DAILY COMBO: The Pursuit of Happiness + The Bride Game

A glutton for punishment, I allow BGG to randomly pick two games for me to combine and I am duly punished. What nasty ideas are out there in game designers’ heads? Read on to see…

Today’s two randomly generated games: The Pursuit of Happiness + The Bride Game

The Pursuit of Happiness (2015): Imagine Sid Meier redesigned The Game of Life but added in horrible stereotypes of what “ought” to bring you happiness.
The Bride Game (1971): Imagine Don Draper redesigned Pretty Pretty Princess and added in horrible stereotypes of “what women want.”

Initial thoughts: Hey, I don’t write the rules, I just occasionally let BoardGameGeek pick two random games to combine. And then I write the rules for it, so I guess I lied. Can you believe this combo? Can you imagine Selchow & Righter releasing “The Bride Game” today? I don’t even know where to start on how wrong it is by today’s standards. Rest assured, today’s combo will be making fun of how horrible this Bride game concept is, even for 1971! Okay, here we go…
The form of Pursuit is basically worker placement with points being accumulated during the course of each player’s “life.” The spirit of the game is collecting Happiness. Period. By contrast, the form of Bride Game is collecting items for a “successful” wedding day. The spirit of the game consists of the following (horrible) ideas: Being the first to get married in your group of girlfriends; finding a white, middle class man who will marry you; and using luck and luck alone to do this. Oddly, both games involve accumulating items, money and fame in order to be “happy.” Hmmm. Maybe these were meant to be combined…

Game Combo: Do I need to combine these? Okay, concept number one would be using the form of Happiness (worker placement, collection of money, things and life partners) and the spirit of Bride (being your best white, cis-female). I could easily see this as simply playing Pursuit of Happiness with an agreement that all of you are role playing simplistic, cliched 1971 stereotypes of women as seen in the eyes of the worst parts of the 1950s. Why 50s and not 70s or at least 60s? Because the designers of this game were no doubt raised in the 1950s and are not even representing the best of what the 60s had to offer let alone the 70s. Concept two would be the form of Bride (collecting dumb items) with the spirit of Happiness (collecting happiness!). I can already see where this is heading…
Let’s play The Pursuit of Happiness as straight white 1950s-inspired women who find themselves being marketed to in 1971. The board for Pursuit is simple enough for us to map Bride onto it. All Projects should be twisted by the players into the Bride version of it. All Activities can be re-cast into terrible 1970s analogs. Jobs should be the most degrading, low paying, sexist versions possible. And Partners are exactly what they look like on the Bride Game standees. In fact, just place those skinny white dudes onto the Partner spaces on the board right now.

The other elements of the game, short term happiness, studying, interacting and playing, should all be overplayed to the hilt. Imagine the cast of The Brady Bunch being their worst selves. Heck, just imagine the Brady girls marrying the Brady Boys on some Appalachian compound with Alice officiating. The rest of the items from Bride can be incorporated as needed, including the cake, bouquet and the ring.
Needless to say, the “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” items in Bride can and should be added as items that need to be purchased in the Happiness system. Finally, the victory condition of having the Most Happiness is not necessarily the end of the game.
Instead, the player with the most Happiness points gets to be the bride and have a wedding, but the other players all get to be at the ceremony. This is where the others get to take one last stab at making the wedding a failure. Take the action/project cards from Happiness and deal them out to the wedding attendees. Use the final mechanics of the “Wedding March” from the Bride game and allow the others to play those actions, taking turns, each time the bride takes another step down the center aisle to the altar. The bride can then use anything in her possession to fight back. If she spends all the cards, she loses. If she has any left, she gets to go off and have a horrible life with Mr. Paper Standee.

Final thoughts: It may seem like The Bride Game got the short end of the stick here. Rest assured that The Pursuit of Happiness is an abysmal game too. It’s basic tenet is that the more short term happiness you give yourself, the easier it is to buy long term happiness. IT’s one of the basic mechanics of the game. IT’s sort of like saying “You’re in the dumps? Well, pull yourself out of them! Smile a little more!” Not to mention the unforgivable concept that “well” people are entitled to an easier time of getting even more goods and services while everyone else gets marginalized.
Okay, I need a shower. Hopefully the next random combo is Battleship + a kiddie pool.

DAILY COMBO: Wingspan + Robo Rally

Today I throw caution to the wind and combine two of the most popular games ever published. Call it RoboRobin…. Call it Eggs ‘n’ Lasers. I call it never turning down a combo challenge. Here we go again…

Today’s two randomly selected (popular) games:
Wingspan (2019):
Bird enthusiast card game of nests, food and feathered chain reactions.
Robo Rally (1994): Map-based, programmed movement game of robot conflict set in a deadly factory.

