One of the reasons I love board games is how diverse they are. Already on this blog we’ve reviewed a board game which has you picking up sticks in Go Cuckoo, a tight-knit two player game where you’re wheeling and dealing with geishas in Hanamikoji, and a story driven game about being trapped on a desert island in Robinson Crusoe. Today we review another game that pushes the boundaries of tabletop games by removing the tabletop. I was provided a free copy of the newly Kickstarted floortop board game called Vampires vs. Unicorns: Floor War.
Vampires vs. Unicorns is a two-player card throwing dexterity game, designed by Jim DuBois, and published by Yumfactory. Players take turns doing their best 1990’s Joker impersonation by throwing playing cards at each other’s base. As soon as one player destroys their opponent’s castle, they win the game, and are ready to take on 1990’s Batman.
How to Play
Each player gets seven floor tiles: four level one tiles, two level two tiles, and a castle tile. These tiles are placed on the ground in a pyramid configuration, with each level being a stronger type of tile. The two bases of these pyramids should be about a meter apart, and when you’re fully setup, it should look like a dumbbell. Then each player gets a deck of 48 playing cards representing their team; either vampires or unicorns.
The object of the game is to show off your dexterity, and you do this by destroying the opponent’s castle tile, while standing behind your own. Alternatively, the first player to run out of cards loses.
On a player’s turn they draw the top card of their deck and read out any special abilities, these mostly boil down to throwing more cards. Then with the subtle motions of a professional magician, they throw their card or cards at the opponent’s base. If a card lands partly on any tile, then that tile is damaged, and is either flipped over or removed depending on the tile’s level.
The exception here is the castle, which is damaged by either landing a card entirely on it or removing every other tile from a player. A weakened castle tile is damaged like any other. The first player to destroy the opponent’s castle, or the last player to run out of cards is the winner.
They advertised this board game by saying that you can play it, and then frame it. Which is mighty arrogant of them. To their credit though, I think they pulled it off. You’re in for a treat if you enjoy surreal art, as the vampires look like they belong in a Shaun Tan book, while the unicorns look like something from the mind of Pendleton Ward. They’ve plied the same weirdness and attitude to the cards, box, rulebook, and even card boxes! It is a level of detail rarely seen in games and works well, as it’s both fun and funny.
In terms of gameplay, it’s quick, easy to learn, and has a rising sense of tension throughout the game. Seeing your tiles being knocked off one by one, is reminiscent of Space Invaders – only this time you’re both the laser cannon and the aliens. The use of the deck as ammunition does a good job of putting a time limit on the game, so it never overstays its welcome.
Another interesting mechanism in the game, is that the more you play, the harder it becomes. As you throw and most likely step on the cards, you’ll misshapen them, increasing the difficulty of guessing each card’s trajectory.
We’ll talk about the simplicity of the game in The Bad, but there is one benefit to it. It allows players the freedom to do what they want. In a more complicated game you’d be worried about balance, and other complexities. However, there are no such concerns with Vampires vs Unicorns. Play how you want to play, if you want to play it with the standard ruleset do that, if you want to play in the way Dude Perfect would, that’s also an option.
It’s hard to say much more about this game, mainly because there’s not much to it, but also in the time I’ve had to review it, I couldn’t play it in an environment where it would thrive. This board game has all the makings of a game that would crush at conventions or parties: it’s simple, it’s a test of skill, and as mentioned, it looks damn good. Given that, it’s hard not imagining people cheering on the combatants, or having players drink every time a tile is damaged or having the family around and watching the kids have a go.
This game feels a lot like the carnival game Ring Toss, only with less risk and reward. If that sounds dull, it’s because it is. The special cards aren’t special enough to excite, and there isn’t any strategy or intelligence to be used here, you’re just throwing cards onto targets. This game would be great with an audience, but if it’s just my wife and I playing, without the enthusiasm or peer pressure from a crowd, then there’s nothing here. Which is a shame, because there’s so much untapped potential in this game format.
Adding to this dullness, is that there are just too many cards in the deck. I’m no Gambit but in the games we played, we were never close to thinning either deck. This seems like another wasted opportunity, as cutting out a forth of these decks would add a sense of tension and importance to every throw the players make.
All of this leaves the game in a weird niche – it’s a two-player party game. I may be the odd one here, but I collect games to fit specific scenarios and player counts. When people come over I’ll have the perfect game which everyone can join in. What I wouldn’t do is bring out a game for two people and have everyone else watch. However, not everyone is as addicted to this hobby as I am, or has the expendable income, so despite being weird to me, I can see there being a need for this niche.
Finally, this game made me realise how old I’m getting. There is a lot of bending over, and by the end of a round I had pangs in my back. Another consideration before purchase, is that this board game takes a lot of floor space and might not be suitable if you have a pee-happy dog or cat.
I’m not recommending it, there just isn’t enough of a game here for your regular board game evening. However, if you’re planning a get together like those seen in every bad video game console ad, then this is the game for you. Just don’t restrict yourself to the rules, play non-dominant hands only, mix up the positions of the tiles, and if you want to get real crazy then add alcohol. Alternatively, this game will work great with kids, or at large family gatherings. I think that if they get their marketing down pat then, despite my assessment, this game could be a great success for Yumfactory.
Before I leave you this week, I want to give two shout outs. First for Yumfactory for giving me the opportunity to review their game. Secondly, Chester – the handsome boy in the photos above – is having his birthday today. We’re just about to get him a cheeseburger and some ice cream, but if you wanted to wish him well, I’ll be sure to pass on your comments.