It’s hard to believe, but it’s been almost 30 years since Groundhog Day was released. And finally, while we continue to endure what often seems like our own version of Phil Connor stuck in a time loop, we can play Groundhog Day: The Game.
What Is Groundhog Day: The Game?
Groundhog Day: The Game is a cooperative game for 2-6 players, ages 10 and up, and takes about 15 minutes to play (each time). It’s currently available from Amazon and your local friendly game store. (Note that as an Amazon affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases.)
Groundhog Day: The Game was designed by Prospero Hall and published by Funko Games.
Groundhog Day: The Game Components
Inside the box, you’ll find:
- 60 cards (12 selfish, 12 wild, 12 nice, 12 learning, and 12 perfect)
- 1 alarm clock tile
- 1 groundhog marker
- 26 score tokens
- 1 sand timer
- 1 game board
The components are all well made and are of the quality you’d expect from a first-rate publisher like Funko.
The majority of components are in the deck of cards. They’re a bit of a strange size, about half way between poker cards and those annoying mini cards some games like to use. The 60 cards are split into five categories, but are all part of a single deck. Each card has a nice big number in the top corner and between zero and four hearts on the bottom. These are the only two items that matter for game play.
The cards also feature artwork, showing some small element from the movie. I didn’t notice at all at first, but they are all also shown from the point of view of Phil Connors.
The five categories of cards relate to the number of hearts at the bottom. They are also color-coded. The “selfish” cards have a grey background and zero hearts. Wild cards are blue with one heart. (It’s worth noting here that the names of the categories relate to Phil’s activities – he’s being selfish, or being nice, or learning. So “wild” here refers to his wild activities, rather than the normal use of that word in card games where these cards can be used to stand in for other cards.) Nice cards are orange with two hearts, learning cards are yellow with three hearts, and perfect cards are red with four hearts.
The Groundhog marker is a wooden piece with Punxsutawney Phil screened on both sides.
The sand timer is a normal 1-minute timer, but is also optional, as the game does have a companion app that can be used as the timer instead.
The alarm clock and the scoring tokens are both made from nice thick cardboard. The scoring tokens are nicely designed, with numbers that look like the old alarm clock faces. They are numbered 0-9, and while I’m not going to do the math, I assume their unequal distribution is calculated to allow players to show any score they might need to during the game.
The board is a long, narrow strip that provides spaces above for the starting perfect cards, spaces below for game play, and a track for Punxsutawney Phil to move along.
How to Play Groundhog Day: The Game
You can download a copy of the rulebook here.
The goal of the game is play a “perfect day,” where all seven cards that are played are from the “perfect” category.
Place the game board somewhere on the table with plenty of space below it to play cards. As with many cooperative games, this one has three levels of difficulty, determined by the starting space of the groundhog, so you place the marker on space 24 if playing standard difficulty, 22 if playing hard, and 20 if playing “heckfire.”
After removing the six “perfect” cards with black numerals, shuffle the rest of the deck. Place the removed cards above the board in the spaces indicated, counting up.
Place the score tokens and alarm clock within easy reach of everyone. If using the sand timer, also place it near the board; alternatively, download the app.
The person whose birthday is closest to February 2 is the dealer for the game.
The game is played in a series of rounds, but there are no turns: everyone plays simultaneously during the round.
To begin, the dealer deals cards equal to the number shown under the Groundhog. If the number does not result in a equal distribution, some players may get more cards than others. Players keep their hands hidden.
Before anyone looks at their hands, everyone is allowed to talk freely and strategize. Once they’re done, everyone puts a hand on the alarm clock to indicate they’re ready. The deal then flips the sand timer (or starts the app) and play begins.
During each round, players can play any card from their hand to the lowest row under the board. Cards must be played left-to-right, and in ascending, but not necessarily sequential, order. In other words, a player may start by playing a 2 card to the left-most space. Another player, or the player who just played the 2, can then play any number higher than a 2 to the next spot.
Play continues like this until the group has played all 7 cards for that round, or until the timer runs out.
Players may not communicate during the round. If a player puts down a card that is higher than any in your hand, you place all of those now-dead cards face-up on the table in front of you.
Some cards unlock the “perfect” cards at the top of the board. When unlocked, these cards will be added to the deck for the next round, making the next round a bit easier.
Once the round ends by playing seven cards or if the timer runs out, players check to see if they won or lost.
First, if all seven of the cards were perfect cards, the players win.
If all seven cards were played but at least one was not a perfect card, then players set up for a new round. First, they collectively score for the round the total of the hearts on the seven cards they played. It’s always the goal to try for the lowest point score possible. Next, the dealer collects any cards left in any players’ hands, along with any unlocked perfect cards, and then shuffles the deck. The groundhog is moved one space to the right, the dealer deals cards equal to the groundhog’s new location, and play resumes with a new round. Note that all of the cards that are played remain on the table.
The game ends when a round ends and one of several things is true:
- If the players played seven perfect cards, they win.
- If the players do not play seven cards before the timer runs out, they lose.
- If the players do not have a combined score at the end of the round that is higher than the previous round, they lose.
- If players have collectively already played six perfect cards, they lose.
Why You Should Play Groundhog Day: The Game
Groundhog Day: The Game is a nice, light “filler” game that is easy to learn, plays quickly, and yet still has some nice strategic elements.
Setup is fast, and each round takes just a few minutes to play. The components are nicely designed. I particularly appreciate that the cards are very easy to read, with the two important elements for game play–the number of the card and the hearts it will score–taking a prominent place.
I also appreciate the timer app. Any game where a timer is important that just provides a sand timer is frustrating, since you have to be actively looking at the timer to see when it is done. The app is noisy–it plays a polka song while active–so there’s no chance you’ll miss knowing when time has expired.
And like any good cooperative game, there are many ways to lose and only one to win. I recently saw a post online by a person saying that they didn’t like a particularly popular cooperative game because they said they played it twice and won easily both times. I can pretty much guarantee they were playing that game wrong for that to happen, and the same applies here: we lost the first time we played, which is pretty much what I would expect from a well-designed co-op.
That said, the game isn’t without its faults, and the biggest one here is the theme. There’s absolutely nothing in the game that doesn’t in some way relate to the movie, and yet, when playing, those thematic elements are almost entirely lost. There’s no time to stop and read the flavor text on the cards, and while there are nice relationships between cards: the number 10 yellow card is “learn ice sculpting,” and that unlocks the 12 perfect card “sculpt Rita,” but again, in the time-pressured atmosphere of gameplay, all you’re going to look at is that this 10-value card unlocks that 12 card up there.
I’ve, somewhat unintentionally, played a lot of movie-themed games over the last two years. A lot of them beautifully capture the feel of the movie and either take you back to the feeling you had in watching the movie or, in the very best ones, inspire you to go track down the film on a streaming network and watch it again. I love Groundhog Day, but unfortunately this game didn’t make me want to go watch it again.
Thankfully, the issues with the theme only kind of distract from what is otherwise a fun, like, cooperative game. My disappointment that it doesn’t make me want to shout “watch the first step–it’s a doozy!” while playing is placated by the fact that I did have fun playing it.
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.