A Bit of Board Gaming: Super Mario Bros. Power Up Card Game

Although I like to primarily talk about video games on Obtain Potion, the thought of integrating more analog gaming into the mix has crossed my mind on more than one occasion. I always get apprehensive though, because trying to write about something solely on mechanics without just reiterating the rules/flow of play verbatim is a tricky thing to do. There’s also the fact that I just don’t play a wide variety of them, instead usually focusing on the one’s that I find particularly interesting and sticking with those instead. However, the urge is still there and it feels like board gaming has been going through a renaissance as of late so let’s give it a go!

For those hoping that my first post would be about something meatier and possibly German I’m going to disappoint you – the first game in this inaugural post is something you’re more likely to see sitting next to UNO or Phase 10 on the shelf than say SmallWorld or Arkham Horror. However, it’s nice to ease myself in a bit with something that is really simple, but also covered in a veneer of familiarity. It’s also worth noting that my oldest son gave me this game to me as a gift with his own money, which means a lot to me.

The game in question: Super Mario Bros. Power Up Card Game.

There are a lot of Mario aesthetics this game could have gone for, but it adheres to extremely old school and sticks with the O.G. game which, once you look at everything, makes for a more appealing looking experience. The goal is also steeped in a succinct tangent familiar to the NES game – keep playing until you lose all your lives! The game is played in rounds with the gist being to not necessarily have the highest “level” card, but one just big enough to not be at the bottom which is when you lose one of your precious men. Everybody gets to look at their card and, starting with the dealer, either keep what they think is a good card or trade with the player to the left. This continues until you reach the last player, whom then can opt to trade with the top of the deck. You then flip your cards to reveal your “level.”

While it sounds plain, there are a few variables that come into play. The first is if you happen to draw a castle card you basically reach the end and don’t have to trade cards with anybody in a sort of free pass. Being as this is a “power up” card game, you also have a bevy of modifiers within unrevealed question block cards that you can play to either add or remove points, trade cards with other players after seeing their scores, add lives and so on. You get one at the outset of the game and only earn new ones with the aforementioned castle card, so you have to be frugal and judicious with what you’ve got.

As a family party title Super Mario Bros. Power Up Card Game is a solid and easy game to get into, but also interesting enough to not get lost in the glut. While I love the packaging (I’ll share the brilliant design from inside the box at the bottom of the post), I kind of which is were in a compact deck design so I could sneak this in my wife’s purse. It’s the type of thing I could see us casually busting out while waiting for dinner at a restaurant or a family member’s house. All that aside, I think it was well-received enough at my house to be pulled out from time to time because the high stakes antics are really fun, and that’s the most ringing endorsement it could possibly get.

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Must Plays: Old Man’s Journey

While I still have a lot of catching up to do in regards to the copious amount of robust, open-world games that came out on the Switch in 2017, I’m more than happy to play some smaller, more intimate experiences in between making sure the word “backlog” cross my mind at any point. Thankfully it looks like the front half of 2018 will be loaded with ports which, while great for the system and those games that were missed because of Wii U’s small install base, don’t give me much of a thrill as I already have them on Nintendo’s misunderstood little gem.

In between trying to finish stuff like Xenoblade Chronicles 2 or the Champions Ballad in Breath of the Wild, I’d like to squeeze in quite a few smaller games to cleanse the palette on. Using the word “smaller” is something of a misnomer, because I’m not the type of person who ascribes to length being indicative of quality or worth. While perhaps they can be experienced in just a few hours, I don’t think that independent games are any less impactful.

I can’t believe I just used the word “impactful.”

I also can’t believe that spell check isn’t underlining it with a red squiggle right now either.

But I digress.

Point being, I’m ready for literally anything this year. Thankfully, something I’ve been very curious about, Broken Rules’ Old Man’s Journey, is finding its way to my favorite hybrid console this year. Beyond the trailer I know next to nothing about it other than it’s a “puzzle-driven story game about life’s precious moments, broken dreams and changed plans.” The titular elderly gentleman in question receives a missive of some sort, to which he responds by leaving his humble cottage and venturing out into the world. Quite frankly, the less I know beyond that the better off I probably am.

I’m not typically spoiler averse, but all I wanted to know is what I’ve seen – namely that it’s a beautiful interactive narrative that oozes charm and wit that tells a contemplative and reflective tale. Knowing that something has piqued the old man to where he’s willing to go trekking out into the world is all I need to go off of. I want the rest to be a surprise.

Vagueness is probably not the best conveyor or excitement but regardless I’m ready to put in my ear buds, zone out and see where this tired old man’s walking shoes take him.