Best Little Boy In the World (hereafter, BLBIW) is the production name of the legendary "Game Omega-Prime," which many of you might have heard discussed in whispered tones around some of the more prestigious Gatherings the past few years. I've been a playtester on this game for some time, and now that it's going into production I've been given permission by the designer to do a full review. Let me state right off the bat that, although I've been heavily involved in the feedback and design process, I feel that I can be totally objective and give the reader the facts without biasing them in any way. I do rate this game a ten, but after it hits the market, I assure you that you will too.
Why? Because this is the real deal, folks -- the game I've been waiting for my entire life. I've never played a game that so artfully captured the buildup and release of tension, combined with the brinksmanship and ambiguous incentive grids that have come to symbolize everything compelling about These Games Of Ours. Strong praise, right? So what's this game about?
In BLBIW, players are toddlers in a small household. The other players are your siblings (twins to quintuplets, depending on the number of players). Not depicted in the game yet ever-present is your Mommy. She is both attentive yet aloof, stern yet loving -- one of the my favorite parts of the game is how the rules thematically reinforce Mommy's personality! The game takes place over one stylized day with Mommy and your brothers as you attempt to learn the harsh, yet necessary lessons of toilet training. The goal of the game is to gain the most points of Mommy's favor, thus impressing Mommy the most, and thereby winning the title of BEST LITTLE BOY IN THE WORLD!
The publisher didn't hold back at all with the pieces here. This is a game that you'll be proud to keep on your coffee table. All the cardboard parts are linen-textured, and the wooden cubes are chunky and colorful.
Main Board: The main board goes in the center of the table. It has a track around the edge for scoring Mommy's Favor points, and a smaller 24-space track (each space corresponds to an hour in the day). The "day" in the game runs from 10am to 10am, so although it is technically a 24-hour period, it is not on the typical midnight to midnight span that everyone knows is a day. I mentioned this repeatedly on my playtest comment forms but it never got changed -- I should probably dock it a few hundredths of a point for this oversight. Anyway, the rest of the board has spaces for the discard piles and cube stock. The graphics on the board are a nice, cartoony depiction of a house.
Player Boards: Each player gets a board in front of him. The majority of the player board is taken up by a cute stylized graphic of a digestive system. At the top is the stomach (one area), which connects to the small intestine (two areas), which connects to the large intestine (also two areas). Off to the side is are two small tracks. The first is "SELF CONTROL" and the second is called, amusingly, the "HOLD IT!" track. The Hold-It track has a bunch of numbers on it, ranging from -7 on up to +14 or so (but you'll never get to +14, trust me!). Self-Control has several spaces, with "Sittin' Pretty" up top to "Oh No!" at the bottom (get it?).
Cubes: The standard wooden cubes we all know and love. Nicely painted and enjoyable to handle. A variety of colors.
Cards: A couple different types here.
- MEAL CARDS. The "meat" of the game. Each card depicts a different meal, e.g. Mac-n-Cheez, Hot Dogs, PB&J (no crusts), Spaghetti-O's, and so on. A lot of variety. Each meal is composed of different cubes. The meal deck shuffled and the top seven cards are dealt out onto the board in the appropriate places.
- SNACK CARDS. Like meal cards, but lighter and therefore fewer cubes. The Snack Deck is shuffled and the top ten cards are dealt out onto the board.
- TUMMY CARDS. This is a small deck that randomizes the starting contents of the GI tract.
- GOADING CARDS. Each player gets an identical deck full of cards which you use to passive-aggressively interact with your siblings in between meals and snacks. None of them are violent or tasteless; rather they're all amusing and clever things like "Almost Touching You" and "I Know You Are, But What Am I?". One of them that I did find pretty offensive was "Stop Hitting Yourself!", so my group usually leaves them out when we play.
- ALLERGY CARDS. This is for the advanced game only. More on that later.
Setup is easy and quick. Every player starts off with the same mix of both number and type of cubes in their GI tract, according to the Tummy Card. Deal off the meals and snacks for that game and you're ready to go.
The flow of the game is very straightforward. Each turn is one hour, and certain meals occur at given times:
If it is a meal turn, there is a Meal Phase: a prestige point auction for which meal to convince Mommy to serve. Each player, in turn, sacrifices Mommy's Favor Points. Whoever sacrifices the most (i.e., whines the most) gets to pick the meal. Everyone takes the number and type of cubes dictated by the Meal Card and puts them on their stomach space. You can elect to not finish your meal and take half the cubes, but anyone who cleans their entire plate gets bonus MFPs.
