First off, I would just like to say that I am not at all into board games in any respect. I enjoy the odd game of Monopoly but for the most part, I just stick to digital checkers or what not if I’m in the mood for a board game experience. So coming into this, I had l low expectations.
As the title of this post implies, I played a board game called Chez Dork with 5 other members in my group. Not counting the 20 minutes it took for us to figure out how to play, it took about 45 min for us to finish one round. Although the only reason it took so long was because we were all beginners and were still learning as we went. My guess is that with a group of experienced players, one round could be finished in 15 minutes or less.
For the most part I did not particularly enjoy the design of the game. I thought it was uninspired and lacked any tension whatsoever. There were however some things that I liked about it as well. I’ll start by listing them:
1. Interesting Mechanic – So basically the object of the game was to collect points by buying cards. The first person to get 25 points wins. Basic stuff. The spin on it was that each player has what are called “obsessions.” What these did was allow the player to earn double the points if the particular card they were buying was listed under their obsession. So for example, if your obsession was Computer Games, then buying a card listed under the Computer Games obsession category earned you double points.
2. Trading, Auctioning, and Discarding cards – When your turn came around, you always had the options of either trading your cards with another player, auctioning them off to other players in order earn extra money, or just discarding them to the junk pile to try your luck and pick up a new card from the deck. This added an interesting twist and worked well with the obsessions mechanic because it enabled you to strategize with other players and negotiate to try and get the right obsession cards and earn maximum points for your turn.
3. Strategy – As mentioned above, there is strategy involved, which in my opinion is highly important for any board game. Without strategy, there’s just luck, and what fun is that? Besides the trading and auctioning as already mentioned, there’s the concept of buying and selling cards that you already have in your hand. When it’s your turn, your main objective is to earn the most amount of points as you can, so you need to figure out which cards to sell and which to buy. Some are more expensive and give more points, and some are cheap and give less points. There are also cards that give you bonuses during your turn. For example, you may have a card that allows for one free purchase. So you always have to ask yourself, “What should I do next?”
4. Humorous – There were some funny cards that you would pick up and read. It was apparent that the creators deliberately tried to make the game funny and in my opinion succeeded in doing so.
5. Character Card, the Deck, and that’s it – The only thing you really need to play this game is the deck of cards that comes with it. There are also character cards to indicate who is playing as what character, but other wise they serve no purpose. It’s nice to know that if you ever wanted to play, you don’t need to take and extra 5 min to set up a board and hand out all kinds of pieces to each player. Although the game could have benefited from some kind of money tracker, but more on that later.
Those were the main aspects of the game that I liked, and now for what I did not like:
1. Just another board/card game – There was really nothing unique about the game. You could argue that the obsession mechanic is somewhat unique, but really what it boils down to is just another method of earning double points. You pick up cards, you buy them to earn points. That’s basically the whole point of the game. I would have liked to see the creators do more with the obsessions, because I think there could have been potential there.
2. Lack of tension – It could be because it was mine and my groups first time playing, but I felt no tension while playing this game. I hardly cared about what others were doing, and when it came to my turn, I just did what I had to do and moved on. I never thought about what others might do and how to stop them, because the game doesn’t really allow for that kind of play. Sometimes you would pick up a random card that you could use against other players, but aside from that, there was nothing in place to stir up competition.
3. No way to track money – Okay, they didn’t necessarily need to have Monopoly style money, but at least something to keep track of how much money each player currently has. We were forced to write down or remember in our heads how much money we have. But of course this means that players can cheat fairly easily. There needs to be some sort of money tracker that all players can look at and monitor.
4. Too many obsessions, not enough cards – Yes, there were so many different obsessions. I’m pretty sure that in the 45 minutes it took for us to play, I still didn’t get to see them all. This also meant that there weren’t enough cards in the deck to support them. It was surprisingly difficult to find cards that used your obsession. I think in the end I had bought only one card that used my obsession, and I was always looking for more. If there was a case where two or more players had the same obsession, I would imagine it being extremely difficult to find any cards with your obsession.
5. Unappealing name – I feel like I have to comment on this game’s stupid name. It sounds ridiculous. I know they say don’t judge a book(or in this case a board game) by its cover, but give me a break, who doesn’t do that?
The main design element in the game that I would have designed differently would be the way the obsessions work. They needed to be more than just a point multiplier. I think it would have been interesting if they gave you other advantages and disadvantages as well. Things like more money but less points, more points but less money, or passive bonuses like having to pay a little less for cards but only being able to pick up 4 every turn instead of 5. Something that increases the strategy involved even more and gets you to think about your decisions. I think the game could also have benefited from having stacking effects for obsessions. So certain obsessions could have added bonuses if combined with others.
As mentioned previously, my overall impression of the game was fairly lackluster. I didn’t enjoy it very much and it mostly had to do with it’s boring nature. There wasn’t enough substance to keep me interested all the way through, and as a result I found myself getting bored only halfway through the round. I think for the most part my group enjoyed themselves, which is nice for them, but as for me, I don’t I’ll be playing any Chez Dork ever again.