Game Review: Crazier Eights: Camelot

Game development is evolution in action, with new games taking the best ideas and gameplay from earlier games and respinning them for a new or updated theme. Sometimes it’s fairly radical, like Pandemic Legacy where you have one-time-play elements that are destroyed after a gaming session and other times it’s just a rebranding, like the zillion versions of Monopoly or Life, few of which actually have any changes other than artwork.

Crazier Eights: Camelot is a fairly radical reinvention of the card game Crazy Eights. The basic game is a simple hand elimination competition where the winner plays out before anyone else does. The challenge is that players can only discard if it matches the rank or suit of the last discard, with one exception: eights are wild. That’s Crazy Eights in a nutshell. Easy, fast, and quite popular with the younger set.

For Crazier Eights, game designer James Gray mixed in some Magic the Gathering by way of Camelot and the rich mythology of the Knights of the Round Table to create a 2-4 player card game that has the same underlying concept, but is also quite a departure from the original.

For example, here’s the discard pile, with four cards piled up:

discards in crazier eights

The six on the bottom of the discards is of the “sun” suit, which the ace of sun matches. The ace of “ankh” matches the ace of sun so it’s a valid play, then the eight is always valid since it’s a wild card.

That’s just the beginning. Notice every single card has a special power, either a one-time Event or an ongoing Asset. As your discard you can play an Event and apply its power once (the “Elven Ritual” above lets you pull up to two Asset cards from the draw pile in play, for example), then discard it or play an Asset card that will apply each and every time your turn rolls around until one of the other players kicks it out of your playing area.

Each player starts with 7 cards in their hand, so here’s what might be a typical hand:

crazier eights hand of cards

Notice that it’s almost all Assets. That’s good, and some of them are splendid: Consider “Avalon” which lets the player discard an additional card every single turn, or “Queen Guinevere” which lets you steal and immediately play an Asset card from any one opponent at the end of every single turn until they get rid of that card.

And therein lies the biggest issue we had with this game: lack of balance. If you have really strong Asset cards in play, it can be essentially impossible for other players to kill it (particularly in a two player game).

Imagine if I did play the two cards highlighted above:

two powerful asset cards, crazier eights

Queen Guinevere is going to make it difficult for the other player because every time the other player picks an Asset that could eliminate her you’ll just steal it before it can go into play. Meanwhile, you can utilize Avalon to get rid of your cards twice as fast. And didja see the “Potion of Vitality” event above? That one lets you discard two additional cards. With your standard discard + 1 for Avalon + 2 for Vitality, that’s four discards in a single turn.

Crazier Eights just launched on Kickstarter and I suspect that with more than two players it would feel more balanced since people can gang up on the player with the overly powerful assets. There are also a set of expansion cards I received that bring add more powers and capabilities, though I’m not quite sure how they fit into the Kickstarter campaign.

All in all, I’d say that Crazier Eights is definitely an interesting variation on Crazy Eights with more complexity and considerably more strategy required. Possibly imbalanced for just two players, you can play with up to four or add a second deck and play with up to eight people at the same time!

Check out Crazier Eights: Camelot on Kickstarter. Oh, and it’s super reasonably priced too: You can pledge as little as $14.00 and get a deck for yourself and your family.

Disclosure: James sent us a copy of Crazier Eights; Camelot for review purposes.

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