, but they’re certainly not adding to the readability.  Which brings me to the next point.

Iconography or something else.  These cards have so much text it takes it out of the realm of playable with younger kids. That alone is unfortunate.  But, even for readers, there’s so much text that it takes longer than it really should to play. That means, you spend your in-between turns disengaged with the game and more engaged with what cards you have.  Players who are the recipient of the bad acts also stop to read the cards’ rules or the player ends up reading the entire thing out loud.

Action-less turns.  There’s no guarantee you’re going to have an action card you want to play. While you can certainly pass, we found more that more often than not, players passed because they couldn’t do anything.  Hands of Interrupt cards weren’t fun.

Take That.  Games can implement this mechanic well or go overboard to the point of missing the fun.  Steal the Cookie swings wildly toward the overboard.  In fact, in the how-to-play video from the designer he even says that one of the players will be “unhappy.” The problem here is that almost every opportunity creates unmitigated unhappiness of one player or another.

For a light game about stealing an Almighty Cookie, one would think that joy and a little mischief should be the order of the day.

In the hole ^

Steal the Cookie is a light-weight, take-that card game. Players who enjoy games like Exploding Kittens and looking for a change in theme might find the antics of mischievous gnomes entertaining. It is not without its shortcomings, though.  I did receive a pre-production copy of the game, so there’s a chance some of the art, graphic design and game play will be fixed before final production.

Steal the Cookie is in the hole for One over par. ^

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