When running away from a hungry bear, you don’t have to be the fastest, just faster than the slowest person.
What Is Run! The Card Game?
Run! The Card Game is a draw and discard card game designed by Mario Estioko for 2 to 6 players, ages 8 and up, and takes about 30 minutes to play. It is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with a pledge of $25 for a copy of the game. There’s also a $35 pledge which includes the base game plus the Grizzly Expansion Pack with 10 unique special cards. Additional pledges offer the Baby Bear Bank or other option items such as the prototype decks of the game. The gameplay is not difficult and can be fine for younger players who can add and subtract single digit numbers. While the concept of running for your life from a bear may seem scary, the theme is light and humorous as reflected by the original art on the cards.
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Disclosure: Mario Estioko is an acquaintance of mine. However, the opinions in this article are my own.
Note: My review is based on a prototype copy, so it is subject to change and may not reflect final component quality. The artwork on the cards is planned to be improved.
Here’s what comes in the game:
- 104 Standard and Special Cards
- 18 Life tokens (3 per player)
From the list of components, it is clear this is a card game. The life tokens for the prototype were plastic chips; however, according to the designer and depending on stretch goals for the campaign, these may be upgraded to colorful tokens of some type. The artwork on the cards are all created by Mario Estioko, the game designer and a professor of graphic design at California State University, Sacramento as well as the creator of Incompatibles, an online cartoon series. While the prototype cards had a hand-drawn look, the art on the final cards will be an airbrush style as shown below.
How to Play Run!
In Run!, players take on the role of hikers out the woods who are running away from a hungry grizzly bear. As the old adage goes, when running from a bear, you don’t have to run faster than the bear, just faster than the slowest person. The goal of the game is to be the last person standing—the only player who has not lost all their life tokens.
This is an easy game to setup. After shuffling the entire deck of 104 cards, each player is dealt three cards and given three life tokens. The top card of the deck is turned over and placed next to the deck to form the discard pile. That’s it. You don’t have time for any other preparation since the bear is coming after you.
Run! is played in a series of rounds. The starting player can either take a card from the top of the deck or the top of the discard pile. They then discard a card from their hand to bring it back down to three cards. They can discard the card they just picked up. Play then passes to the next player and so forth, drawing and discarding. The standard cards have numbers ranging from -2 to +7 on each of them. Players add up the values of the cards in their hand to get their total. The highest you can have is a 21. At any time, if a player thinks they have a winning hand, on their turn the player can forgo drawing a card and instead hit the table and yell “RUN!” Each of the other players gets one more turn and then all players show their cards. The player with the lowest score loses a life token. There is one exception to this rule: if you have all negative cards in your hand, you “play dead” and the bear runs right past you and you avoid losing a life token. If there is a tie for the lowest score, the deck is fanned out and these players each draw a card. The player drawing the lowest valued card is the loser of that round.
While this can be fun in itself, the deck also includes several special cards. The most common is Adrenaline with a lightning bolt in the upper right corner instead of a number. The Adrenaline card takes on the value of the highest numerical card in your hand, even if it is a negative number. If you end up with three Adrenaline cards in your hand, the value is equal to 21. Want to get ahead of the pack of running hikers so you are not the loser of the round? Then play a sabotage card. These cards have a -7 on them and clever names such as Meat Necklace or Honey Bomb. After all players have shown their cards at the end of the round, starting with the player who called “RUN!”, sabotage cards can be placed on opponents hands. Players using sabotage cards then have to try to compete with the other hands with their two remaining cards. There are two Switcheroo cards in the deck as well. When one is drawn, the player must immediately place it down. Each player then selects a card from their hand and passes it either to the left or right as directed by the Switcheroo card.
Within the deck are two other special cards. If you draw the Miraculous Heli-Save, hold on to it until the end of the round and a helicopter drops down a ladder and lifts you to safety. While this seems like the most powerful card in the game, there is one even more powerful—Baby Bear Hugs. Don’t let the cute little cub fool you. The skull on the corner of the card should be a clue. As the baby bear embraces you in a hug, the bear chasing your group goes right after you. Baby Bear Hugs is immediately revealed when it is drawn and given to another player who must lose a life token. Not even the Miraculous Heli-Save can save you. That round is over. When either Baby Bear Hugs or Miraculous Heli-Save is played, all cards are shuffled back into the deck so there is always the possibility of these two cards coming into play each round.
Winning the Game
In order to win a game of Run!, you must be the last player with life tokens remaining. However, just because you lose all three of your life tokens, the game is not yet over for you because of Ghosting. These life tokenless players still play each round. However, they cannot declare a RUN! and their final points do not factor into the results at the end of the round. Ghosting players can still play sabotage cards and Baby Bear Hugs.
Why You Should Play Run!
Run! is a game that is easy to learn, quick to set up and get started, and keeps all players engaged until the very end. The game is very family friendly and can even be played by younger children. If they have difficulty adding and subtracting, as long as they understand that they want to get high numbers in their hand, or all negative numbers, they can still play along. Older children and adults can then help them calculate a total at the end of the round.
The theming of this game really adds to the play. The cartoon art on the cards is humorous and makes trying to avoid being eaten by a bear fun rather than scary. The names and art on the cards reflect the values. As mentioned previously, the sabotage cards are items that will make your opponents more attractive to the bear, such as Chum Cologne. Fleeing Merit Badge and Mountain Man Mojo are both cards with +7 while Churros is a 0. Squeaky Feet and You Smell Like Chili are both -1.
The special cards add a lot of player interaction to the game. Nothing ruins a great plan for a player sitting with 21 in their hand than someone playing a Switcheroo after RUN! has been declared. Now that player has to pass one of their 7 cards and receive someone else’s low card. Sabotage cards, which are played after everyone has laid down their hands, can be given to help ensure the one who holds it does not end up as the loser and spoil the chances of another player. Altogether, the special cards provide a “take that” aspect to the game with Baby Bear Hugs being the ultimate card to play on others.
Even if you lose all your life tokens, the game is not over for you. Instead you continue to play and can have an influence on who eventually wins. Discard high value cards for living players to pick up or play a Baby Bear Hug on that player that caused you to lose your last life token. Ghosting is a great way to keep everyone playing right to the very end and makes losing less painful.
The gameplay mechanic of draw a card then discard a card makes the game move very quickly, even with five or six players. There is no down time because players are watching what others discard and try to determine when their hand is good enough to not lose the round. Since players can declare a RUN! whenever they want on their turn, players have to stay on their toes. If you start off with a 20 or 21, there is no reason to wait and let other players improve their hands. As there are more players in the game, a 17 or 18 might be good enough to start a RUN! Even if you are dealt a hand with negative numbers, the ability to “play dead” with three negative cards can turn a losing hand into a safe hand.
Run! plays quickly. Each round lasts only a minute or two, sometimes even less. A four player game lasts 11 rounds and a six player game 17 rounds. Therefore, you can play an entire game in 15 to 30 minutes in most cases. This makes Run! a game you can play several times during an evening, a fast game for playing during a lunch break, or a great way to start a game night while waiting for everyone to arrive or for finishing the evening with some light-hearted fun. My family has had the opportunity to play the prototype of this game several times. If the noise volume in the room is any sign (as we yelled out RUN!, laughed, and even groaned) , then everyone had a great time playing this game.
For more information or to make a pledge, visit the Run! The Card Game Kickstarter page!
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a prototype of this game for review purposes.