Initial thoughts: Why did I ever agree to trust the Excel Randomizer Function. It clearly has it in for me with this combo. You couldn’t have picked a more preposterous combo if you did it on purpose. Well, today we are combining two random “popular” games, and Wingspan and Robo Rally definitely fit. On the one hand we have Wingspan, whose form is basically card placement and hand management of birds, eggs and food. The spirit of the game is more or less feeding and populating birds and nests in order to fill the forrest. Contrast that with Robo Rally, whose form is card-based pre-set movement on a rectilinear board. IT’s spirit is of course destruction and the inevitable random chaos of pre-set movement with multiple players and unseen snowball effects of many players all in a small space.

Game Combo: Egads, let’s do this. First combo to consider is the form of Wingspan (cards, tokens, powers) with the spirit of Robo (destruction, randomness). The players could be either birders or robot-makers, I guess. The other combo is the form of Robo Rally (deadly maps and movement) with the spirit of Wingspan (nurturing baby birds). Wow, I really can’t decide, but let’s start with the the second one since it sounds more fulfilling. So cue up Raymond Scott’s “Powerhouse” and let’s throw some baby chicks into a factory.
Take any board you like from Robo Rally’s vast assortment, but let’s use Wingspan’s tokens from here on out. we could let players have momement cards and play Robo Rally and move birds, but here’s a thought: have the cards move nests and let the cards be random. Then have the players be placing birds and eggs into the nests as they move around the board of their own accord.
This is basically becoming that rare game combo where nearly all elements of both games are used. Since there are no forrest boards, we would have to drop the “locations” element of Wingspan. The rest of Wingspan could be played out, including food drops and eggs. As added fun I would skip the dice rools and drop the food tokens directly onto the rally map where they would be subject to the conveyor belts and move around. Then the birds can eat any food they are near or that pass by them.
As for victory conditions, I think we all know that the game has to keep going until the last next falls into a pit, or all the other birds starve due to lack of nearby food.

Final thoughts: Do I think this is playable? Umm… At least once? Yes! As with any good game combo, it ought to be good for at least a half hour of play and a laugh. And it’s also good if it doesn’t mix up the two games’ components too much. Sorry about that. This might get messy.

DAILY COMBO: Chess + Global Thermonuclear War

Today is a classic combo I’ve wanted to do for some time. The Game of Kings + The Game of Kilotons. I often imagined one or the other in a combo but never the two together. Let’s see how this plays out…


Today’s two (not) randomly generated games: Chess + Global Thermonuclear War

Initial thoughts: When practicing my “elevator pitch” for game combining, always go to chess for a random game to start with. And then I think of some other random game off the top of my head. Today, for some reason, that other random thought I went to was: Global Thermonuclear War (GTW). I could totally imagine someone suggesting that as a way to break my game combo streak. But I refuse to be broken! And the more I think about it, the more it makes sense as a good combo! Chess has a definite form and spirit. It’s form is a board of black and white squares with a specific set of six pieces; and it’s spirit is to force your opponent into conceding by surrounding and pinning them down. GTW also has a definite form: stockpiling and perhaps sending flying munitions at opponents across the world. Its spirit would be deterrence, followed by overwhelming one’s opponents with great force before they can retaliate.

Game Combo: First up, let’s imagine the form of chess: pieces with varying powers on a board, and one special piece to be targeted, with the spirit of GTW (deterrence and overpowering). On the other hand, we have the spirit of chess (capturing the king) with the form of GTW (blowing each other up with missiles). I can’t even imagine creating the latter, so let’s focus on the former…

Let’s start with an empty board except for a king, and then add a simple rule for “stockpiling” pieces. Perhaps a pawn (a Scud missile?) is cheap, but a Queen (multi-payload inter-continental missile?) is much more expensive to place on the board. You could add nuclear tests: most pieces are not necessarily effective unless you test them, with tests being publicly viewable and results being both partially public and partially secret. Maybe roll 2d6 your opponent sees one die roll and you see the other and if the total, which only you know, is high then the missile is good?). In this manner, some missiles on the board are known to be at least half-effective (if not completely!).

At some point, one side will start the war, via either choice or a mechanism. With a completely random setup of chess pieces and more queens than normal, the game will doubtlessly become a chaotic barrage of nothing but piece-capturing for the first dozen moves. A timer would definitely be in order so that the spirit of “quick launches and counter-launches” is maintained.

