Thursday, November 15, 2018

Review Update - Death Wish by Sketchy Games

Death Wish
Designed By: Jason Hibbert
Published By: Sketchy Games
2-8p | 20-45m | 15+
Review Update - Death Wish by Sketchy Games
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This is an update for a Quick Review / Kickstarter Preview for Death Wish, which I originally reviewed in May 2016.  The game has since been delivered to backers and I have received and played the final published copy of the game.  This update will only cover any aspects of the game that have changed since my original review.  It'll particularly focus on the Components & Packaging and Overall Value, since those were not available in the prototype preview.

Read the original review here!

Game Overview:
From my original review:
Death Wish is a casual set collection card game for 2-8 players that is all about contracting fatal diseases.  Diseases like LOLera, Meowsles, and Tuburpulosis run rampant in this game.  Throughout the course of the game players try their hardest to contract as many diseases as possible and be the first to perish.  This may sound a bit crass, and some of the diseases, symptoms, and afflictors are definitely R-rated, but if you take those out the game still plays fine and becomes a great family friendly game, too, as long as your family doesn't mind a little bit of dark and occasionally gross humor. 
To contract a disease, you must have an appropriate Afflictors (like swallowing baby puke, licking a snail, or getting sneezed on) as well as the right number and type of symptoms (like hair loss, cold sweats, or blurry vision).  Each disease you contract awards you with a certain number of skulls and the winner is the player that first collects enough skulls to die.
Death Wish is for 2-8 players ages 15 and up (although with a few of the more risque cards removed, the mechanics are easy enough for much younger kids - my son originally played when he was six).  Games are said to take 20-45 minutes, and that's about right.  Higher player count games may take a bit longer since my 5 player games usually have gone about 40-45 minutes.  Higher player count games also increase the downtime a bit, but it moves pretty fast at all player counts.  I think it's best with 3-6 players though.

Components & Packaging:
The prototype of Death Wish I received was pretty decent quality.  The game only consists of cards, so there wasn't a whole lot that could go wrong.  The final published version of the game has better quality cards, although not the greatest, but they do have linen finish.  The artwork has not changed from the prototype and is very sparse, but functional for the style of game.  The cards are also colorful, which is a nice change from the usual black and white that you usually see on party games.

The game does come in a very nice, solid box and the additional Death Certificate is fun, funny, and superfluous.  The rules are nicely laid out and printed on good quality paper.  For a game that consists of only cards there's not much to get wrong, but Sketchy Games definitely got it all right.

Score: 8/10 x1

Rules & Setup:
The rulebook is very thorough and clearly explains how to set up and play the game.  This is consistent with my experience with the prototype.  There were a few minor changes, highlighted in bold orange.

To set up Death Wish, separate the cards into four decks: Afflictors, Symptoms, Diseases, and Outbreaks.  Deal two Afflictors and four Symptoms to each player to start the game.  Afflictors are placed face-up on the table (you are allowed three Afflictors max at any point in the game).  Symptoms make up each player's hand and are private (you are allowed a maximum of six Symptoms in your hand).  Then create two tableaus consisting of four Diseases and four Symptoms.  These form a market, or lineup, where Symptoms and Diseases can be acquired.  Set the four decks around the tableau of cards and you're ready to begin.  In the final game there are a few extra minor steps: Reveal the top disease from the disease deck and place it to the left of the disease deck.  This is the incubating disease.  Also reveal the top card from the Afflictors deck and start a discard pile.
Players take turns completing one action.  On your turn, your choices are: Gain Symptoms, Gain an Afflictor, Reveal a Disease, Incubate, or Contract a Disease.  When you Gain Symptoms you take one Symptom from the lineup, or two from the top of the deck into your hand.  When Gaining an Afflictor you take the top Afflictor and add it face-up in front of you.  If you ever have more than six Symptoms or three Afflictors you must then discard down to your limit.  If you Reveal a Disease you may draw a new Disease from the top of the deck and add it to the Disease lineup on top of an existing Disease.  The Disease on top must be contracted before the Disease below it can be contracted.  This lets players try to strategically block other players from contracting diseases.  Incubate is a bit of a different action.  If you choose to Incubate you can either take up to three Symptoms from your hand and place them face-down on the table for later use or take up to three Incubating Symptoms back into your hand.  This is the only way you can potentially have more than six Symptoms available for use, however remember, Incubating is a full action and you can only have six Symptoms in your hand at a time, so retrieving Incubating Symptoms could cause you to discard some Symptoms.  In the final game Incubating as it was in the prototype has been removed and Reveal a Disease is now called Incubation.  You may cover a disease from the Disease lineup with either the Incubating disease or the top disease from the disease deck.  If you use the Incubating disease, replace it with the top disease from the disease deck.
The fifth action that you can take is the main goal of the game: Contract a Disease.  To Contract a Disease you must have the required Symptoms and Afflictor.  Each Disease is one of four colors, or Wild.  Symptoms and Afflictors are also one of these four colors, or Wild.  In order to Contract a Disease you must have the designated number of Symptoms and one Afflictor in the same color as the Disease.  Wild diseases are a little different.  Whereas Wild Symptoms and Afflictors can be used as any color, Wild diseases require one of each color Symptom and an Afflictor in the color designated on the Disease any color Afflictor.  You can then collect the disease and tell others what you caught, how you caught it, and what symptoms you are suffering from.  Feel free to make the story as elaborate as you like! 
Many of the diseases also have a symbol called Outbreak on them.  When you contract a Disease that has an Outbreak you then draw an Outbreak card.  Outbreaks have all sorts of wild effects on the game.  Sometimes they'll help you out and sometimes they'll hurt other players, either individually or as a group.  I thought it was odd that almost every Disease came with an Outbreak and would prefer to see them a bit more rare (maybe 50% of the time instead of over 90%).  They just didn't feel special when there were so many of them, and they do disrupt the game and any strategy that you may be developing.  This keeps the game light, but also can occasionally be frustrating.
Each Disease you contract also has a number of skulls on it.  These are the points the Disease is worth.  Games are played to a predetermined number of points (recommended from ten to fourteen) and the first to earn those points wins the game.  Optionally players can continue to play until there is only one person left, but personally I prefer to just shuffle up the cards and start over.  I haven't played enough to tell if a hard stop after someone wins is the best way for the game to end or not though.  It seems that this gives the first player an advantage, but in a game this casual I'm not sure it matters.  But if you do feel it's a concern I suggest you either play out the round or let every player have one final turn (including the player that triggered the end).  Then the winner would be the player with the most skulls, maybe having leftover symptoms and afflictors as tie breakers.

