Dude, Where's my Cards?
The following review has been rated “R” for drinking and drug use, brief crude/sexual humor, thematic elements, did we mention drinking?, gameized nostalgia, shit you did that you wouldn't want your parents to know about, the use of the word “Shit” in the previous sentence and about 58 times later in this review and various other bits of immature content. Consider this the Parental Advisory sticker...so, like, hide it under your mattress. They'll never think to check there.
Stoner Parking Lot is not your traditional game and I'm not going to give it a traditional review. A conventional review would say it is a basic set collection game with literally one set to collect. Once you have the required cards, signal your partner and, if no other players besides your partner picks up on the signal, you earn a point. And that's it. The set you are collecting is always the same and consists of the following cards: Bong, Weed, Lighter, Pizza, Six Pack, and a Mix Tape. Forget the modern day incantation of “Phone, Wallet, Keys” that you recite to yourself every time you leave the house, if you are going to “go smoke” you need that mix tape. You know the one I'm talking about: where the last notes of Alice Cooper's “School's Out” blended perfectly with the rising guitar of Van Halen's “And The Cradle Will Rock” and it always made your friend's smile and nod at you every time they heard it. And that's only the first whiff of what becomes a billowing cloud of gameized nostalgia in Stoner Parking Lot. Of course you need a six-pack to finish your set collection, who went to a concert without “road beers?” Shit, Sammy Hagar's entire catalog of music before Van Halen revolved around cruising and boozing.
Since your hand consists of six cards and the collection you need is six different cards, your hand and the turns of the game are simple. Either take the top, face up card from the discard pile or blind draw from the deck. And then you start to giggle. Here you are, having collected the required cards, waiting to signal your partner, avoiding the glances of the other players but your partner is nose-deep in their hand, rearranging cards like your Grandma playing Pinochle. They finally glance up but now everyone is staring at you (well, you think they are staring at you), so you don't dare try to signal. But you can't stop giggling because, good god, how did they manage to spend 30 seconds (which felt like 30 minutes) rearranging 6 cards?
One of the rules is: No verbal clues. And, depending on your game group, is probably a good idea. A couple of players having knowledge of inside jokes throws off the balance. But an end of the night session with a bunch of close friends who are slightly buzzed? Fuck that rule. When you are all gasping for air, clutching your sides and literally laughing until you cry about “Get it in the hole, Stewart!” makes a slight game imbalance more than worth it. Hell, “Slightly Buzzed/End of the Night game" should be displayed right next to the number of players required....along with the warning that kicking your sister under the table to signal you are “Ready to Smoke” is not Cricket. *narrows eyes at wife*
If you don't have an even number of players, the odd player out is the Narc, they don't have a partner or a hand of cards and are just trying to intercept signals between teammates to earn points. This particular rule literally gave me a flashback to 1989. I took a road trip to the Avalon Theater in Chicago to see the Headbanger's Ball tour with Anthrax, Exodus, and Helloween. We waited with bated breath for the headliner Anthrax to start. A full on Blues Brother's intro had everyone hyped for the first song and the opening chords of “End all, Be All” started (Though, it's always “I am the Law” in my memory) and we all leapt on our seats, screaming at the top of our lungs. Suddenly, someone pushes me off my seat, I turned and said “What the fuck is your problem?”....to a 6”10 security guard who proceeded to escort me out of the venue and into the freezing Chicago winter, never letting my feet touch the floor, before the first song even finished. As the rest of my friends rocked out inside the concert, I made the acquaintance of a female concert goer who had also been ejected from the concert. We talked awhile and she asked me if I wanted to head over to her friend's van to warm up. I jumped at the chance and, while it turned out she had the latter two items of the chant “Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll” in mind, I read the cues as the former two. I was the “unintentional narc,” misreading the signals in epic fail fashion. When your job in this game is to just look for signals, everything becomes a signal. And you thought the paranoia of sneaking out for a few hits was bad. And, of course, there are the unintentional riotous moments in the game. Like, once the set collection is completed by one player, who successfully signals their partner. With the signal received, they reveal their cards only, it turns out, they didn't have the full set “Man, where is my bong? I swear I had a bong!” It's a true stoner fail and one that gives all other teams a point.
Not to go off on a rant here (Spoiler alert: I'm totally going to go off on a rant here) Obviously, you will get knee jerk reactions to the theme. But, before everyone gets on their high horse, May I introduce you to the Board Game Section at your local big box store? *flourishes hands in game show hostess fashion* Where there is no less than half a dozen games about Shit. Literal Shit. Don't step in shit. Flush the shit. That thing we use to get rid of shit is broken. Put the shit on your head. OMG, why are we fishing for Shit? And straight up Poop: The game. But a game about smoking some good shit is going to be where you draw that line? Relax, pretend it's a game, maybe it will even be fun. And if you can't manage that, as you ride away on your high horse, remember if your horse happens to take a shit, there is probably a game about that too.
The packaging of Stoner Parking Lot is fucking magic. A brown paper bag with “Stoner Parking Lot” scribbled on the outside and (Totally not drugs) written next to it. Yep, have fun explaining that to the TSA agent as you head home from the latest convention. And the scoring markers are guitar picks! That elusive concert gem that carries the story about how Al fucking Jourgensen was staring RIGHT.AT.YOU while you were screaming your head off and flipped it right into your outstretched hand. (Okay, maybe it bounced off your forehead and landed at your feet, but that doesn't sound near as cool.) A second, more standard (if you can even use that term with this game) packaging will also be available that features cannabis meeples for scoring but, nah, I prefer the guitar picks. It is way more “metal.”
Stoner Parking Lot is a silly, crazy, joyful game. One that pushes a slightly skunk-weed smelling envelope on what you can build a game around. It tackles a “controversial” theme. Hell, it tackles a fucking taboo theme. I can't tell you I have ever heard anyone standing around talking about smoking weed with people who weren't, the very least, trusted friends. And never in public. Hell, voters JUST passed a medical marijuana law in Missouri and if you go to a head shop (Sorry, a “Smoke Shop”) you can't even say the “M” word. That day-glo purple bong etched with the profile of Bob Marley? It's perfect for your “Tobacco.” And Maniacal Matt Fantastic and Awesome Alex Cutler made a game tackling that taboo straight on, twisting it back on itself and turning a black light spotlight on the nostalgia of hanging out and attending concerts. I fully anticipate an expansion called “Rolling papers, rolling papers, who's got the rolling papers?”
And if you just think I'm a burnout (that was the vernacular for anyone who hung out in the smoking lounge at my high school...yes, we had a smoking lounge for the students) waxing nostalgic, I was accused of partaking in the Devil's Lettuce much more than I ever actually tried it. I still recall being pulled out of English class by my favorite teacher and lambasted for showing up to his class stoned. The reality of which was I has just gotten my first set of contacts that week. Rebel without a cause? Nah, just nearsighted, sir....by the way, your team now loses a point for a false accusation.
As a game it is beyond simple, as an experience it can be immersive, and as entertainment, it can be top notch. Some players will never get past the taboo theme. More's the pity for them.
Do you have to have Stoner Parking Lot in your collection? I'd be a lot cooler if you did.