There’s no joy quite as pure as ripping off your friends. Sadly, I never got around to playing Tiefe Taschen, Fabien Zimmermann’s previous friend ripper-offer. Fortunately, thanks to the appearance of Goodcritters, there’s no need. This thing is lean and punchy. Exactly how I like my frivolous time wasters.
For those who’ve played Tiefe Taschen, Goodcritters will be immediately familiar, plus a few quality-of-life adjustments, balance tweaks, and furry mobsters in place of the original game’s skimming politicians. The idea is simple: you’re one ne’er-do-well among a pack of them, dividing some loot that surely wasn’t acquired by honest means. The problem is the natural one, in that, well, you’re a ne’er-do-well and so is everyone else. Don’t expect anyone to divide the spoils fairly, is what I’m saying.
So one of you is the boss, tasked with the vital job of doling out whichever cards spill out of the deck. A good boss might arrange matters so that everybody stands to pull in the same amount, at least roughly. A boss with fewer scruples might cut somebody out to increase the remainder of the gang’s pull, or maybe form an in-crowd who’s raking in everything.
Either way, that dole forms the framework for everything that comes next. Specifically, a whole lot of haggling, hassling, and haranguing. At its most basic, everyone gets a vote, Yes or No. Vote yes and everybody receives their distribution of loot and life moves onto the next round. Vote No and the loot returns to the table, some extra gets tossed into the pot, and a new boss takes charge. A tie, meanwhile, will award the cash but also assign someone new to make a fairer distribution in the future.
If that doesn’t sound like enough, it isn’t for Goodcritters, either. You see, while everybody is supposed to be voting, it’s nigh impossible not to take advantage of the chaos to engage in some (even greater) illicit handiwork.
I’ll provide an example. Let’s say the boss has indicated that you’ll be receiving a tidy dole. That’s great, but a fair share isn’t going to be enough to make you the richest critter at the table when the fuzz kick in the door. Naturally, there’s good reason to vote yes. But spurred on by that obese devil on your shoulder, you decide, no, fair isn’t fair enough. So you take your critter token and slap it down in front of someone else.
Now, there’s a whole lot going on in that moment, because now you’re functionally holding a gun to that player’s head. Instead of voting, you can now play the Rob card, which will snatch something right out of their stash. Then again, they know that, because your token is squatting right there in front of them, so maybe they’ll choose to Guard themselves. If that happens, they’ll foil your attempt to burgle them by stealing your jewels instead. How the turntables, and so forth. Then again, maybe you’re just masking your true intentions. Maybe you actually hope to Skim, which draws an additional card from the deck — with the caveat that only the first player to skim actually pulls it off. Then again, maybe you’re just trying to hassle someone into not voting No — because now they’ll be distracted and play Guard — and you’ve intended to vote Yes this entire time. The only thing that could be more dicey would be if the object of your threat decided to slap their token onto you. Then you’d have a regular Hispanimal Standoff on your hands.
That’s the glory of Goodcritters. Every single play is loaded with danger. Especially once you toss bribes into the mix. These optional cards add extra value to the proceedings, both literally (because they’re money) and figuratively (because the lion on the money cuts a fine figure). There are two types of bribes, those that are binding and, well, everything else, with just enough wiggle room between them that you can promise the world and instead give somebody a measly two thousand bucks when you promised there was a fiver in it if they voted yes.
So. Screw your friends, get nice and hot under the collar, transform those friends into lifelong rivals — sounds extreme, right?
But that’s the other thing about Goodcritters, because it’s light and fast enough that no single betrayal stings with too much venom. It’s one of those rare games where a betrayal of trust is usually met with laughter rather than rancor, because, hey, someone’s furry just swiped something shiny out of your stash. No worries. Easy come, easy go. You’ll get them back in a minute. In Goodcritters, the pendulum swings quickly between dropping b-words and being buds. There’s probably a design lesson in there somewhere. Make it personal, but keep the stakes low enough that it’s about the momentary flash of anger, not the seething fury that can temper an entire evening.
Fast, funny, bitter, silly. That’s Goodcritters in a nutshell. Not every game needs to be ambitious or innovative to provide a good time. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of fine-tuning, a willingness to let your players provide the good times, and apparently furries. You sickos.
A complimentary copy was provided.