Posted by: gschloesser | August 11, 2011

Swat!

Design by:  Reiner Knizia
Published by:  Gryphon Games
2 – 7 Players, 20 – 30 minutes
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser  

Reiner Knizia appears to be the undisputed master of getting his games published and republished … again and again and again.  Well over a dozen of his previously published games have been re-published, often with new names, themes and artwork.  While these cosmetic changes likely mean more dollars and Euros in the pockets of publishers and distributors – and Herr Knizia – they often cause confusion amongst the buying public.  I can’t help but wonder how many unsuspecting folks have actually purchased a game, only to discover that they already owned an earlier version that was published under a different name. 

In spite of this potential confusion, it is good to see good games brought back to life.  The latest of Reiner’s reincarnations is Swat! from Gryphon Games, which was previously released by Winning Moves as It’s Mine!  I’ve enjoyed this family-friendly game for many years, and am happy to see it once again available.

Packaged in a colorful and compact tin, the game features a deck of cards depicting a variety of pests and bugs.  Cards depict either positive or negative values, and some cards require the collection of two identical cards in order for their points to be scored or subtracted.  In addition, there are numerous special cards in the deck, including wild cards which must be matched with  cards requiring a match, bug zappers which earn increasing amounts of points based on how many a player collects, and “swat or not” cards, which reward the player who has collected the most, while penalizing the player who has collected the least.   

The idea of the game is to grab cards which result in a positive score at the conclusion of the hand.  One-at-a-time, the dealer reveals cards from the deck.  When a player decides he would like the collection of cards revealed, he slaps his hand to the table.  The first player to slap – or swat – the table gets the cards.  If more than one player slaps the table, it is up to the dealer to decide which player slapped first.  It is not uncommon for several players to slap the table at once, making it difficult to determine who was first.  We decide this with a quick match of “rock-paper-scissors” between the contesting players. 

When a player collects a batch of cards, he places them face-down in a stack.  The player is charged with the task of attempting to remember which cards he has collected so that he can maximize his total in future hands (similar to the idea used in Schnaeppchen Jagd). A player can collect at most three stacks of cards per round, so one must be careful on when to slap the table and take a collection of cards.

The player who slapped first and collected a set becomes the dealer and repeats this process.  Once everyone has collected three hands (or the deck of cards expires), points are tallied from all three stacks and recorded.  Three rounds are played, and the player with the highest cumulative scores wins the game.  Of course, players can play more or fewer rounds based on their preference or time constraints. The original It’s Mine required a player to win two rounds to capture the game. 

Swat! is a game of deciding when to pull the trigger and take a collection of cards.  There is the persistent temptation to hold off slapping the table until just one more card is turned.  Slap too early and you may miss out on a valuable card or two.  Slap too late and an opponent may beat you to a nice collection.  Of course, waiting can also backfire if a few negative-valued cards are revealed.  As each card is revealed, the tension mounts and the butterflies in one’s stomach increases.  This tension is what really makes the game click. 

Swat! can be played in twenty-to-thirty minutes and is ideally suited for family play.  All but the youngest of children can play competently, but there is enough fun and decisions present to keep adults entertained and engaged.  I’ve had great success playing the game with my gaming group and family and friends, and it has been universally enjoyed by all.  The new packaging and theme is nice, making it even more appealing.  Kudos to Gryphon Games for re-publishing this entertaining game.

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