Jaws was a terrifying movie when I was younger. Terrifying. I didn’t want to go near the ocean (not that I had much opportunity), and I was even suspicious of our landlocked Midwestern lakes.
But you know what is significantly less terrifying than a giant shark destroying boats and eating humans? A giant shark tearing unsuspecting swimming robots apart. See, that? That’s not terrifying. That’s just plain fun. That’s also the premise behind Get Bit!, the game where you don’t have to swim fast, just faster than your mechanical friends.
How It Works
Get Bit! is a simultaneous action selection game for 2-6 players. The goal of the game is to be at the front of the line when only two players remain.
Each player chooses a color and takes a robot and set of cards for that color. There are seven cards, but players will hold just one more card than the number of players. Players randomly arrange their robots in front of the shark token.
A turn follows three phases: choose cards, arrange robots, get bit.
First, each player chooses a card. The cards are simple number cards, and each player chooses one to play secretly and simultaneously. Once all players have chosen a card, players reveal the cards.
The second phase involves arranging the robots. The player who played the lowest number moves his or her robot farthest from the shark, then the next player in ascending order, and so on. The catch is that if any players chose the same number, their robots do not move.
Once all the number cards have been resolved, the robot closest to the shark gets bit. Each robot has four detachable limbs, and one of these is removed. That robot is placed farthest from the shark, its controlling player takes all played cards back into hand, and the game continues. (In the first round, there is no get bit phase.) Played cards are public knowledge, and they can be taken back into the hand only when either a player gets bit or when he or she has just one card in hand.
A player is eliminated when all four of his or her robot’s limbs are removed, and the game continues until all players but two have been eliminated. At that point, whoever is in the lead is the winner.
Shark Week or Jumping the Shark?
Get Bit! isn’t the kind of game you sit with for hours, or even an hour–maybe not even for a half hour. It is explained quickly, and plays almost just as quickly. But it is nearly perfect for what it is: a super fast filler.
Get Bit! succeeds because it knows exactly what it wants to be. The small, unassuming box. The plastic shark. The “dismembermen” robots with removable limbs. There is a single mechanism sustaining the game–simultaneous action selection–and the game knows that it must end quickly in order to leave players with a good taste in their mouths. Thus, the game’s timer moves inexorably toward the conclusion. It can go faster if players play poorly, but even if players play well, the game will not last more than five or ten minutes.
The reason is that every turn (aside from the first one) ends in a lost limb. Even in a six player game–playing with the full complement of players, and with good players who are reluctant to lose their limbs–there can be a maximum of 23 turns. When a turn takes seconds to complete, it’s safe to say the game moves quickly.
It’s good that Get Bit! moves quickly, as the central decision each turn is simple: choose a numbered card. But it’s exactly this simplicity that makes the game so much fun. I’m a big fan of distilled games–games that take interesting systems, boil out all of the unnecessary stuff that gets in the way of the core concept, and present a concentrated dose of exactly the kind of game you want to play. Get Bit! feels like a good distillation. It boils down a simultaneous action selection game (say, Libertalia) to its core consideration: based on the gameplay information I know, and based on what I know about the other players, which card will they choose to play? This also leaves room for players to bluff, reenacting the battle of wits scene from The Princess Bride turn after turn in their minds. Playing a high number is obvious–should I play low? Or will they think that I’ll play low? This gameplay of trying to guess what other players will do and do something clever to preempt them is exciting, and it also makes for a lively game. It’s not uncommon for laughter or loud groans to erupt when a plan goes awry. (And aiding this is the satisfying removal of limbs from the included robots.)
When I first encountered the game, I assumed that card plays in Get Bit! would more or less be random. But in Get Bit! players always have a choice. The choice may be restricted (especially if you are a good player and don’t get bit often), but you will always have one. The reason is that while played cards stay in front of players, a player gets all played cards back to use again if either they are bit or they have only one card in hand.
I like this rule because it works as a natural catch-up in the game. Similarly, the most recently bit character automatically jumps farthest from the shark. This may seem coddling, but rest assured: a bad player can still find his or her way to the bottom. (From my experience it is not impossible to be bit twice in a row.)
The game-winning condition has caused mixed reactions in the groups I’ve played with. It can seem unfair that the winning player is determined by whoever happens to be in first place at the moment the game ends. If a player who has not been bit during the game lags in this last moment, it seems unfair for the other player to win the game for little work. This seems straightforwardly unfair. So why did I say “mixed emotions”? Because it is very hard to take this game seriously. Winning and losing–yes, I suppose they matter; that’s why we’re playing games and not skipping rocks. But they don’t matter all that much in this game, which lasts only a few minutes. Good and bad play are rewarded and penalized enough in-game with the chomping shark that the end game condition is almost secondary.
The components in this game are mostly nice. I really like the robots, and everyone I’ve played the game with has almost enjoyed losing just to snap off the limbs. The included shark looks like a darker version of the Lego one. It’s a nice touch. The cardstock in this game isn’t very good. It feels kind like the stock used in Uno cards. However, while I’m usually a cardstock snob, it really has no effect on this game, and I don’t mind this effort to cut costs if it lowers the MSRP. Hardcore players may want to sleeve the cards to prevent markings that could tip other players off to what they’re playing, but really, if you’re trying to play Get Bit! at that level, it’s time to move on to something else.
Get Bit! lists a player count of two through six on the box, but the two- and three-player games are variants with players controlling multiple robots. I think the game works best when players are controlling a single robot, with their minds free to consider their opponents’ plays, but your mileage may vary. I did not get a chance to play this game with any kids, but my wife and I both commented how much fun we think our nieces and nephews will have with it. It seems only a slight step up complexity-wise from Toc Toc Woodman.
I think Get Bit! is a fantastic game in the right context. For me, it occupies a space similar to Coup–a game that’s great in moderation. Because the game tastes so good, the temptation is to want to play Get Bit! over and over again in a sitting, much the same way I feel like eating bowl after bowl of ice cream. (That isn’t just me, right? Right?!) But both of these would be a mistake. I’ve played Get Bit! in two-game sittings, and I think this is ideal. It gives new players a chance to play a practice game before the real game, and it keeps experienced players from tiring of it. Get Bit! combines the right amount of clever gameplay, zany situations, and opportunities for laughter into a small package that’s quick and easy to explain and understand. It’s great for multiple game nights if not too many games during the same game night. I think it’s a keeper.
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Mayday Games for providing us with a copy of Get Bit for this review.
You can purchase Get Bit! on Mayday Games’ website.