Posted by: gschloesser | August 9, 2011

MOW

Design by:  Bruno Cathala
Published by:  Hurrican
2 – 10 Players, 30 minutes
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser  

I am always on the lookout for fast, fun games that can be played with family and friends, but can also be enjoyed by gamers as a light filler.  While I already have numerous such games in my collection, it is always good to add more to keep things fresh.  As such, I’m happy to add MOW from designer Bruno Cathala to this collection.  MOW was originally released in 2008, with an expansion pack being offered to allow for an increase in the number of players.  This year, Hurrican released a set combining both decks, thereby allowing for play with up to ten players.  

MOW features two decks of cards featuring whimsical drawings of cows, many of whom are being pestered by annoying flies.  Basic cards range in value from one-to-fourteen, with a heavier concentration on the mid-range cards.  An assortment of special cows increases this range from zero-to-sixteen.  Only the green deck is used when playing with less than six players, while both decks are combined when more players are participating.

Like many good family games, game play is quite simple.  Players are each dealt five cards, and alternate playing a card and drawing a new one from the deck.  Played cards are formed into a line – a herd – in numerical order.  In order to play a card, it must have a numerical value less than or greater than the cows located at either end of the line.  If a player cannot, or chooses not to play a card, he must take all of the cards in the herd and place them aside.  Players will score points equal to the number of flies on the cards they have collected.  In this game, scoring points is NOT a good thing! 

Spicing the proceedings are the special cards, which allow the players to bend the rules a bit. Abilities include being able to place the card to the left or right of the line, on top of another card, between previously played cards, etc.  When playing a special card, the player can change the direction of play (if the special card was green) or choose the next player to play (if the special card was purple).  This can be a dastardly maneuver that can be useful to stick the player who has collected the fewest cows.  These special cards are easily identified by their colored background, although the sparse iconology that is supposed to indicate their special ability is a bit too cryptic.  Repeated play makes this easier, but folks new to the game will likely continually ask questions as to the nature of these cards.  

Play continues until the deck expires and the final herd is taken.  Card remaining in a player’s hand are added to those he had collected, and players then tally the number of flies on these cards.  If one or more players have exceeded one-hundred points – not likely in just one hand – the game concludes, and the player with the fewest fly points wins.  Otherwise, another hand is played.  Of course, players are free to play just one or a set number of hands, as they see fit. 

This is admittedly a simple game, somewhat along the lines of Take 6, Great Dalmuti and even UNO.  The strategies and tactics, while present, are fairly basic.  One tactic is to limit the choices of your opponents by playing a card that greatly increases the range of cards in the herd.  For example, if a “7” is already in the heard, playing a “2” eliminates all cards numbered 2 – 7 from being played.  The danger of this tactic is that if play returns to you, then your options will likely be severely limited.  Another tactic is to attempt to play the cards depicting lots of flies so that you can get them out of your hand.  Further, it is sometimes beneficial to grab a herd even if you could legally play, as this might free-up more options for you on the next hand.  While there is a bit of thinking and tactics involved, for the most part the game is simply light fun.  This makes it easily accessible for just about any age, and allows for light banter and conversation between the players without unduly hindering the flow of the game.  

MOW will not win any awards for deep strategy gaming or even educational value.  That’s fine.  Not every game needs to be a mind bender, deeply challenging or dripping with theme.  Where MOW will shine, however, is at gatherings with family and friends when good conversation and chatter can be enjoyed while playing a light and entertaining game.  It sure beats watching endless reruns of holiday specials or listening to your aging relatives talk about their health ailments.  Those are two Christmas traditions I’m happy to terminate!

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Responses

  1. It’s tought to beat Mow for cuteness in the family filler department. Some will argue that the game is random, and that’s mostly true. But for multigeneral gaming groups that include young children, this will play with all ages. Count the flies, not the cows! (6/10)


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