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[Review] Perpetual Commotion

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Joined: 03/23/2011

I have some fond memories of my grandparents and games from my childhood - mostly revolving around the game Dutch Blitz. I never was very good at Dutch Blitz, but I was always up for a game. The reason - my grandfather was an absolute maniac at the game. He played faster than I ever saw anyone else played, bullied the other players into playing cards from their stacks, shouted the entire game, and cheated whenever possible. Most games ended with my grandmother throwing her cards at him, and the rest of the family rolling on the floor with uncontrollable laughter. Years later, I played Dutch Blitz again with a stodgy group of college students, but it didn’t have the same zing. Then, while at Origins 2004, I came across a game called Perpetual Commotion. (Goldbrick Games, 2003 - designer uncredited). They invited me in for a demo game, and after dealing out the first cards - they told me that I was probably going to lose. Humph - I wasn’t too particularly pleased to hear that - but then I almost won.

And then I stayed and played the game several more times, because it was so much fun. Perpetual Commotion is a real-time card game, whose grandfather may have been Dutch Blitz, but whose rules are refined; and game play was fast, furious, and fun. Most people that I’ve introduced the game to love it, and while some of them are certainly much better than others - even the slow folk seem to have a good time, wallowing in their inefficiency. It’s a loud, quick game; and one that is quickly becoming one of my most-requested games currently. If you like real-time games that can include up to six (eight with an expansion) players, then this is the perfect game.

Each player is given a deck of fifty-two cards - each deck with a different colored back (red, green, blue, purple, yellow, or orange). Each deck consists of cards of four different suits (red, green, yellow, and blue), numbered 2 through twelve, as well as four “Start” and four “Stop” cards. The players thoroughly shuffle the deck they were given, then hand it to the player next to them (the rules frown on people shuffling their own decks - something I sadly have to agree with). As soon as someone shouts, “Go”, each player deals five cards face up in front of them; and then a pile of thirteen face-down cards next to that. The remainder of the cards they hold in their hand, in a face down deck. The object of the game is for the players to get rid of the pile of thirteen cards. At any time, a player can play one of their face-up cards (if it is a legal play) onto the table, replacing the face-up card with the top card of the pile. If none of the face up cards can legally be played, the player may go through their deck, searching for playable cards. This is done by counting out three cards and looking at the next card; and playing it if possible (the counting is similar to that done in Solitaire). If the card can’t be played, the player goes on to the next card, etc. - starting the deck over again once they go through it.

Players are playing the cards onto stacks on the table. A “Start” card can be played at any time - thrown into the middle of the table. On top of each start card, a “2” of any color can be played. Once the “2” is placed, however, the next card after that must be the “3” of the same color, then the “4”, etc. Once the “12” is played, a “Stop” card is played on top, finishing the pile. Both “Stop” and “Start” cards are considered wild; they count as any color. As players play cards from those face-up, they replace them with the cards from the stack that was initially thirteen. After that stack is depleted (whether or not there are still cards face-up in front of the player), the player shouts “Out!” and the round ends. Scoring then commences.

The player who went out gets five points, with all other players losing two points for each card they had left in their pile. Each player also gets one point for every card that they played on any pile on the board. All points are totaled and recorded, then the player who went out rolls an eight-sided die, comparing it to a reference card included with the game. If the player rolls an odd number, the next round occurs - same scoring as the first. A roll of a “2” gives ten points for going out in the next round, while a “6” gives twenty points. A “4” doubles all points in the next round, whether positive or negative, and the dreaded “8” causes the person rolling to lose ten points. The next round begins, and play continues until one player goes over 100 points, at which time they are declared the winner (unless people refuse to give up and want to play to a higher amount - something I’ve seen more than once.)

Some comments on the game...

1.) Components: These decks are going to take a lot of damage, since cards are being thrown, hurled, slammed, shuffled, and grabbed on a continual basis. Fortunately, Goldbrick Games have done a good job here, producing cards of excellent quality. And although a few of mine have bent slightly from overzealous players, they still look pretty good, considering that they have been through some hellish games. The box is really nice, with slots for all six decks, as well as two more decks that can be ordered off the website - gold and silver. The numbers on the cards are very easy to distinguish, and the names of the colors are also printed on the cards - allowing for color-blind players to enjoy the game. My only minor quibble was that the six and the nine got confusing. The six had a line underneath it to distinguish it, but in the heat of the moment - a LOT of people in the games I’ve played have mistaken the “9” for the “6”. I tell them that it’s there fault, and it’s probably a hard thing to fix, because when speed is a factor, one’s brain gets fuzzy. The box has nice artwork on it, and holds all the decks securely.

2.) Rules: The game is easy as pie to teach. A few of those I taught had already played Dutch Blitz, and they picked up the game in about 1 minute. Others had a slower time getting started, but after one round, felt fairly comfortable playing the game. The only rule that some people have a hard time getting used to is that players must play cards with only one hand. (And no slapping or hitting each other either! Shouldn’t have to mention that, but these teachers I play with....)

3.) Speed: Look, speed is not everyone’s thing. I know that I’m really not that good at it, which is why I usually try to steer clear from real-time card games, as I tend to lose. But even though I go into Perpetual Commotion with the preconceived knowledge that I’m going to lose, I don’t mind - because it’s so much fun. And I just might win a round or two (I’m getting better). There are definitely some people who will want to stay away from this type of game, but I’m betting that even if they wouldn’t enjoy playing the game, they would enjoy standing around watching the chaos and confusion.

4.) Dutch Blitz: I’ve said the name of this game often in this review, and the similarities are striking. However, Perpetual Commotion is different enough to be played on it’s own, and it’s certainly more fun. One big difference is that while Perpetual Commotion has the miniscule possibility of “jamming up” - something I’ve never seen happen - it will happen FAR less than in Dutch Blitz. The game also runs more smoothly, and it helps that everyone has an identical deck of cards. The “Start” and “Stop” cards are especially nice, as they are in all four colors, making them a whole lot easier to play.

5.) Fun Factor: As I said before, the game is almost as fun to watch, as it is to play. When you slam your “5” down on the table milliseconds before one of your opponents, it’s quite satisfying and fun. (Unless your hand gets slapped). Yelling, groaning, laughing, and many other strange noises occur during each round - and it’s a lot of fun! Even though I’ve had some pretty low negative scores - I’ve still enjoyed each and every game I’ve played.

6.) Die: Rolling a die at the end of each round makes the game more interesting. There is a fifty percent chance that the next round will be scored differently, and everyone always chants for the person to roll an “8”. This may bother some, as it adds some luck to the game, but I think that it’s a fine way to keep a runaway leader in check (at least a little).

7.) BGDF: Taking an okay game, and making it much better - this is a fantastic independantly produced game. For one thing, you get piles of cards, which is nice, and the cards of good quality. I think it's worth it to add the extra cost when producing a game to get the better cards. It will certainly help this game.

This game isn’t for everyone, especially those who move and think thoughtfully. Speed demons will love the game, on the other hand, and even those of us who move at a normal pace will have quite a bit of fun. It’s a loud, raucous game; one that’s fun to watch and play. And if that’s the kind of game you are looking for, then I encourage you to pick one up. Don’t expect a brain burner, though; it’s just a loud, fast fun time.

Tom Vasel

“Real men play board games”

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