FTW Staff Picks - Crows Overkill
For The Win Board Game Cafe's Staff Picks is a weekly series where we take a quick look at some of the staff's favourite games, old and new.
Genre: Take That
Designer: Roy Nambu
Player Size: 2 to 4 Players
Game Length: 15 minutes
For fans of: Exploding Kittens, Coup, Circus Flohcati
Crow's Overkill, formerly titled: "Sanzen-sekai no karasu wo koroshi, nushi to asane gam shitemitai", which translates to "I'd kill all the crows in the world to be with you a little longer". A bit of a mouthful, and a little dark. Japan's notorious red-light district, geishas and crows are the theme of an otherwise "light" card game. If you're a friendly gamer, who hates to hurt other people's feelings, you may want to skip out on this one. But if you live for making others suffer, carry on wayward son.
In Crow's Overkill, players fight to stay the longest in Japan's red-light district against the many birds of the night and day. Each player is dealt 2 Shamisen cards to their hand and 3 Bird cards in front of them for all players to see. There are 4 distinct Time cards which dictate whether a player is eliminated at the end of their turn. Players may play any number of Shamisen cards from their hand to move/kill birds and steal or draw Shamisen cards. At the end of the current player's turn if they have as many or more bird cards crying equal to the active Time card, that player is eliminated from the game. Play continues until there is just one player remaining.
If it feels like Crow's Overkill is a little thin on mechanics, you would be right. It's not a random card-fest like Fluxx though. Choosing targets and timing Shamisen card use are both very important. The game almost feels like a slightly more developed Exploding Kittens. You can cancel Shamisen cards with other Shamisen cards, you can target people out of turn order and the Time card will keep things moving with just enough surprises along the way.
Directly attacking your opponents (especially when there are multiple potential targets) is always a touchy subject in groups. Not everyone can be cold-blooded or ruthless. Circumstances tend to direct attacks, but sometimes vendettas come into play. I have always felt that cutthroat is easier to stomach in shorter games, particularly for those who are weary of them in the first place. For example, Coup is very direct but I've never had a game where anyone's emotions ran too high. Crow's Overkill may feel like "baby's first take-that game" but it doesn't stop it from being a solid game. That and the theme is kind of just so outrageous that it earns itself a few bonus points.