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Review: Odd World

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In 1930 Clyde Tombaugh at the Lowell Observatory positively confirmed the presence of Planet X, already theorized to exist by means and observations that I do not understand nor could possibly explain.  At any rate, thanks to his discovery our solar system grew to nine planets!  Which, despite being odd, is such a complete and beautiful number.  It’s how many muses there are.  All the worlds connected by Yggdrasil.  The number of innings in baseball.  The Brady household.  It’s easily the best cloud.  And it just happens to be the number of the body’s doors in Yoga (okay, never mind, that one’s just kind of weird).  Most important of all, it symbolizes the dragon in Chinese culture!  Yeah, that’s right – DRAGON!  But then in 2006, some brass-knuckled enforcers at the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto to its current and degrading “dwarf planet” status.  I guess they had nothing better to do after enacting such cosmically important policies like letting average Joe schmucks name stars after their girlfriends.  So now we have just eight planets.  Eight!  I mean, what can you do with that?  What a stupid number.

How to Play

Odd World is a quick-playing, set collection card game with a very simple, yet compellingly clever push-your-luck mechanism.  More importantly it justly returns Pluto to its honored cosmic status.

The goal in this dwarf game (see how insulting that sounds, IAU…?!?!) is to collect sets of planets – including but not limited to Pluto.  The catch is that only sets comprising an odd number are worth points.  Any set of even numbers is worthless.  Each card back illustrates two of the nine possible planets in our solar system.  And one of those two will be represented on its front face, as well.  So you have a 50/50 idea of what planet is on a given card.

This deck is shuffled – thoroughly – and then split evenly into two smaller piles.  On your turn, you choose one card from the top of either deck and before revealing it decide whether to keep it or give it to another player.  Then the card is revealed and added to whoever’s collection you decided.

All set and ready to explore the solar system!
All set and ready to explore the solar system!

That’s it.  Really, that’s all there is to gameplay.  It’s up to you to figure out how to make sure you have five Mercurys while sticking Copernicus over there with four Saturns or Kepler across the table with a pair of Neptunes.

The game ends as soon as one player has collected at least one of each planet.  That’s NINE sets!  Or when the decks run out.  For each planetary set of odd numbers, you earn one point per card.  For each pair, or otherwise even numbered set of planets you get what rocks dream of.

The winner gets to throw eggs at Ron Ekers, president of the International Astronomical Union during Pluto’s darkest days.  Ah, heck, the losers can do that, too!  Such egregious injustice demands redressing!

Please, no Uranus jokes.
Please, no Uranus jokes.

To (Include) Pluto or Not to (Include) Pluto? That is the Question!

Well, without it, they’d only have eight planets.  In the game, I mean.  And that’s not very odd.  As in numbers.  Which would make a game called Odd World kind of, well, odd.  Not as in the mathematical sense.  But as in strange.  So instead of being odd, it’d just be really odd.

Hopefully you’re still with me, because I’m totally lost.

In spite of its basic premise, Odd World fits with just about any gaming group – and fits well.  Or perhaps it’s so protean precisely because of its simplicity?  At first glance it might seem a one-off title with little to offer other to than kids or family.  But there is some surprising versatility in this little tin.

Starting with the obvious demographic, yes, Odd World is extremely accessible and therefore perfect for families – even those with kids as young as Kindergarten.  Wee little ones won’t fully grasp the intricacies of sticking opponents with a card to create an even set, but they can start learning how to process that kind of move.  Even without the subtleties, the rules are easy to teach and learn and gameplay straight-forward.

Then there is Odd World’s educational value.  Your kids won’t be ready for the NASA entrance examination, but it’s a fun way to teach them the basics of our microscopic speck in the universe.  A mini booklet includes basic facts about each planet.  The sturdy cards are colorfully illustrated and its best to arrange your sets in their astronomical line-up as you play.  My girls happily already knew that order, though I admit to some consternation when one of my 8-year olds proudly boasted My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nachos.  Nachos?!  What in the world happened to Nine Pizzas?!  Oh, yeah, thanks a lot IAU.  It’s been but ten short years and already a new generation is indoctrinated with your filth.

My Very Eager Mother only earns 4 points here. Hmphf!
My Very Eager Mother only earns 4 points here. Hmphf!

Odd World is far more than a simple-minded, kids-friendly educational design, though.  Its easygoing structure is aptly suited to casual players and familial peers.  It’s not as old-hat or strategically understated as a classic card game.  Instead, it’s somewhat unique to provide a refreshing experience.  Still, the set collection is intuitively familiar.  You have a chance to mess up your opponents, which is great for social gaming. And the push-your-luck element provides just the right amount of tension while generating laughs when successfully pulling off a gamble…or failing miserably at another.

Lastly, the design is fitting for hobbyists, too.  Now before you look at me as if I just told you the sun revolved around the Earth, that role is admittedly as a filler game.  The genre is an important one.  Gamers are always on the lookout for quick, portable designs that take a minute to explain and don’t use up much table space.  Alas many in this style are fairly mindless, even if fun – but still more effective in just wasting the time they’re meant to fill.  Odd World is a bit cleverer.  It’s base mechanism in deciding whether to keep or pass on planets means you’ll constantly be analyzing the table to inform your risks to some extent.  For even smarter play that veterans will appreciate, you can use a variant in which each player receives one secret card to start the game – revealing it only at the end or to initiate the end.  The added element allows for a smattering of bluff to spice up the surprise and risk.

Aside from these independent groups, Odd World builds a wonderful Bifröst between them all.  When gamers, casual players, families and kids can enjoy a smart, clever yet accessible design together…I’m hard-pressed to see the downside.  As a portable design you can carry and play anywhere, and at a completely reasonable price point, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to pick this one up.

Kids these days be like Pluto is NOT a planet!
Kids these days be like Pluto is NOT a planet!

While it won’t blast you into orbit, Odd World is nonetheless a clever little game.  It serves hobby gamers as a filler and works very well for young and casual players.  Simple, quick and portable it’s a breeze to teach.  And its basic give-or-take premise ratchets up towards the end to create some mild and amusing tension.  If you’re a fan of family fare, smart fillers or our solar system’s ninth planet, Odd World should be among your stars.  But you better hurry.  As soon as the revisionist astronomers at the IAU find out about this pro-Pluto propaganda piece, I’ve no doubt it’ll “mysteriously” disappear.

iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Fox Mind for providing a review copy of Odd World.

7 Out of 9 Planets

  • Rating 7.5
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Summary

Pros:

Its one elementary mechanism is quite clever
Versatile for its simplicity
Includes fun fast planetary facts
Recognizes Pluto’s rightful place in the solar system

Cons:

Need to shuffle REALLY well between games
Not as engaging with only two
Can get you arrested if IAU thugs discover you’re playing it (and they have powerful telescopes)

7.5 Good

I have lots of kids. Board games help me connect with them, while still retaining my sanity…relatively speaking.

Discussion2 Comments

  1. Pluto isn’t the first planet to be demoted – Ceres was a planet for the first 50 years of it’s life. In the 1820’s there were 11 planets fairly commonly listed – though there were disagreements about classification even then.

    http://solarviews.com/eng/ceres.htm

    Also, for what it’s worth, Ceres has been “upgraded” to a dwarf planet now, as it has achieved hydrostatic equilibrium (i.e. it is round).

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