The middle game would be more subdued, with targeting of the opponent’s king and tactical maneuvers. Perhaps there are further rules to bring an element of damaged infrastructure or diminished launch capabilities into the game. I would also love to add a way for moves to be set in place a turn ahead with only the vague direction of the piece is known ahead of time. That way the other player can choose to retaliate or to stand down. Obviously, with stacked turns, there would need to be a way to judge piece movement into squares that are now occupied, but that might actually be fun!

Finally, since there are no winners in GTW (like there are in chess), I would add a set of “un-victory” conditions that simulate how horrible the aftermath is in terms of population loss. Perhaps the pawns could all represent population centers instead of SCUD missiles. A moving pawn could be imagined as a “growing metropolis” with the pawn’s current location as a metropolis’ moving center of culture or power. Also, since pawns block movements by the enemy, you could consider them, using the GTW analogy, as “must-hit” or “soft” targets before striking the king. That way it makes more sense that populations would be hit first.

Final thoughts: I feel ill now, because global war makes me ill to imagine. However I also feel pretty confident that you could throw together the rudimentary rules of stockpiling and test this game out yourselves. Maybe even add a random die roll each turn… another 2d6. If it comes up snake eyes, the next player must start war. This would simulate an itchy trigger finger. Honestly, I have enough sets of chess that it would be simple enough to get four queens and a cadre of bishops to square off against six queens and a dozen rooks, with a few handfuls of knights on each side and a mess of pawns (or not). Now, go out there and play some global thermonuclear war, but play nicely kids!

DAILY COMBO: Snorta + Boggle

I love it when a combo seems preposterous at first and then something clicks and you have a game. Today’s combo was randomly chosen from my personal collection. In fact I have a new system just for rolling up the bookcase, bookshelf, stack and specific games to be matched up!

Today’s two randomly generated games:
Snorta (2004): Animal sound matching and memory game with colorful plastic miniatures.
Boggle (1972): Timed word-building game with randomized letter board.

Initial thoughts: Snorta is basically “Anomia” with animals. It’s one of those games where you the draw of a card pits you against a random other player and you each have to do something based on what the OTHER player is. In Anomia, it’s naming something from the other players category. In Snorta it’s making the noise of the other player’s hidden animal. It’s hard, but fun, and a little anxiety-triggering for a lot of people. I can’t for the life of me see how one can play Boggle using animal figurines… So we might be left playing an animal-based game using the Boggle equipment, with animal noises thrown in for fun. I still want to keep the “must use the other player’s entity” mechanic, though. Let’s see if I can make it work.

Game Combo: Here’s what I have in mind. Play Boggle, but also assign each player a hidden animal. When the timer starts, each player tries to find words associated with the other animals (not their own), keeping the lists separate for each animal. During play, you may only make your assigned animal’s noise, which will be the only clue as to what animal each player is (no fair staying silent or making an incorrect noise!). When the timer is expired, compare lists just like in Boggle, except for the following additional rules: When your word is not on any other person’s list, it is ZERO points. When your word is on exactly one other list (for that same animal), it scores a point for each letter like normal Boggle. When your word is on more than one other player’s list for that animal, it scores one point LESS for each additional list it’s on. So if you match 2 other players (ie. three of you have that word for that animal) and it’s a 4-point word, your final score for the word is 3. These new rules do basically serve to discourage assigning a generic word to an animal, since others wouldn’t likely assign that word randomly to that animal. Finally, during scoring when you speak up to indicate that a word is on your list too, do so by making your animal’s noise.

Final thoughts: Like many game combos, this might be played only once as described. However I can see many variations on this style of Boggle play. Instead of animals, you could assign famous historical figures to each player, or countries, or cities. You could even just give each player a category that the others have to find word for. For these variations I would NOT recommend hidden identities.

DAILY COMBO: Cosmic Encounter + Illuminati

Another challenge from a friend who thought this would break me but I am strong like Servants of Cthulhu! Thanks to Tom L for this one! I think I made a (at least initially) playable combo that ought to make for a good afternoon of fun.

