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Friday, January 4, 2013

Ugh! I could have sworn you were Purple!! A Review of Under Cover- Spiels Des Jahres 1986.

Happy New Year everyone! From all of us dorks to all of you, here's hoping for a great 2013.

In trying to stick to some form of a schedule, here's another Spiels Des Jahres winner for the first Friday of the month. Coming in from way back in 1986...it's Under Cover! (note- my version of this game is called Under Cover. It can also be found under the name Heimlich & Co or Top Secret Spies. I think Top Secret Spies has some unnecessary features added though). Not counting Rummikub, which is just Rummy with tiles instead of cards (and while a great card game, I do not think it deserves a spot on the coveted game section of the blog), Under Cover is the second oldest game of the year in my collection.

This is one of the easiest to understand games I've ever come across, yet it is quite strategic and offers a surprising amount of depth.

The goal of the game is to score 42 or more points faster than anyone else. Players move around a 12 space oval and accumulate points when a pawn reaches the super secret safe. Sounds simple enough right? Here's where it gets good...

Your colored pawn is kept secret from the other players and you are allowed to move as many pawns as you like equal to the pips on the die roll! Roll a 5? Move 2 guys 2 places and 1 guy 1, or 5 guys 1 space... pretty neat! This game does one thing (deception) and it does it quite well. When a player moves ANY color  onto the space with the super secret space, all colored pawns score points based on where they are. The board has numbered spaces 1-10 and 2 unnumbered spaces, one being 0 and one being -3. I do not know why these aren't printed on the game board. Perhaps they are in other editions. Whoever landed any pawn  on the super secret safe then gets to move the safe to an unoccupied space.

The obvious strategy is to figure out how to move a collection of pawns as long as possible without giving away what color you are. If you tip your hand too early the other players will race your color to the -3 and then try to land another color on the scoring space.

This game plays very quickly and it is fun to simultaneously try to deceive your friends while deducing everyone's colors.

The game plays 2-7, so I was already enticed by it, but the rules suggest that you scale down the number of colored pawns so there are only 1 or 2 extra non player colors (NPC, see what I did there?). I find it way more fun to play with all 7 colors regardless of number of players. The very first game I played an NPC finished first, so it is possible to have no winners!

Photo courtesy of Scott Alden on www.boardgamegeek.com. Next time I'll take my own pictures! (
Normally the color cards would be kept secret)

This game is a true gem, with easy to learn rules, an ever changing strategy based on other players movements, and very high replay ability. Go give it a chance!

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