Designer: James Wallace Gray
Year Published: 2014
Players: 2 – 4
Playtime: 15 – 30 minutes
Reviewer: Luke Muench
Card-shedding games are a rare breed in the board gaming hobby. Up until this point, the genre has been relegated to kids games, characterized by Uno and Old Maid. And with the recent boom of deck-builders, the lopsided reflection of shedding games, there’s been little interest in seeing the revival of the rather short-lived niche.
Luckily, one brave man, James Gray, had a vision; what if Crazy Eights got a little… interesting? What if each card offered choices, requiring smart decisions each turn rather than mindlessly tossing cards into a pile?
With this simple concept in mind, Crazier Eights was born, composed of a humble pack of 53 cards, a reference card, and a rulebook. The cards themselves are made of plastic, which might be a polarizing choice to some, but I enjoy the feel of them sitting in my hands. The art is pulled from classic paintings and images, and while work from multiple artists has been used, it all blends together unnoticeably, never feeling distracting or irritating. The rulebook lays out the information well enough, but for the most part, the only thing you’ll need to refer to is the reference card, which clearly and conveniently describes the pertinent rules.
Now, let’s get this out of the way; the Arthurian theme is thoroughly pasted onto Crazier Eights. None of the card abilities really have anything to do with what’s depicted, and you’ll never feel engaged or invested in the going-ons of Camelot. And that’s more than okay. For a game like this, theme is barely a factor that needs to be considered. Still, it’s worth noting that this isn’t the game for you if you’re looking for dueling knights and dragon slaying.
Crazier Eights tasks players with trying to get rid of all of their cards as quickly as possible; the first player to do so wins. You’ll do this by strategically playing some of your cards for abilities while tossing others if the central pile allows it.
On your turn, each player will cycle through a handful of phases. After drawing a card, players will have the option to play a card from their hand for its ability as well as discard a card. There are two types of cards, Events and Assets. Events are one-time use actions that affect the game state before being discarded, whereas assets sit out in front of whoever played them, providing passive buffs or taking effect at the beginning or end of a player’s turn. While you can play any card for its effect that you like, you may only discard a card if it shares a number or symbol/color with the face-up card at the top of the central pile. Eights act as wilds, with the player discarding the card declaring the next symbol/color. This process continues until one player is left victorious.
Much of the flavor and intrigue of this game comes from the abilities that have been included, making the game feel like a mash-up of Uno and Fluxx. Alternate win conditions will be revealed, players will force one another to draw extra cards, one person might steal assets from another. It’s all very hectic and goofy, allowing for an at-ease and lighthearted gaming experience. Make no mistake, Crazier Eights, as the name suggests, is no more strategic than its predecessor. Rather, it aims to add new elements of screw-your-neighbor and randomness that simply makes it more fun, playing into its already established strengths rather than reinventing the game. Most turns will end in raucous laughter as everyone marvels at whatever wildly powerful card combinations have been played and activated.
Honestly, there’s little else that can be said. If you aren’t already sold on Crazier Eights, you’re not going to be. It isn’t terribly deep, and offers exactly what you see. It can be fun with the right crowd, but it won’t be for everyone. Still, if you’re interested in a light and relaxed card game, this is a pretty fun and good-looking option.