A while back I screwed up in a Math Trade on BoardGameGeek. Don’t worry about what a Math Trade is, if you don’t know; the important thing is: I screwed up. I put an incorrect number on my “want” list and instead of the game I actually wanted, I got You Can’t Check Me: The Basketball Card Game. This was a game that was floating around a lot at the time because it had been selling for dirt cheap on Tanga, as well as been included in Tanga “mystery packages” that geeks were dumb enough to buy. It had the reputation of being terrible. So I was thrilled to get it!
We have been meaning for some time to play and review this thing, and last night I finally brought it over to Matt’s house and we played it.
I have to admit, I didn’t have very high hopes for this game. I assumed it was going to be amateurish, with vague rules, poor art, and mediocre play. I have to admit, though, that it did not meet my expectations. It fell disastrously short of them.
Here’s how you play. There is a stack of “Offense” cards and a stack of “Defense” cards. The Offense cards are moves to take shots: Lay-Up, Through the Middle, Spin Move, etc. The Defense cards are a mixture of cards that say “Score!” and cards that thwart the offense’s move (“Steal”, “Traveling”, etc.) So far, no problem, this is very much like basketball. How are these cards played? At random.
See, each player gets a stack of both types of cards (they’re shuffled and divided in half) and whoever is on Offense draws the top card from his Offense stack and plays it. If it is a play requiring a Defensive response, the other player draws the top card off his Defense stack and responds with it. That’s it. The players aren’t choosing which cards to play, they’re simply playing the next card that comes up. So yes, it’s themed “War”, only it doesn’t require you to be able to count.
We went over the rules several times to verify that no, there was absolutely no strategy, choices, or thought involved whatsoever. And nope, there aren’t. I even thought maybe we could house rule it so you had a hand to play from, but that wouldn’t change much of anything, since the defense cards simply grant points or don’t. It would possibly make the game more dull.
This is from the rules. Matt and I were careful not to jerk our jesters while playing.
This is not to say that there are no decisions to be made in the game. Each player has a “Time Out” card that will allow him to switch one or both of his decks with his opponent’s. This is described in the rules under “Strategy”. However, since both decks are pretty much identical (they come from the same random pool) there isn’t much point to this. In fact, there isn’t really a need for each side to have its own deck. Just put them in the middle and both play off the same ones. In fact, there really isn’t a need for an opposing player at all, since you can just draw the defensive card yourself.
Yes, the site is there, but there isn’t much to spend $50 on.
The other decision you can make is, each side has two “Quarter” cards. You can play one to end the quarter early if you are winning. So there’s that.
The remaining choices are: what to name your team (I was the Giant Squids, Matt was the Sushi Chefs) and calling heads or tails on the initial coin flip (the coin that comes with the game has neither heads nor tails on it.)
Now, I won’t say that Matt and I didn’t yell and laugh during this. The game describes itself as “The only game that comes with an attitude” and invites you to trash talk during it, which we did. But it wasn’t really a “laughing with the game” sort of thing. It was very exciting when Matt finally scored a three-pointer:
It doesn’t get more exciting than this! Really. It literally doesn’t.
However, Matt’s wife was sitting at the table looking through a seed catalog and commented that the game was boring even to someone just listening to it. Matt and I got through a single quarter of the game and then felt as though we’d seen enough. (The Sushi Chefs won, by the way.)
The sad truth is, I think a trash-talking, attitude-filled basketball card game could be a lot of fun, and I don’t really care about basketball. But Lord, this isn’t it. There’s nothing for the kids to do except turn over the cards. How fun is that?