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Reviews - Too Many Georges
by Demian Katz

Too Many Georges '03 coverToo Many Georges '03
Published by Stupendous Games
Designed by Stuart John Bernard
One rules sheet, two coin ability reference sheets, eight score tracks (on two sheets of paper), five 11"x17" maps (Basic, Delaware, Georgia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) and one 8.5"x11" map (Connecticut)
2-8 players

Two things which come naturally to me are gaming and collecting useless junk. Therefore, the explosion of the collectible game market a little over ten years ago was a simultaneous blessing and curse for me, and the gaming community as a whole. Magic: The Gathering and its spawn have promoted enormous amounts of fun and excessive spending in about equal quantities. As a result of the latter, I have often wished somebody would come up with a collectible-style game that could be played with common household objects. When I first heard of Too Many Georges, I was thrilled that my wishes were finally answered.

The Presidential Race
Too Many Georges is a collectible coin game, played with quarters. Thanks to the recent series of special state quarters, there are a healthy variety of different playing pieces to be found in most people's pockets and sofas. This is a brilliant basis for a game, and it is matched with a brilliantly amusing premise: the players have cloned George Washington, and they are now forcing him to race with himself across the country. I can't justify or explain it, but I think it's a wonderful idea!

Unfortunately, despite all of its promise, I found the game's actual execution to be a major disappointment. To start with, the core game system is not very interesting. Each player gets an equal number of quarters (more per person if fewer people are playing), and then a map is selected. Maps are square grids containing three types of terrain: empty spaces, impassible water and impassible mountains. Each turn, the current player rolls a single six-sided die. On a roll of one to five, the player may move a single quarter by the number rolled unless it is unable to move due to having other quarters on top of it. On a roll of six, the player cannot move but has the option of flipping a coin over or moving it out from under a stack of opponents. The reason for flipping a coin over is to gain access to its special abilities, which are only available when the tails side is facing up. Some special abilities are always on when tails is showing, but others require an activation (another roll of six) for each use. There's a price to gaining abilities, though - you can't finish the race unless your heads side is up.

In all, this sounds like a reasonable base system, but it's awfully limited, feeling almost like an uninspired children's game. The square grid doesn't offer much room for interesting maneuvering (especially since diagonal moves are illegal), and there's not exactly a great deal of terrain diversity. The biggest problem is the reliance on luck, though - these maps aren't all that big, so the difference between rolling a one and rolling a five is significant. Worse still is the fact that you have to roll sixes to gain access to special abilities, and without those, there's not a whole lot of variety.

If the game's problems ended here, I would suggest that a good set of house rules could probably tweak the core system into something less random and more gamer-friendly. However, there's another major blow against the quality of the game - the special abilities don't appear to have been thought out or tested very well, and many of them are poorly explained in the limited space available on the rules sheet. Indeed, several ability descriptions are missing words at the ends of sentences, requiring guesswork or debate to figure out what they actually do. What do you make of such things as "This 'jump' is not restricted by direction of movement or number of" or "Remove an opponent's coin from the scoring row and place it (heads up) in the"? In a game with only two pages of text, I expect better proofreading. Of course, even some ability descriptions that aren't missing words are subject to debate, and some sort of FAQ dealing with ways abilities interact would have been welcome. Since Too Many Georges '03 is actually the second edition of the game, there should have been time for something to be compiled. I was hoping to find some helpful documents on the publisher's website, but the game appears to be gathering dust at this point.

Too Many Georges certainly had potential, and with tweaks to the core game system and corrections to the abilities sheet, it might actually be fun to play. As it is, though, you're paying $10 for twelve pieces of paper and ending up with a game that clearly isn't ready for prime time. I support the ideas behind the game, though, even if the game itself is a failure. I hope this isn't the last attempt at creating an affordable collectible game. I'm still convinced that the right person could do something very interesting with one of those assorted button tubs you find at most craft stores...


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