One of my biggest gaming surprises this year has been from Edo Baraf’s newest game, GemPacked cards. At first glance I thought the game was a cute looking app like game, something along the lines of bejewled or candy crush, a bit basic and uninteresting, a game that I would almost instantly lose interest in. I was so very wrong about that.
The game of GemPacked deceives you into thinking it is more simple than it really is. This is how it draws you into it’s lair and puts you under its charm spell. What you find when you get into playing the game is that there is a challenging, competitive, and fun mental exercise that you can enjoy with your friends!
When you play GemPacked your mission is to end the game with the highest value of Geminos. You will start each turn by acquiring two valueless pips of various colors. During the game you will be trading these pips in for squares and diamonds that are worth more points depending on what combinations are used. The trick is being able to judiciously choose which cards to trade for off the board in order to make great combinations and create more points.
There is not a whole lot of interaction between players in this game. Mostly you will be focused on what combinations you can put your Geminos in to get the highest supply of points. The exception to this is in the rocket and action cards.
Each game will have a small set of rocket cards that are very high in value. To gain these cards players have to spend the exact combination of Geminos shown on the rocket to gain them. If you are a highly competitive player like me you will be keeping an eye on your competitors to make sure they don't get the cards they need to complete these objectives and gain them for yourself.
The game also has some fun action cards that help shake the game up a bit. The Chomet card can destroy and replace the cards around it often laying waste to all your plans and forcing you to adapt to all the new options it lays in its trail of destruction.
Asteroid cards also come along from time to time sprinkling extra Gemino pips upon other players. These cards really help ramp up the game where there is a potential for staleness and gives a swift kick in the pants to the in game economy.
One other interesting tidbit is that Gem Packed is also available as an app version that has been released concurrently with its kickstarter launch. It is currently only available on IOS and as a droid user I have yet to have an opportunity to try the app version of this game but I'm sure that it could give you a glimpse at how well you might enjoy the tabletop version of this game.
The game plays well with both older and younger players and the game balances nicely to allow everyone a chance to win. It can also double as a great learning lesson to teach children the color wheel and a bit of basic math.
The math bit can be a double edged sword though. Even though trading things in and constantly upgrading can be a fun activity some players felt like the game was just doing the same bit of "color math" over and over. As a teacher of this game it falls on you to inject some theme and story into this game of collecting cute little gem people and potentially sending them off into space. Since the game has stellar graphic design and artwork but prefers to leave it's gameplay in abstraction this can be a difficult thing to explain.
The game could also benefit from offering some player aids. There was a good deal of rulebook passing as we all needed to study the conversion chart for certain Geminos. This process created a bit of a slowdown in a game that shines best when play is quick.
GemPacked cards is currently seeking funding on kickstarter and is moving along at a nice pace, sitting at 25% nearly a week into its campaign. The $25 dollar price tag is a bit close to what this would retail for in stores but I think it is still a very fair price tag and is worth backing to see this on store shelves. I think this game would thrive excellently in a retail environment but it needs a push from people like you and I to get it there.
I recommend backing this game. The charming artwork, quick play time, and simple yet challenging mechanisms click together well to form a great game that you can play if you want to idly kill a small amount of free time. It's cute theme will work well to introduce new and young gamers to tabletop gaming and it's small size aids in making this an ideal game to travel with for play in restaurants, flights, and hotels.
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Caveat: All images in this review are from a preproduction review copy of GemPacked cards! and are not indicative of final production values. This copy was provided free of charge to the reviewer in exchange for an honest and unbiased review of the game. No financial recompense was offered or accepted in exchange for positive or negative reviews.