Trust me I’m a doctor
Teaching Time: 2 mins
Playing Time: 15-60 mins
Setup Time: 1 mins
Value For Money: Low
Half-Monster Games are an Australian independent games design company who picked up a very respectable 924 backers when they Kickstarted this game in 2019/2020. This is their second Kickstarter but they’ve put out a few other projects beside and ran a solid campaign with good fulfillment. It’s also a full-on party game that lives and breathes around a packed table of relaxed and casual friends. I’ve done my best to give it a solid review, but for those of you living in a golden future of being able to wander freely and speak to strangers without full body disinfection, I’m writing this review in the 2020 corona virus update and I will admit that Zoom probably does the game a disservice. Its available to order from their website, although at the time or writing the link to their pre-order from the Kickstarter page is down.
Gameplay wise things are about as simple as they could be. Everyone draws some ailments and some cures, most of each are old-timey and humorously unlikely. Whoever is being the patient presents one of their ailments, then everyone else takes the part of doctors who offer some quack cures that must match the symbols on the ailments. Discussion, explanation and argument ensue, until the patient picks one of the awful cures on offer and the doctor who offered it scores a point. Carry on until someone has three points and you have a winner.
Components wise it’s a little bit of a mixed bag. The box is nice and solid with some internal imagery and has plenty of room without being too much to carry around, with a solid plastic insert that holds the cards in place well, though the finger cut outs are shallow enough that you’ll be tipping the box up to get them out most of the time. The cards themselves are gloss finished and feel a little light on the card stock, making them feel a little cheap and thin to hold, which is a pity since that’s going to happen a lot. Generally, the cards are more than clear enough for play, though there is very little information they are required to carry and some times the title font is a little uncomfortable to read. It also could have used one last proof read, lines such as ‘mixed within in a holy bell’ suggest that one or two lines slipped through the checks.
As stated, the rules are extremely simple, which on the one hand allows for the game to get right to the arguing about why your stupid remedy is better than someone else’s stupid remedy part as quickly as possible. On the other hand, the symbol matching section of play throws up a couple of issues because of the simplicity. Each ailment has two symbols and each doctor offers two cures, we are told that each symbol on the ailment must be matched by a symbol on at least one of the cures but are not told what happens if that’s not possible. It is more than possible for a doctor to have no cures able to match one or both of the ailment symbols and what happens then is pretty much in the hands of the players but missing a turn seems to be the obvious result. When you’re playing three handed and a third of the relatively few points are picked up by this process in what’s meant to be a fun, talking heavy, party game well, it’s not the pure party enjoyment that might have been expected. Also, its not made clear if when an ailment has two symbols that are repeated whether the cure card symbols that match have to be different, or if one symbol can match both. These are little things that can be quickly house ruled, but in a game with four rules, two unanswered questions feels like a lot, which is only worsened by the fact that the two rules cards are only printed on one side each, so there was plenty of room to clarify matters. On a side note, the icons on the ailments and cures seem to have been splashed around a little randomly, for example, ‘Fire Therapy’ features none of the icons used to cure ‘Witchcraft’, which just seems weird.
The game states an age range of 12+, which I’m not certain is a great idea. Aside from the fact that some of the images on the cards are a little extreme and that I’m not sure I’d like to explain the ‘Vile Sexual Desires’ or ‘Syphilis’ cards to a 12 year old, I think its not unreasonable to assume that a game with an age limit can be given to a group of people of that age and expect them to be able to play it capably without further instruction. This is a game that expects its players to confidently describe what’s wrong with them when they have ‘typhoid’, ‘impotency’, ‘phlegmatic’ (which is apparently separate from ‘excess phlegm’), ‘choleric’ or ‘sanguine’ as an ailment with no further explanation. I’m not certain that most adults could vividly describe the symptoms of sanguinity if put on the spot but if you can find a group of 12-year olds who could do so then you’ve got some precocious little scamps there. I imagine that a lot of the more obscure cards will encourage some quick Googling, and if you’re okay leaving a group of kids with a card called ‘Vile Sexual Desires’ and an encouragement to do some Googling, then I’m not certain you’re the best person to be running that youth group.
All that aside, is it fun? Well, yes, with the right group. If you have a group of people willing to enter into the spirit and have a silly argument about whether Dung Juices and Heliotherapy are a better cure for Criminality than Cocaine and Water Immersion then yes, that’s a fun thing. Also, if you’re happy to just have a five-minute conversation that starts with someone looking at a card and saying ‘What the hell is a fecal transplant?’ then these cards will herald the start of a fine old time for you. They feel more than anything like one of those books of weird historical facts and quotes that you tend to read on the toilet converted into game form so that you can share them with a group, which isn’t the worst thing in the world (possibly this is related to the presence of a book of exactly that nature also available on the company’s website). The issue is that most things are fun with the right group, I have groups of friends with who I would happily wait for a bus that never comes, a game should ideally be an engine where you put in time and get out fun, not one where you put in fun and get out fun. Personally, I like a game to play with people I find fun, but I need a game to make people I don’t find fun bearable. The fact that Trust Me I’m A Doctor makes no attempt to obscure which card belongs to which doctor suggests, for one thing, they’ve not experienced one of these sorts of games devolving into a popularity contest, which can suck all the fun out of these sorts of games fast. If you’re set to have a fun time with fun people but aren’t currently entirely certain what sort of fun to have then the game should work as a neat little ice breaker and give you something to trigger fun things to say in an attempt to get your friends to snort drink out of their nose when you describe how your ‘Anal Implosion’ curtailed your meeting with your mother in law. If you’re looking for something where you don’t need to actually bring the fun or funny yourself then this is probably less for you, but you can probably think of at least one group and one evening when you wish you had something like this, in which situation, this is very much something like this.