Rushin’ Roulette (Rushin’ Roulette, 2018)

Dates played: April 2 and April 4, 2020

Basic details: 2-6 players; 5-15 minutes

Gist of the game: The premise is loosely based on Russian Roulette, though you have some control over whether you get a bullet or blank.

Start the game with 3 characters in an order only you know. You also start the game with 3 ammo cards, 1 of which you will load into your pistol (a spot above your character lineup. This will be the only ammo card you generally know the identity of. Between your characters, your pistol, the community chambers, your opponent’s pistol, and your opponent’s character lineup, the table will be configured 3-1-3-1-3). On each turn you will pull a trigger (from your pistol, your opponent’s pistol, or one of the three community bullet chambers). After revealing what was in the chamber, you reveal the character who was in the line of fire and carry out their “blank” or “bullet” action depending on what the card was. Reload your pistol if that’s the chamber you emptied (or if you want to change what’s in the chamber). Make sure the community chambers are fully loaded, and draw your hand back up to 3 ammo cards.

Color commentary: First, this was a Kickstarter purchase that I’m pretty sure I made because the artwork is really fun, and sure enough, the first thing M says when I put the box in his hands is “the artwork’s cool.” (M here to say that the first thing I comment on is almost always the art, because it is the easiest thing to evaluate and quite a few games have excellent art.)

More importantly, I benefited and won multiple games from M forgetting what he put in his own pistol and repeatedly shooting himself, which felt a little like the Rabbit Season, Duck Season Looney Tunes cartoon. Once he got the hang of that (and in fairness, we played the first few games pretty late, so we were both tired), it was much more evenly matched in terms of final outcome. (M actually won both games we played on more even footing, and not coincidentally is the one writing this sentence.)

Thoughts from M: I think this game is a game theorist’s playground. While there’s some strategy to character placement at the beginning of the game, there’s not much, and the order of the cards may get shuffled anyway because of character effects. The real strategy is in choosing which trigger to pull and the extent to which you can trick your opponent into shooting a bullet from your pistol and exploit your opponent trying to plant a blank for themselves in their own pistol and when you can deduce a totally unknown card from the community chamber is actually more likely to be favorable than either individual pistol. Very Battle of Wits, a la “The Princess Bride.”

I really like the ammo fumble card pictured in the collage) because if you’re bluffing by putting bullets in your own pistol, if your opponent doesn’t pull the trigger and then you don’t either on your next turn, you’ve basically exposed what ammo card you played. The ammo fumble card randomizes what’s in all the chambers and makes it truly chance again, all around, for that trigger pull, at least. When played again, I would like to experiment with the use of randomness to keep the opponent guessing, but this is risky because you have, at most, two cards that can be sacrificed in doing so.

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