Teaching Time: 4 mins
Playing Time: 20-30 mins
Setup Time: 0
Value For Money: Mid
Winning the Spiel Des Jahres, or any of its sub categories can do wonders for a designer’s career, but it can be tricky to capitalize on doing so quickly. A new game can take two or three years to develop, by which time the buzz of the original game could die off, it’s for that reason that so many winners of the prize then go on to spend a lot of their time releasing expansions or sequels to their winning game. Button Shy games specialize in micro sized wallet games of around 18 cards which they can turn around in a few months, making teaming up with a prize winner an obvious tactic. So, Elizabeth Hargrave designing Tussie Mussie for Button Shy was an obvious teaming and one that when released on Kickstarter raised over $84k from a mighty 4,605 backers.
Play is a simple example of ‘I cut, you choose’ design. Players are dealt two flower cards which they offer to another player, one face up, one face down. The other player then chooses one and adds it to their tableaux, face-up cards entering their bouquet and face down into their keepsakes. Once all players have four cards in their tableaux they’re scored, highest score wins. The game revolves around those cards which will score from other cards being face up or down and of a colour or type, with players trying to bluff or outwit each other by their offers.
The game has to be judged in relation to its size and type. The production quality is high for its intended type, but not great otherwise, which is fine because greater production would simply mean that it would be unsuitable as a wallet game. Also, the gameplay and run time is fine for its type, game rounds take a few minutes and can be re-set over and over. This game is designed to be kept in a pocket and pulled out casually in a bar or in-between other games at game night, and it does a very fine job of filling that gap. As such, it’s a little unfair to criticize it for its shallowness, but it can be a little shallow in manners that are worth mentioning in a review.
Most decisions are made fairly blind and in a manner that can strip them of much of their meaning. For example, one of the scoring conditions is that a card only scores if it is face down, the idea that offering such a card face-up to an opponent is a serious option seems unlikely. Picking cards is often a choice between a bad option or an unknown quantity, since there is simply not enough range to double bluff your opponent. If a face-up card looks good, then it simply is good, and there’s not really enough value even potentially available in the face-down card to outweigh it, and similarly if a card is bad. Generally, the offers tend to be honest, a case of bait and switch rather than bluff as such. Which isn’t a failure as such, but it can make it hard to win irrespective of the cards dealt to you.
As I say though, to criticize this filler wallet game for being a tiny bit shallow makes about as much sense as criticizing it for not having any minis or a board, it was never intended to have them. Judged for what it is, a micro game that you can leave in a jacket pocket and forget about until things get a little slow with a group of friends, it is excellent. The theme is gentle, wonderfully presented and actually educational, much like the designer’s more famous Kennerspiel Des Jahres winner Wingspan. The gameplay is simple to understand and entirely functional for what it is, and never outstays its welcome. In general, Button Shy have cornered a part of the market with little gems like this, and Tussie Mussie slots straight in with simple gameplay well executed in a neat, tiny, package.