Tuesday, June 21, 2011

REVIEW: Spot It!

Designer: n/a
Publisher: Blue Orange
Players: 2-8
Ages: 7+
Time: 1-2 minutes per round
Price: $14

This review is going to be short and sweet, just like the game. Spot It! is a remarkable little confection that works great as a warm-up game or just a quick bit of fun. It comes in a compact tin that contains a set of 55 circular cards. Each card has 8 symbols drawn from a set of 50. These are clear, clip-art-style images like scissors, bullseye, snowflake, pencil, dragon, etc. The images are scaled, so you may see a large zebra or a small zebra, but each tends to have a single dominant color. Between any two cards there is only one matching image. I'm not certain how they pulled that off, but they did, and it forms the heart of the gameplay.

The goal is to draw cards and spot the matching images. It's that simple. The size doesn't matter, so a large snowman can be matched to a small snowman. However, there will only ever be one match between two cards.

With this basic setup, Blue Orange offers 4 gameplay options. In The "Tower", players are each given one card face down, with the rest of the cards forming a face-up draw pile. Players flip their cards simultaneously, and the winner is the first person to announce a match with the top card of the draw pile. They place that card on the top of their own pile, and the matching continues until the draw pile is exhausted. The person with the most cards, wins.

"The Well" is like The Tower in reverse. One card is dealt to the center and the rest are dealt to the players. The goal is to shed your pile of cards by matching a symbol from your top card to an image on the center card. 

"Hot Potato" is also a shedding game, but this time players each hold a single card in their palms. The first person to call a match places all of his cards on top of the matching card, then draws another. Play continues until one person has all the cards, then a new round begins. The winner is the player who has the fewest cards once the draw pile is exhausted. This one plays better with larger groups.

The final variant is called "The Poisoned Gift." Each player has a single card, with a draw pile at the center of the table. The goal is to make a match between the top card of the draw pile and another player's card. That player then takes the matching card and play continues. The winner is the person with the fewest cards when the draw pile is exhausted.
If all this just sounds like a simple matching game ... well, it is. But it's also a whole lotta fun. It's much more entertaining than you might expect from a mere description. Play is lightening fast, with quick turns of fortunate and split-second decisions. You have to be observant and fast, and each player develops a technique of rapid observation in order to compare visual elements as quickly as possible.

If I just saw this game sitting on a shelf, I never would have bothered with it. It looks too rudimentary and seems to lack replay potential. In fact, repeated play only makes it better, as you become familiar with the images and the pacing. I must have played at least 100 games with just my daughter alone, and it still comes out as a 5 minute filler or a compact travel game. It's immensely clever and appealing, and scales quite well for different ages and group sizes.

You can try the online demo, but this really plays better with another person.



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