Mega-Review – Sid Sackson Collections

I just "Can't Stop" playing Sackson games!

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Designer Sid Sackson

Publisher Eagle-Gryphon Games

Release Date 2022-2023

Player Count 1-7, depending upon the game

I’ll be doing things a little differently in this review. Rather than covering a single game in depth, I will be looking at 3 separate anthologies of games from the late Sid Sackson, and doing mini-reviews of all the games therein. 

To keep things manageable, these mini-reviews won’t include much about gameplay specifics, but rather, they will be mostly my overall thoughts about the games.

So without further ado…

The Sackson Legacy Collection (Red)

Cinema

It’s the age of classic movies, and players compete to dominate the silver screen. Each turn, they choose a movie script and look for a director and a pair of stars to cast. The directors and stars all have certain genres in which they excel, and choosing someone who does not fit a film’s genre can negatively affect its performance. Cinema is a game of light negotiation (not the brutal kind from I’m the Boss), and it centers around symbol matching. The game has some humor, with movie names that parody real films and characters who are inspired by actual Hollywood figures. It’s a fun game, and it has a sillier tone than most Sackson designs.

Dig Site

A rethemed version of 1974’s Corner, Dig Site is primarily a 2-player game. It is played on a 6×6 grid, with a colored gemstone on every space. Each player controls an arrow/pointer token (thematically a trowel), 1 on the x-axis and 1 on the y-axis. Players take turns moving their own arrow and taking the gem at the intersection of the 2 arrows. The more gems a player collects in a color, the more points they earn, and if they are the only player with a particular color, they double their points for that color. While not strategically deep, it is a clever, tactical game, and its design feels way ahead of its time.

Bowling Solitaire

I had played this game in the past, and I always enjoyed it. First described in Sackson’s landmark book, A Gamut of Games, Bowling Solitaire simulates ten-pin bowling using light arithmetic to “knock down” pins (i.e cards in values 1-10). It is remarkable to me how well this game simulates real bowling using nothing more than cards and basic addition. It’s fun, quick, and honestly, pretty addicting. (What’s more, you can make your own set from a standard deck of playing cards! The rules can be found on the game’s Wikipedia page.)

The Sackson Legacy Collection (Blue)

I’m the Boss: The Dice Game

Of all these games, this was easily the one I was most excited about, since the original I’m the Boss is among my favorite games of all time. I’m the Boss: The Dice Game attempts to miniaturize its predecessor, and it succeeds somewhat. At its core, it remains a light negotiation game about trying to divide up sums of money that may or may not divide evenly. Among a few notable changes, the switching of player colors is more dynamic in this version. The colors are now determined by “expertise” in a field (i.e. which player is at the top of that field’s track). When a new player reaches the top of a track, they displace the current expert and claim that color. Because track movement is largely dice based, the color changing feels less mean/direct in this game than the original. I also like the new rule that any players not involved in a deal get a card as compensation. Overall, I still prefer the original, but I certainly wouldn’t turn this one down.

Banana Blitz

Banana Blitz is a trick-taking game played with a deck of cards in 4 fruits/suits. Mechanically, it follows a standard trick-taking structure, as players try to avoid taking banana cards. Included in the deck are 4 “Fruit Salad” cards, which act as trumps and can be played even if the player has a card of the led suit. Banana cards hurt a player’s score, but there is a “shoot the moon” rule that can benefit someone if they collect a large enough set. Overall, Banana Blitz is very formulaic—just a variation on Hearts—and I don’t expect it to make a splash in the current trick-taking renaissance.

Scope

Scope is a flip-and-write that feels reminiscent of other Sackson number games like Paper Boxing and Away Across. In this game, players try to remove numbers from a grid using simple addition. Each turn, a card is flipped, showing a number from 1-20, and all players then cross off 1 or more numbers on their sheet that add up to this number. If they cross off multiple numbers, they must all be in a contiguous group. Once the deck is depleted, the player with the fewest remaining numbers wins. It’s not a rollicking good time necessarily, but Scope is a clever little game.

Samarkand Bazaar

Bazaar

Another Sackson classic I have played many times before, Bazaar was almost certainly an inspiration for the modern blockbuster Century: Spice Road. Bazaar has players exchanging sets of cubes for other sets of cubes in an effort to buy cards. In an interesting twist, players want to spend as many of their cubes as possible when making a purchase, since they earn points based on how few they have leftover afterward. Admittedly, the gameplay is fairly dry, and Century has since improved on the core idea, but Bazaar remains an interesting, if slightly dated experience.

Samarkand

An older Sackson game I had never had the chance to try, Samarkand is a game of buying, selling, and trading goods. In this game, players travel about a board making exchanges, trying to get from $200 to $500. Each space allows for one kind of transaction—buy, sell, or trade—and movement is based on a roll-and-move system that gives players a decent amount of control/options. While the core game is interesting and provides a good mix of luck and strategy, a couple of fiddly rules bog it down a bit.

Samarkand Market

A remake of 1998’s Business, Samarkand Market is an ultra-light game of bidding on groups of cubes and selling sets of them for money. Each round, cubes are drawn from the bag and placed into groups, and players secretly bid to determine the pick order. This game feels like a cousin of Bazaar, but quicker and even simpler. Despite its small footprint, this might actually be my favorite of the 3 games in this box.

The Bottom Line

These collections demonstrate the breadth of Sid Sackson's skill as a designer. From negotiation and flip-and-write games to solitaire and set collection, these anthologies are worthwhile purchases for fans of Sackson's games.

 

Author: Stephen Hall

A bard pretending to be a cleric. Possibly a Cylon, too. I was there when they dug up the "E.T." cartridges.