Next, there is a Digestion Phase. Each player, through a rather clever algorithm, moves certain numbers and type of cubes to the next part of the GI tract: Stomach to Upper Small Intestine, Upper Small Intestine to Lower Small Intestine, Lower Small Intestine to Upper Large Intestine, and finally Upper Large Intestine to Lower Large Intestine. Some cubes move faster than others, and of course fiber just pushes everything in front of it.
If it's not a Meal Phase, there is a Recreation Phase. This is where you get to play Goading Cards on your siblings, the point of which is to lower your siblings' self-control and hopefully cause an accident. Each Goading Card has a scalable risk/reward mechanism built into it: the more effective forms of Goading are also more likely to result in being caught by Mommy and losing MFPs through her disapproval. (There's also a lot of iconography to prevent ganging up on the leader, ganging up on the loser, goading anyone twice in a row, and other forms of anti-social behavior.) Successfully Goading people also raises your own Self-Control.
Finally, there is a Use It? phase. Starting with the first player, each player decides whether to Use It or not. If you Use It, you return all cubes on your Lower Large Intestine to the stock, and get a number of points equal to your Hold It track -- thus, the longer you can Hold It the more points you will get when you finally Use It. However, if you Use It too soon after you last Used It, you will lose points! If you elect not to Use It, your Hold It track goes up by one. Strategically, if someone else uses it you can also choose to use it at a reduced penalty (since Mommy can take you as a group). But who will be first to ask? Major brinksmanship here! So the temptation is to Hold It as long as possible, but you must avoid at all costs ...
If at any time your self-control reaches "Oh No!" you have an accident! You remove all cubes from your Lower Large Intestine and index them with a chart on the main board. Suffice it to say, you are in for a loss of some major points. However, I have seen someone become BLBIW even after having an accident, so it is possible with skillful play and careful analysis.
9pm-7am is night-time. The penalties for getting caught goading are doubled, but so are the penalties for accidents! So it might be worth it to pick on one or more of your siblings.
Final scoring occurs one hour after breakfast. There is one final Use It? phase and then count up the MFPs. Whoever has the most is Mommy's Favorite and THE BEST LITTLE BOY IN THE WORLD!
This game is really deep and I've only begun to delve into the strategy. Basically it involves three things:
- knowing how much to pay for the right meal that will benefit you and hurt your siblings.
- calculating the exact flow of cubes through your player board.
- knowing how much to goad your siblings.
The beginning of the game is almost entirely tactical (due to the randomized startup) and the end is almost entirely strategic. I'm hoping to come out with a strategy guide soon, so please send in your opinions on the "Settler-Quarry" of BLBIW. Also important is comboing cards -- i.e., if you can combine Hot Dogs with your opponents choice of Mac-N-Cheez, you can really score some major points as your siblings all Use It, while you just sit back and bask in the pleasure of Holding It as long as possible.
Each player is randomly dealt an Allergy Card. This is played face up so everyone knows what you're allergic to. During the Digestion Phase, certain combinations of cubes will multiply in your gut to represent your gastrointestinal distress. Basically, this adds an entirely new level of strategy to the Meal Auction. How much are you willing to bid to prevent your sibling from giving you something you're allergic to? Can you trick Mommy into giving someone peanuts or grapes? It makes the whole thing a real white-knuckle affair -- Twilight Struggle, eat your heart out!
- no hidden trackable information
- shifting payout grids
- dripping with theme
- fantastic production values
- not widely available
- too advanced for the sheeple
A completely awesome and amazing game in every way. A realistic theme to which everyone can relate -- no glorification of violence or adolescent power-fantasies in sight. In a fair world, this would replace the 'Gric as top of the heap at that other site.
Expansion #1 is already in the can, so to speak. It adds a new set of Drink Cards, yellow cubes, and a Bladder Overlay that fits over the player board. This adds a whole new wrinkle to the mix as you must now try to coordinate your bathroom visits. More player interaction as you try to get your siblings to drink lots of fizzy, carbonated drinks to upset their tummies.
Rumors that Expansion #2 consists of nothing but a deluxe pack of extra-large adult diapers and five pacifiers are totally unfounded.