Back in October we all attended the Atlanta Game Fest. While there, we ran into a couple visiting from Nashville to demonstrate a card game they had created about tiny little rodents. We thought the game was really fun, and we ended up getting the chance to interview the two of them.
Since then, we’ve talked off and on with Andrew and Allison Gerbsch about their game, Gyrating Hamsters, and the journey they have taken from a silly idea in a restaurant to an actual prototype. Now, Gyrating Hamsters is launching on Kickstarter at the beginning of this month, and we were able to get our hands on a copy to play it in its final…ish form.
Gyrating Hamsters is a set collection game at its heart, but with a few more twists and turns than others in the genre. There are four clans of hamsters, each with a different color. Your goal is to collect 9 hamsters from one clan or 16 hamsters in total. This can be done through drawing cards or playing actions, but the real fun comes when you battle with other players.
During a battle, the active player chooses an opponent and challenges them to a 1 vs 1 duel or to a larger clan vs. clan fight, which can feature up to 8 total combatants. Each player grabs a number of dice equal to the number of hamsters in play and rolls. The highest value on a single die wins, and to the victor goes the spoils – all of their opponents’ embattled hamsters.
The first thing I noticed when I opened the package a few weeks ago was the new box art. While I thought the simplistic black art in the past was cool, I didn’t think it fit the vibe created by the silly artwork in the rest of the game. That artwork is now what is featured on the box, letting you know before the box even opens that you’re going to have a few laughs. These cards are probably my favorite part of the game. I love the artwork, as each little picture gives the little hamsters so much personality. I also like the addition of the quotes on each card – just another little detail that make the game better.
There’s a good variety in the hamsters, and those in different clans seems somewhat similar to each other. From the evil Heartless Hamster to the intimidating Hardcore Hamster, you’ll get a good chuckle as each one pops up in a game for the first time. A few of the hamsters provide special bonuses if you have more than one, like being able to draw or play an extra card. They help to create a few ‘targets’ for attack during the battles, though I personally would have preferred a few more that might more directly impact the fights.
The king of all hamsters, the titular Gyrating Hamster, cannot be simply confined to one of the clans. It, instead, acts a wild card, changing into any color on any turn as the owner pleases. It also provides some protection from battles and other card effects. Basically, this funky furball is one you want in your hand.
In addition, there are a few ‘attack hamsters’ that have special abilities, like forcing your opponent to discard or protecting some of your own hamsters. These don’t count towards any clan number, but do help you get to that 15 total hamsters that lead to victory.
Besides all of your hamsters, there are several action cards, some of which you keep in your hand and some of which play immediately. These have several effects, such as drawing more cards, playing more actions, or forcing your opponent to do some discarding.
There are also chaos cards, which can completely disrupt all of the best laid plans of hamsters and men. One card, for example, causes you to shuffle all the hamsters together and re-deal them. Another forces everyone into one giant ‘winner take all’ battle. Chaos, indeed.
At its heart, though, Gyrating Hamsters is all about the battles, which strike a great balance between strategy and chance. Sure, you may be stockpiling your orange clan and going for that big win, but it’s the luck of the dice that will determine whether you’re victorious or not in battle to get the last few cards you need. Some people may not like that these outcomes are really out of their hands, but I think it adds to the fun factor. It’s a tense moment every time, and it doesn’t really seem to get old. I was always up for a battle even towards the end of my second playthrough in a row in a two player game with my wife where we battled every turn.
Ready for Prime Time
It could be my foggy memory, but I feel like Gyrating Hamsters has changed since we last played it in October. While I had fun with the game back then, it felt a little stilted and disjointed at times, and I don’t think I ever felt in the groove as we were playing. That could have been due to the chaos of demoing a game in such a large crowd, but real or imaginary, I think that some fixes have been put in. The game feels more streamlined and the turns less complicated. I think fewer chaos cards have been included, and for me, that’s a good thing. I appreciate their role in the game, but I personally feel like they work better as an add-on than as an integral part of the game.
As I play through Gyrating Hamsters, I sometimes wish for a little bit more. Maybe some hamsters add plus one to your die, or you draw cards if you win. Maybe cards that you keep secret so that you can strategize your win more effectively. However, I have to keep reminding myself that this game is not trying to be something complex or subject to over-analysis.
Gyrating Hamsters is a good, light game that is fun for a large group of people, including those that don’t play games that often. A strong set of rules with a good but not overwhelming amount of variety of cards leads to a more accessible gameplay experience. And maybe when GH goes on to sell a billion copies, I can get some of those things in an expansion pack.
Overall, Gyrating Hamsters is a very solid game that includes just the right balance of rules, strategies, luck, and laughter. I can’t really think of a group that you couldn’t use this game for, and that’s not a quality that can be found in a lot of games. So check it out! Come out of your cage and give Gyrating Hamsters a spin. On a wheel. Or in a little plastic ball. You know, hamster stuff.
Consider funding this game via Kickstarter today.
We were provided us with a prototype copy of Gyrating Hamsters ahead of their Kickstarter campaign, which is live on May 9. This in no way influenced our opinion on the game. Previews are a glimpse into an upcoming game with the pros and cons that we experienced prior to production of the game.