Review: Parade

Alice in Wonderland is a very weird book. I think lots of people are familiar with the movies and kinda know what’s going on. We sing ‘A Very Merry Un-birthday’, scream “Off with his head!”, and maybe even know what a Jabberwocky is.  However, the book itself is very strange. I actually led a reading group for Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass when I taught 7th grade, and while there were definitely some humorous moments, there were times when I and the students just kinda shook our heads and said, “What?”

But one part of the story that we definitely agreed was great was the characters. The White Rabbit, Humpty Dumpty, the Mad Hatter… all over the top, but all so memorable. The kind of kooky, crazy characters that you can’t keep your eyes off of. That you might collect together to see parading down the street. And that’s exactly what you’re going to do in Parade.

Review: Parade

Instead of marching through town, though, the characters are going to be marching across your game table on 66 beautifully illustrated cards.  Over the course of the game, players will be adding to a long line of cards to extend the parade. However, doing so might mean that other cards leave the parade and up in front of you.  At the end of the game, whoever has collected the fewest points from the cards in front of them wins.

You’re Nothing But a Pack of Cards!

The first thing you’ll notice upon opening Parade’s intricately decorated little box are the equally beautiful cards. The 66 cards are numbered zero to ten and come in six different colors, each of which is assigned one of the memorable characters from the story.  The illustrations are amazing – I mean, I don’t normally talk about art and design that much, but it’s hard not to here. Chris Quilliams, the card illustrator, deserves a pat on the back.  If I ever meet him, I’ll be sure to do that. Hopefully he won’t call security.

Come, We Shall Have Some Fun Now

Each player starts the game with five cards, and six cards are lined up in the middle of the table.  This is the parade. On a turn, a player lays a card down from their hand at the end of the parade. The color and number of this card determine what happens next.

Parade cards

It’s a bit hard to explain in a short amount of time, but basically the number determines how many cards in front of that card are safe. For the ‘unsafe’ cards further down the parade, any card that has a number equal to or less than the card played, or that has the same color, are removed from the parade and placed in front of the player.  Play continues until a player has collected one card of every color, or until the draw pile is exhausted.

It’s at this point that the scoring begins. For each of the six colors, players add up the value of their cards and add it to their score. That is, except for the person who has the most of that color. Instead of adding up the card values, they only get a single point for each card of that color. Players add up their points for all six colors, and the player with the least points wins.

But I Don’t Want to Go Among Mad People

That last little bit about scoring is really what makes this game. All of your strategy is going to center around trying to pick up the least number of cards you can. And for a few turns, you will probably be able to do this. But eventually, you’re going to have to grab a card or two. That’s when you have to start getting creative, because you have to make some decisions. Suppose, for instance, one of the cards you’ve laid down is a blue 8. That’s going to cost you a lot of points at the end of the game. Unless, of course, you get more of those blue cards. If you end up having four or five blue cards, which may be the most of any player, then that blue 8 is now only worth one point at the end of the game. By adding more blues, you’ve actually given yourself less points.

But you’ve got to be careful, because other players will be playing this strategy, as well. So while you’re trying to get more and more cards, you’ve got to keep an eye on those other players and make sure they’re not going to mess with your plans. If they end up with more of that color than you, then every single one of your cards is going to be worth their point value, and that can lead to some huge scores.

Parade card sets

All of this tension and indirect player interaction comes to a head at the end of the game. Once the deck has run out, every player takes a turn until they only have four cards left. At the end of the game, they pick two cards from their hand to discard, and two cards from their hand to add to the pile in front of them. This causes every player to be on their toes up until the very end. You may feel like you have a comfortable lead on your opponent in a color, and then at the end of the game they throw down two more from their hand and take the lead, leaving you with nothing but a pile of points. Some pretty intense glances can be shared at this point – those that make you wonder if that person you thought was your friend is really going to come kill you in your sleep over a card game.

No Wise Fish Would Go Anywhere Without a Porpoise

I’ve played this game with a few different gaming groups, and people have very mixed reactions to it. Some really love the tough thinking and drama that it creates from beginning to end. You’ll constantly have to weigh your options, and often none of them are really all that good. But when you win, you often feel that you have done so through your own strategy rather than luck. And while the way the cards fall does have a bit of an influence on the outcome, it really is up to the player who makes the right calls at the right time.

Other players are not big fans of this game, for almost the exact same reasons. Some players have said that there are too many things to think about during the game, and they get stuck with the dreaded ‘analysis paralysis’ when their turn arrives. And that is definitely understandable. You can plan ahead for your turn, but if someone’s move before you completely ruins your plan, you will have to think through all the options for your cards again. For those who prefer to be able to go through each and every possibility, this may seem daunting in a game of Parade.

It Would Be So Nice If Something Made Sense For a Change

This is definitely a thinking player’s game, and one which you’ll have to bring out only when you’ve collected the right group of people. But for those who like a good headscratcher, this is a nice piece to add to the collection.

But here’s the problem: the game is out of print. So why would I write about a game that is out of print and that you won’t be able to get your hands on easily? Well, because I like it, and just in case you run across a copy in the future, I want you to know what’s going on. You could also just totally make your own cards or play with a different type of deck – there are even some websites to help you out. But mostly, I think it only seems logical to be illogical with a card game based on the writings of Lewis Carroll. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an un-birthday to celebrate…

Highs

  • An interesting mechanic for placing and collecting cards
  • An even more interesting scoring mechanic
  • Some great artwork
  • Really makes you think

Lows

  • It’s pretty hard to get your hands on a copy
  • Some might find the card placement rules difficult to master