Today’s two (not) randomly generated games: 
Cosmic Encounter (1977): Classic game of space alien war and colonization built on powers and flares.
Illuminati (1982): Chaotic and satirical game of world domination, secret societies and special interest groups.

classic Steve Jackson (I) game of world domination. Each player takes on the role of a secret society attempting to spread its tendrils into special interest groups throughout the worl

Initial thoughts: At first blush this seems like an impossible combination. Two games with impossibly large setups, both very modular and non-board-based, both based on flare play and power-borrowing. And yet, there are ways to make the similarities a benefit to combining them as opposed to a detriment. So should we play Cosmic using Illuminati groups, or Illuminati using Cosmic tiles? All the color of Illuminati play would be lost without the individualized group chits. On the other hand, Illuminati’s setup is already Cosmic-like, so I think I’ll overlay one on the other…

Game Combo: Use the aliens from Cosmic as the core of each player’s play area (instead of the secret societies from Illuminati). Their powers should still allow you to do all the things in a normal Cosmic game. The difference is that you are now connecting organization (cards) from Illuminati to the four sides of your alien, imagining an outward arrow on each side of it. The alien card acts like the secret society in all other ways, such as making it harder to control/neutralize/destroy a nearby org card. You will be connecting orgs using their arrows as per normal just like in Illuminati. Whenever you want to, however, as one of your actions you may place a Cosmic base moon tile underneath an org card. This would have the same effect as if the card were directly attached to the base alien. Instead of money, orgs generate ships (the discs in Cosmic). Alignments still make attacks harder/easier. The natural Resistance of an org equates to an imaginary number of ships on the card as far as attacking it. The alien card has no “Income”, but still give each player the normal starting amount of 20 ships. To make it an even more complete combo, add more of Illuminati back in: Place a random Illuminati secret society card under each player’s alien so that nobody can see each other’s society. These cards do not have any effect other than to add that society’s secret Victory Condition (in addition to the player’s normal Cosmic victory condition of 5 colonies). In this case I would also add money chits back in as well!

Final thoughts: Playability? Probably only once. Or a half a play. Actually, I think it would be a very enjoyable complete game-crash experience to wholeheartedly attempt this once and try to complete a game. I imagine you would have to make many rule decisions on the fly and the Zombie or Void would probably win (especially if the Gnomes of Zurich were underneath it).

DAILY COMBO: Tag + Checkers

Intro: Thanks to Jon P for the suggestion of Tag + Checkers. Yes, you too can suggest a Game Combo! I think Jon was throwing this out as a ferinstance, but I took it as a challenge!

Today’s two randomly generated games: Tag + Checkers

Tag: The ancient game of I’m touching you because you’re slow and I can probably outrun you and hey, look I’ve unlocked the Being A Bully Achievement!
Checkers: The ancient game of draughts AKA “chess is too hard” plus all we have are these bottle caps.

Initial thoughts: Let’s do this. We could play tag using checkers as people, but on the checkers board. Or we could play checkers using people as checkers on a real-life board. Goodness me, this might be the rare game combo challenge where BOTH options are equally tempting.

Game Combo: There’s definitely something intriguing about combining the rules of checkers (forward-only diagonal movement unitil you get Kinged) with the side-swapping goals of Tag. No matter how I play it out in my head, it comes down to checkers movement and “being It” whether it’s on a board or running around. I’m going to describe the basic rules sort of generically so that you can either play it on a checkers board (with 8 or more players each moving one checker each), or with 8+ people in real life… on a checkerboard carpet, tiled floor or grass field. Start with a normal checker game setup: three rows of four players/pieces on each side. If you have fewer players than that, do two rows of four, or even one row of four for an 8-player game. Play then begins using normal checkers rules except that when it’s one team’s turn, whoever raises their hand first is the one who moves. It’s unlikely that everyone will want to move at once, so do it by a show of hands first and if there is more than one hand-raiser, wait til all but one of them puts their hand down. Alternate sides during play and use normal checkers moves. If you end your turn diagonally next to an opponent, you may “tag” them. If you choose NOT to tag them, the normal “jumping” can take place on a future turn if you or they are still next to each other diagonally. Jumping removes a piece (player) from the game. If you tag someone, they are “It”. Here are the basic rules of being “it”: Your side can no longer get “Kinged”. Your side’s existing Kings can no longer move like a king. You cannot win if someone on your side is “it”. You can still move forward using regular checkers rules. If you are a King, you can move forward like a normal piece. You can still “jump” opponents. Finally, you cannot “tag back”, meaning you are not allowed to tag the player/piece which tagged you. As soon as you tag a piece, two things happen: You get an extra move. The game enters the “Simultaneous Move” stage which lasts the REST of the game. During simultaneous moving, at the start of each turn, the “it” player counts down from 3 to 1. After the stroke of “1”, all players must point in the direction they wish to move (including the “it” player). If no one else is moving into the space you are pointing at, you get to move there. If someone else is pointing at the same square as you, neither of you can move there. If you point at a space which someone is moving out of and they end up NOT moving out of that square, you do not move either. You might see this as something similar to how the boardgame “Diplomacy” works, minus the ability to “support” moves. After everyone has moved (successfully or not), the “It” player can tag someone on the opposing team (not their own team) as long as they are diagonally next to them and it is not a “tag back”. If your side is not “It” anymore, you regain the normal powers to become a King and to move like a King, if you are one. Whether playing on a checkers board or in real life, the game progresses as normal until there is a winning side: in other words until one side has only one piece/player left.

