1.0: Introduction to reasons why I bought the package.
I had played this game a few times prior to purchasing it for myself, and found the game to be quite enjoyable and simple to pick up. Although the game may lack the complexity of some other games like The Resistance, it makes up for that by being playable in small groups. What one can expect from the game is a fast paced game which encourages player interaction compared to ‘goldfishing’ that happens in some other card games.
1.1: Previous reviews done of the game
A couple of short reviews have been done by users whom have played the game before, and they can be found here. However, these reviews were little more than short posts, so this review hopes to go into greater depth for people that are new to the game.
2.0: Data sheet provided the game
2.1: Price of the game and where to buy it from
The game costs about S$21.90, but I bought it for the price of S$17ish as there was a discount. As it is produced by a local indie boardgames company called Gamersaurus Rex, shipping from other countries not possible, but shipping from Singapore to other countries may be possible.
I bought the game from walking in to the store, but it’s likely online purchase would also work.
2.2: Card numbers
49 Action Cards
12 Reaction Cards
8 Agent Cards
2.3: Game theme
The game is themed around spy operatives, although some enjoyable references are made to pop culture references.
2.4: Gameplay introduction
Players of the game take on the identity/character of one secret “spy” A.G.E.N.T.S that are all trying to get one coveted card: The Package.
The aim of the game is to have ‘The Package’ in one’s hand when the game ends. In situations when ‘ The Package’ has been discarded, it has to be revealed and reshuffled into the deck. So at any one point within the game, the package is either within the deck and has yet to be drawn out, or is in the hands of another player.
Players have the option of one action each turn: They can either draw a card, take an action, or use their Agent’s ability (if it has not been used already.) These Agent abilities can only be used once per game, so after they have been used, there are only two options that a player can take.
However, a player HAS to do one action. If the player has ran out of cards (as it sometimes happens during late/end-game) and they have already used their character’s ability, they cannot take any action that does not involve them drawing a card, so they MUST draw one card. Even if there is no card, they have to draw one. In the case of there being no draw deck and they have to draw a card though, they would be forced to end the game (as the game ends when any player needs to draw from the draw deck but the draw deck is empty).
Of the cards that a player can play, some of them allow one to take more than one action. Some allow the player to replace cards in their hand (sometimes called “washing”) with a new hand, while others allow the player to draw more than one card (sometimes called “digging” into the deck) in order to hopefully find The Package.
Other cards allow for one to gain more information, such as viewing the hands of other players or exchanging for them. One card (and a few Agent abilities) are particularly suited for checking whether The Package has been drawn at any point of time, hence allowing for players to avoid a boring game in which nobody knows who has The Package or whether it has even been drawn.
In the end, regardless of how one attains The Package, one will likely face attempts from other players to steal it. The Reaction cards are useful in this case to ward off attempts at thievery, but the mounting of a defense for one’s hand may induce further attacks which one will be unable to counter. So one could take a gamble and hope that The Package is not stolen if it is a random card that will be stolen.
However, it is possible for players to react on behalf of other players even if it is not their turn. This introduces amusing possibilities for shifting alliances and prevents offensive attacks from turning into a battle of ‘who has more attack cards or defense (Reaction) cards’.
3.0: First impressions of the game
The game is quite enjoyable, as the powerful cards (such as Data Scramble, An Offer You Can’t Refuse, Deal Or No Deal, or The Ol’ Switcheroo) are useful for swapping hands, and cards that allow for one to steal from others (Word On The Street, I’ll Take That, That and That, With A Little Help From My Friends) ensures a high degree of interaction between players and keeps cards flowing.
Unless The Package comes out at the very end of the game, it is likely that there will be a lot of card stealing and hand swapping between the start of the mid-game (once players suspect that The Package may have been drawn) and the end-game. The easy objective of ‘just get this card in your hand and you will win when the deck runs out’ is also simple to explain for those new to the game, hence making it a good game that I use when with a group of new acquaintances, for example.
