Alarms are sounding, the emergency lights are flashing red and the control panel is lighting up like a Christmas tree with warnings of electrical faults, spot fires and low hull integrity. You and your fellow crew members know this is it – your home, your safe place in this vast blackness of space has finally given up. The starship is going down! But as if that wasn’t bad enough, the computer also confirms that all but one of the escape pods has been damaged or has been ejected. Who will find the last remaining escape pod?
In Pod-X you try to deduce the secret win condition, while also trying to meet it. The player who most recently saw a sci-fi movie is the dealer (Please note: watching Sharknado 3 on the Syfy channel is not classified as a sci-fi movie or so my group decided, no matter how much I argued). The dealer shuffles the deck, deals four cards to each player (if there are three players remove the two ‘Pod 0’ and two ‘Pod 8’ cards from the deck before dealing). The last remaining card is put face down in the middle which only the dealer may look at. This card is the round secret win condition.
Take turns clockwise, starting with the dealer. On your turn you do one of the following:
Play: Place a card from your hand face up in front of you (cards played to the table are considered to be “public.” Cards in your hand are considered to be “private.” In the first turn, you MUST play).
Pass: Skip your turn. You’re still in the round.
Fold: Eliminate yourself from the round. You will no longer take any more turns this round.
The round ends if all players consecutively pass and/or fold, all but one player folds, or the sum of numbers in play is 20 or higher (with three players), 27 or higher (with 4 players). The dealer reveals the secret card. All players reveal their hand and determine who scores points this round based off of the win condition shown in the bottom portion of the secret card. You score points based upon the number of Star Icons on the winning card. If the win condition is based off a sum of multiple cards you receive the lowest Star Icon value of the winning cards.
Once the round is complete, you continue playing rounds until someone scores 10 victory points. The dealer changes every round, with the person on the left of the previous dealer becoming the new dealer.
I decided to play this with a few former Tafe buddies who love their poker, which was a bad idea. They loved the game and were highly competitive. I’m glad this was just a game! The mind games, the bluffing, and the focus was amazing – if not a little scary. As in poker, you are attempting to work out what the dealer is doing. Are they bluffing? Are they playing it straight? Or are they playing it straight because they know you’ll think they are bluffing?
The game doesn’t have to be played to the level of psychological warfare with which our group played. The game is extremely fun, exciting and it has a great theme. Let’s be real – who doesn’t love the idea of space travel? The beauty of this game is its ability to make you feel like you are part of a starship going down, as you are trying to better the dealer and your fellow crew members to win and find the last remaining pod.
There are some simple and exciting little touches to this game that make me smile, and I love this game a little more every time I play. If you fold and don’t have the win condition you receive a victory point. This means if you are the fourth player to be the dealer, you can fold the first three rounds and let others battle it out while you fly under the radar and then pull a win and score. Another trick is if two players win a round or reach ten points on the same turn, they both get the points or win the game.
Also it wouldn’t be one of my articles if I didn’t comment on the artwork. The images of the purple and pink aliens on the cover are stunning. The female alien has feminine, feline characteristics and yet giving her a ray gun gives a feeling of strength. The contrast of it is simple yet beautiful.
The use of the orange, blue and grey to signify which side of the ship the pod appears is a clever touch. I just wish some of the box art styling travelled over to the pictures on the cards. They have left the card pictures very simply drawn with only the ships alignment colour appearing upon the card. I received a print and play of this game and they may be upgrading the cards for the full version, yet I wished the amazing cover artwork was used throughout the game and not just on the box.
I will definitely be Kickstarting this game as it was amazingly fun and educational. I never realised how much my friends can’t be trusted and how sketchy some of them can truly be. If you like psychological games such as Werewolf and Resistances and the bluffing and card playing element of the Sheriff of Nottingham, this is the game for you.
The Kickstarter is due to go live on the 5th of July 2016. Click here for a link to the Button Shy website and direct link to the Kickstarter once it is live.