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[Review] Cash Trap

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Joined: 03/23/2011

The thing that first attracted me to Ca$h Trap (New Century Games, 2005 - Debbie Keigan) was how attractive it looked - bright and colorful, the way I like games. I was assured upon receiving it that the game wasn't a deep one of strategy, but rather a light, fun family game. After reading over the rules, I was in agreement; it didn't look overly heavy strategic, but seemed to have a decent amount of tactics in it. The theme seemed a bit contrived, but the gameplay seemed simple enough; so I sat back, ready to enjoy it.

After several plays, I'm still not sure of my definite opinion on the game. The luck of the card drawing has really irritated me on some occasions, although I came up with a variant to mitigate it in a two-player game. It's certainly an easy-going game, one in which players can socialize throughout; and it's easy and fun enough to be a success. Good tactics are proven to help in a game, although I've seen at least two games that came down to luck in the end. It's fun; it's fairly fast, and it has tactics diluted by randomness. I think I'll keep it!

A grid of sixty-four squares composes the game board (with the four middle squares blocked out) - with eight more squares at the edge of each - forming a player's home row. Each player places four (with four players), six (with three players), or eight (with two players) moneybags in the middle spaces of their home row. A pile of "Cash Traps" are placed in the middle area of the board, and five cards are dealt to each player, with the remainder forming a draw deck. One player is chosen to go first, and play proceeds clockwise around the table.

On a turn, a player draws a card, and then plays a card of their choice. There are seven different cards that can be played:
- Move cards: These cards, numbered one through four, allow a player to move their moneybags that many spaces. A player can move one or more moneybags to move the total amount of spaces. Moneybags cannot go backwards, but can only move forwards or sideways, although they cannot move sideways in their home row. They cannot move into the middle area and are attempting to reach the "bank" spaces, which are the home row of the player opposite them. When a moneybag reaches a "bank" space, it can no longer be moved by any player.
- Move opponent/yourself: These cards allow an opponent to move one opponent moneybag two spaces in any directions, and one of your own moneybags one space forward or sideways.
- Put in a Cash Trap: Allows a player to place a cash trap on any line on the board. No moneybag can move through or over a cash trap.
- Discard a Cash Trap
- Put in two cash traps, or reposition two cash traps.
- Discard a cash trap, and move one moneybag one space.
- Opportunity cards: These cards allow a player to do three things (move a moneybag a space, reposition a cash trap, or add a cash trap) in any combination.

If a player cannot play any of their cards, they must discard one card and skip their turn. Players must enter the bank spaces by exact movement. The first player to get all of their moneybags into one of the banks is the winner!

Some comments on the game…

1.) Components: The board and pieces are very colorful - in colors red, green, yellow, and blue. The board has the four major currencies of the world on it, and the pieces are plastic bags of money. Other than moving your moneybags towards the bank, I'm not sure how the theme fits the gameplay, but it's better than no theme, I guess. The cash traps are simply black plastic pieces that lay on the lines on the board, providing a stark reminder that they may not be crossed. The cards are good quality, and each major kind of card is a different color (green - move; red - put in cash trap; yellow - remove cash trap; blue - combo). Everything fits into a nice plastic insert in a fairly nondescript box that advertises itself quite fluently, but doesn't really look good on the shelf.

2.) Rules: The rulebook is only four pages long and explains how every part of the game works - cards, etc. - before it tells you how to play the game. But really, it's quite simple - draw a card, play a card. When I've taught the game to people, they pick up on both the rules and strategy very easily.

3.) Luck: When playing a two player game with my wife, I often got frustrated because I just didn't get the cards that I needed. So finally, I sat down and split the deck into two equal piles - both with the same exact cards in them. We then both shuffled our respective decks, and played that way. I enjoyed it much more, as there was still luck in the game, but I knew the luck would even itself out over the course of a game. I couldn’t divide the cards evenly amongst three and four (although I can come close, but have to eliminate a few cards of which there is only two), which is too bad; as the randomness is more pronounced with that many players. In fact, in one three player game, it came down to a situation in which all three players needed the same card to win, and the first player to draw it was victorious.

4.) Strategy: Don't get me wrong - the game isn't all about luck. A player needs to make sure that they do their best with the cards they have. A player quickly learns to run towards the enemy as fast as they can, for the player who is forced to go around the opponent is wasting movement cards. Also, knowing how best to place cash traps can really ensnare an annoyed opponent. I've seen situations in which a player was totally surrounded by cash traps - three of them placed by other players, and the one behind the moneybag placed by the player himself - so that another player couldn't move his token backwards. The impenetrable section in the middle of the board plays a heavy part here, as players have to get around it - but which way? The strategy in this game is VERY light and easy and is relaxing. But I did want to stress that the game wasn't all luck.

5.) Players: The two player game is best, as there is less luck, and the players are evenly matched. A four player game can be awfully chaotic, as is the three player game. I originally thought that a three player game would be unbalanced, since one player had no opponent across from them. But this turned out to be self balancing, as the other two players put enough cash traps down quickly to even itself out. Still, the game is best with only two.

6.) Fun Factor: I don't know why, but the game is fun, despite my problems with the luckiness factor. Some folk may state that the game only gives the illusion of tactics, and that may be true - but it's enough for me. I certainly won't want to play Cash Trap all the time, but it does fill a role in situations where I just want to have an easy, light, fun game. It's a good game for younger children, to help teach them strategy; and I believe that adults and kids can be evenly matched - something that's always a good thing.

So I can't recommend the game because of the theme, since it has nothing to do with it. And I can't recommend the game based on its deep strategy, because that's not there either. Rather, I can recommend the game because of what it was designed to do - be a fun, light, entertaining family game. It's like Sorry or Parcheesi, but without the linear path. Whether or not it matters in the end, players still have multiple choices on their turn. And games often come down closely near the end. Interest you? Then check it out.

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games"

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