BONNIE AND CLYDE (Abacusspiele/Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, ages 8 and up, 45 minutes, $24.95)
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were two gun-toting outlaws who ran wild in the American heartland during the early 1930s. The duo received additional notoriety as the subjects of a very successful film in 1967 which helped makes stars of Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty in the title roles. Now, this pistol-packin' pair makes a reappearance as the subjects for Bonnie and Clyde, the latest entry in the Mystery Rummy series of card games designed by Mike Fitzgerald.
Bonnie and Clyde comes in a rather bigger box than the standard Mystery Rummy game. Besides the cards, the game comes with two additional components: a board and a getaway car. The 77 card deck consists of 60 evidence cards numbered 1 through 10 (six of each), 15 Ted Hinton cards (named for the lawman involved in tracking the pair down) and 1 card each of Bonnie and Clyde.
The Hinton and evidence cards are shuffled together and eight dealt out. The Bonnie and Clyde cards are added to these and the ten cards shuffled. The board is divided into 10 sections and is a graphic depiction of a Bonnie and Clyde timeline, from their escape in 1932 from a bungled burglary to their deaths in 1934. One card is placed, face down, below each of the 10 sections.
Players are now dealt a starting hand (8 to 10 cards depending on how many players). Remaining cards form a draw deck with the top card turned over to start the discard pile. On a turn, a player MUST draw a card (either the top card from the discard pile OR the top card from the draw deck). He MAY then play cards and, to finish his turn, MUST discard a card.
As in other games in the series, players make melds of three or more cards to score points. You may also "lay off" cards that match previously played melds. So, for example, if a meld of "7"s is made, you or an opponent may subsequently play (or lay off) a single 7 card. But a few twists to the basic gameplay give the game its own character.
Ted Hinton cards have several uses. When played, they may be used to draw two additional cards. Alternatively, the play of a Hinton card permits a player to go through the discards and pick out one card of his choice (but NOT another Ted Hinton card). A Hinton card may also be used to allow you a peek at any of the face down cards by the board.
The getaway car starts on the board on section 1. When a meld is played, the car MUST move up a section. If a card is laid off on a meld, the car may move up OR down one section (player's choice). In addition, a player playing a meld or laying off a card may look at the card that matches the number of the meld (or card) played. The player may then take that card into his hand (if he/she so wishes) UNLESS it is either Bonnie or Clyde. The only time Bonnie or Clyde can be "captured" is if the getaway card rests on the same section as Bonnie or Clyde. Otherwise, the player must return Bonnie or Clyde, face down as he or she found them. And it's good to get Bonnie or Clyde (or both) as they impact on scoring.
Players receive two points per card when making a meld. Laying off a card will also net you two points. Should you make a meld or lay off a card with the same number as the section where the getaway car is currently located, scores for those cards are doubled! If a player manages to play all his cards thereby ending the round, he receives a bonus number of points equal to the space the getaway car is occupying. (Alternatively, if the draw deck is depleted, the game also ends.) The player or players who have Bonnie or Clyde cards in their holdings add 10 points each to their scores. Even better, if one player manages to corral BOTH Bonnie and Clyde AND be the one who goes out, he is the ONLY player that scores. Everybody else comes up empty! The first player to score 100 points (or more) wins.
Bonnie & Clyde fits in well with the theme of the series. Ted Hinson cards get most of their use in allowing players to draw two cards at a time but also make melds easier as you can pluck a needed card from the discard pile. But melds take on another dimension as a timing factor is introduced. Managing to lay off cards and melds in order to get the getaway car is in the "right" position to double points and capture Bonnie and/or Clyde takes hand management to another level, adding another strata to the strategy. Unfortunately, Bonnie and Clyde notwithstanding, the real crime here is the game's graphic design.
The box cover art to Bonnie and Clyde is both evocative and striking, capturing the ambiance and mood of the 1930s and the cold, anti-social nature of the infamous criminals from which the game takes its name. The artwork on the cards is actually quite good too, creating a tableau of sorts of vintage scenes for each set of numbers. The irony here though is that the card artwork, as good as it is, undermines the game play!
First of all, the font used for numbers on the cards virtually disappears within the graphics! The numbers are hard to see when the cards are in your hand; they are virtually impossible to see from across the table. The designer is cognizant of this problem and has suggested using chips on the board to indicate played melds. A good suggestion to which I'd add actually calling out the numbers of melds played to alert everyone as to which are in play. Another graphic blunder is not having the numbers printed on at least two edges of each card; numbers are only on one. This forces you to fan your hand in order to see what you have instead of holding cards in the more convenient and traditional, poker-style, formation. If there was ever a need for a second printing with improved graphic design, this is it! A non-crucial yet amusing graphic touch is the getaway car. The wooden piece is carved into a car shape but is colored bright ORANGE! Hard to imagine Bonnie and Clyde knocking off a bank and racing down the road in such a conspicuous vehicle.
The Mystery Rummy series of games has long been a favorite of mine. Not only did I write up the first entry in the series (Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper) way back in the Fall 1998 issue of Gamers Alliance Report but I also contributed a review of the game to GAMES magazine. Bonnie and Clyde is a welcome member to the Mystery Rummy series, combining solid gameplay with a theme that works. But, like Bonnie and Clyde, the game has been ambushed. Not by a posse this time but by graphics that nearly makes it unplayable and a challenge I suspect the designer never expected.- - Herb Levy
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