Final thoughts: I’m quite eager to play this game in real life. I spent a few minutes playing out the rules on a checkerboard and several minutes more writing out the rules just now. Suffice to say this is, like all Game Combos I make, a spur of the moment, stream-of-consciousness endeavor. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to try it out. Let me know if you successfully attempt it!

DAILY COMBO: Imhotep + Animal Upon Animal

Today’s combo is another randomly generated pair of games for which I try to find the perfect combination of rules, limited this time to more popular games which (hopefully) you might recognize. These where randomly selected from a list of games with at least 5000 reviews on BoardGameGeek.

Today’s two randomly generated games:
Imhotep (2016): A resource-ferrying game in which you mine stone blocks and build them into Egyptian monuments.
Animal Upon Animal (2005): A piece-stacking game wherein you see how many animals you can balance on the alligator’s back.

Initial thoughts: These two games really complement each other in an odd way. Both involve stacking wooden objects and the possibility of them falling apart. Thinking about it in both directions, you could either stack stones up on each other’s shoulders to see who can build them higher without falling, or stack animals up to build an Egyptian monument. To be fair to the spirit of Gamurgy, let’s briefly consider the former: The die tells you which animals to stack, so in a combo game, you might be told which types of stones to stack. You could even start with the alligator piece (the bottom foundation in the Animals game) and build a pyramid of colored stones on his back. But I think we BOTH agree that it’d be way more fun to stack the animals.

Game Combo: First off, let’s agree that it’d be mean to reimagine this as animals being drug out of the wild and into zoos, so let’s instead think of it as rescuing animals from zoos and letting them frolic in the wild! First, map the animal concept onto the Imhotep game regions: The quarry tiles become zoos. The monument boards become regions of the wild. And the boats remain boats except that they are now little arks that ferry the critters from captivity into freedom! Place the animals on the zoo-quarries. I’d recommend putting the sheep and penguins on white, the snakes and lizards on gray, the monkeys and toucans on red and the porcupines, alligator (and why not the red die too!) on black. Then use the shipping mechanics to ferry the little guys over to the monument boards. Build them up in the same shapes as the four monuments and use the cards as best as they fit the rules! Look how happy those little guys are to be free!

Final thoughts: They don’t really come easier than this and I expect the next random combo to be a lot trickier. For added fun, add a circle-of-life hierarchy in which certain animals would each other animals if ferried together, making the boat portion a little trickier. Like the fox and hen river-crossing riddle, the players will need to ferry the animals back and forth a couple times to be sure they don’t eat each other!

DAILY COMBO: Magical Battlions + Table Top Championship Golf

It’s time to combine two random games! These were randomly chosen from BoardGameGeek’s random generator. And yes, the spelling of “battlions” is legit typo from the game creator! Today we are accepting whatever two games it spits out regardless of whether anyone has ever heard of them. In future combos, I’ll be generating random “popular” games, and — my favorite — random games from my own personal collection!

Today’s two randomly generated games:
Magical Battlions (1983): A more-or-less homebrew, self-published game of wizardly combat using miniatures (not provided) on a hex map (also not provided).
Table Top Championship Golf (2013): A modular, board-based golf game using dice and a spinner to randomize shots and a card deck of actions add strategy to play.

Initial thoughts: Playing golf on a hex map where wizards are meant to battle might not be a horrible game, but this is the less-compelling manner to combine them. On the other hand, putting wizard miniatures onto modular golf holes has definite possibilities!

Game Combo: Imagine laying out the gold hole boards and then waging battle amongst the wizard battalions… on a course! Use the effects and names of spells from MB, but layer on top of that the wind, bunker and fairway effects ot TTCG. As the miniatures move around the course attempting to flank each other, their movements are affected by the grass heights and trees just as their spells are. Since it’d be a shame to just toss out the par numbers and the holing out entirely, I would add a system of reward whereby knocking an enemy into the “hole” gives your side a power-up. The pars themselves could simply be used as an area-of-effect modifier to the spell rolls.

Final thoughts: This is an almost reasonably playable game combo! If I had either of these in my collection I would DEFINITELY try this combo. Sorry, randomizer, you’re going to have to do better than that if you want to stump The Gamurgist!