Indeed, unlikely traditional TCGs like MtG (Magic: The Gathering), the fun of The Package comes not from the hand one has (as it is liable to be stolen from or swapped at some point), but from the suspicion between players that arises and the fluid interactions that happen later on. Unlike The Resistance where one’s identity is usually set and players have to convince others that they aren’t who they were made/thought out to be, the ‘Person with The Package’ can (and often will) change as the game progresses, cards are stolen and hands exchanged. As a result, there is no constant target that alliances can form around unlike what happens occasionally in games of Saboteur, Bang or The Resistance.
3.1: Numbers for scaling up in larger group play
Although this will result in a considerably shorter game (and some instances of having absolutely no hand as a result of a Memory Bomb), it is possible to scale up The Package for group play. These numbers were based on playtesting to ensure that the game didn’t end too quickly or players had no hand to speak of:
3-4 players: 5 cards in initial hand, max hand size of 7
5 players: 5 cards in initial hand, max hand size of 6
6 players: 4 cards in initial hand, max hand size of 6
7-8 players: 3 cards in initial hand, max hand size of 5
With 8 Agent cards being available, it is possible for team games to take place in a variation of MtG’s ‘Two Headed Giant’ format, where two Agents (each controlled by an individual player) form a team and share one hand. The numbers are as follows:
6 players in 3 teams of 2: 4 cards in initial hand, max hand size of 6
8 players in 4 teams of 2, 3 cards in initial hand, max hand size of 5
3.2: Final impressions of the game in larger group play.
The game is clearly better off being played with 3-4 players, but if one were to try larger group play, I would recommend the team version as opposed to the solo version. Being on the same team encourages conversation and planning, while having more than one Agent ability makes it slightly less predictable.
3.3: Recommendations and dissuasions
In order to avoid the problem of The Package appearing too late in the game, I propose the following amendment to shuffling and distribution of the cards:
Separate The Package from the deck and shuffle the rest of the deck.
When deal out the initial number of cards per person, but short of one.
Take twice the number of cards that each person is short of, shuffle The Package into this small stack of cards and distribute the last card accordingly to each player, putting any remaining cards at the top of the deck.
Start the game as per normal.
So in a 3 player game, as the initial hand size is 5, deal out 4 cards first to each player.
As each player is missing one card, and there are three players remove (3×2=6) cards from the deck and put The Package into these 6 cards.
Shuffle these 7 cards randomly and distribute one card each to the three players before putting the remaining 4 cards at the top of the deck.
In this manner, The Package is virtually guaranteed to appear in either player’s hand at the beginning or within the first few draws, but as there is a roughly equal possibility of the card being dealt to a player or within the deck, no player can fully confirm where The Package is (short of using a reveal card like Target Acquired or an Agent’s ability).
Another recommendation for the makers of the game, Gamersaurus Rex, is to try an anime adaption version. In the same way Dominion has a moe-ified maid version in Tanto Cure, I think that The Package would be more popular if there was an anime adaption.
4.0: Overall opinion.
I’d heartily recommend the game if you’re looking for what it offers: An easy game to pick up and play with a few friends that doesn’t encourage goldfishing and remains fluid and dynamic. The artwork of the game is something which I personally like as well, since the artists appear to have adopted a watercolour style as opposed to, say, clean lines and shading.
Much of the game’s fun upon playing comes from the cliched usage of calling out the notable card names (some of which deserve a mention: What Makes You Think I’m Stalling?, Deal Or No Deal followed by An Offer You Can’t Refuse, and the good ‘ol NO! Bonus points for playing and shouting “It’s A Trap!” in Admiral Ackbar’s voice, or adopting a shady persona when playing Word On The Street.) when they are played, and the A.G.E.N.T abilities provide players that have been temporarily forced out of the game (say, with no hand) a way to come back in.
The short gameplay length of each game (about 30 to 45 minutes, shorter in larger games as the deck runs down faster) makes it something which doesn’t require a lot of set up (unlike traditional board games), and since it’s not a TCG (trading card game), others don’t need to have their own deck in order to enjoy the game.
Finally, at just 70 cards and fitting into a small box, it certainly is a great game for moments when you’re chilling with friends during travels. The Resistance, this game is not, but it succeeds well in what it does.