Score: 9/10 x2

Gameplay is just about the same as the prototype.  Games are simple, fast, fun, and have a decent amount of strategy, but not too much.  It's a great casual game that you can play with a group of friends while still having conversations.  You don't have to think too hard and focus completely on the game, but it's not a typical party game like Fluxx or Cards Against Humanity where you can pretty much play without thinking at all.

Score: 8/10 x3

If you like silly party games and games with a bit of strategy, then this is probably a game that you'll bring to the table pretty often.  The game is simple enough to teach new players in just a few minutes, fast enough that you'll be able to play multiple games in an evening, has enough strategy to keep gamers interested, and plays equally well for player counts from 2-8, although at higher player counts there's a bit more downtime (not a problem if you're playing while conversing).  It's perfect for playing at the pub, family parties (although you might want to pull out a few of the more crass cards), or any time you want to laugh and socialize while playing a game.  It also makes a great filler for between bigger games on game nights.

Score: 7/10 x1

General Fun:
The humor is pretty funny and usually has everyone joking and laughing.  It's difficult to resist the urge to pick up the various decks and flip through them while waiting for your turn.  However, after seeing the cards for the 10th time they'll get a bit stale.  If you have a creative group they'll be able to make new combinations and really sell the disease, acting out the symptoms, afflictors, and diseases.

I like playing Death Wish with a casual group that wants something silly, but still with a goal.  There's enough strategy in the set collection aspect of the game to keep pretty much everyone interested in the game as well as the silliness.

Score: 9/10 x2

Overall Value:
At $30 Death Wish is a little pricey for what is essentially a few decks of cards.  Similar card-driven, party style games seem to go for $20-$25, so Death Wish is a tad more expensive than it's competitors.  However it sits in an unusual niche of being a party game with a bit more strategy and interesting mechanics than your usual party games.  It also makes a good filler game for game nights, or a fun family game (with a few of the racier cards removed).  The base game only has a handful of cards that are a bit more on the 'naughty' side, but if that is what you're looking for there's also a NSFW deck for another $10.  I haven't seen this deck, but the additional cards are mostly from Kickstarter backer suggestions and you know how twisted those internet folks can be.

Score: 7/10 x1

Final Thoughts:
After playing the final version of Death Wish several times I'm still pretty happy with the game and feel my original opinion still holds true.  It's a good lightweight filler game, or medium weight party game, that is funny and fast to play.  Barring a few cards that can easily be removed, it's also a great family friendly game.  The humor and theme is all tongue-in-cheek and some of the disease puns are cringe worthy and hilarious at the same time.  If you're getting tired of the same old formulas in party games and want something new, be sure to check out Death Wish, available at

Overall Score: 74/100

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GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games.  Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play).  I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game.  A score of 1-10 (low-high) is given to each game in six categories: Components & Packaging, Rules & Setup, Gameplay, Replayability, Overall Value, and General Fun.  Rules & Setup and General Fun are weighted double and Gameplay is weighted triple.  Educational games have an extra category and Gameplay is only weighted double. Then the game is given a total score of x/100.

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