Review – GAP

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Designer Rico Besteher, Frank Noack

Publisher Arcane Wonders

Category Card Game, Filler Game

Length 15-30 minutes

Release Date Fall 2023

Player Count 2-6

Price $14.99

Over the years, we’ve had many, many card games with just colors and/or numbers: classics like Coloretto, 6 Nimmt!, and recent smash hits like The Crew and Scout. In the midst of this crowded genre, Arcane Wonders has launched GAP, an aptly named game where players score their largest color, minus their least. Fortunately, the game’s minimal rules include a few twists and turns. But is it enough to stand out? Let’s take a look! 

The material “around” the game – the price, the components, the rulebook – are all fantastic. A mere $14.99 MSRP is extremely competitive, and the game’s cards are thick and shuffle easily. The graphic design is basic but pretty, and smartly includes all the right accessibility features: a period after the 6 and 9, and the numbers before/after each number in small print. While I’d expect players to be able to count from 0 to 9 and back around, the before/after numbers do two things: they remind you that 9 cycles to 0, and they remind you that taking one number below/above your number is the second choice (you take all copies of the same number if there are any, then if not, take up to 1 card above and below). If still no cards match your play, you forfeit the card into the middle row.

That “if, then” sequencing is the center of the game’s card play. You choose which card to play from your hand, but it will do different things depending on the contents of the center row, and you don’t get to pick which thing it does. That means timely play is important – if you want to forfeit a card, you’d better do it while you can, because if the same number is revealed for your next turn, you’ve got the opposite thing happening. There are also two other wrinkles in this very minimal ruleset that sort of “pressurize” this into something interesting. 

The first is that generally speaking, your score is the color you have the most of, minus the one you have the least of (but at least one). So if you have 5 green, 3 blue, 1 purple, you get 5 – 1 = 4 points. But, if you’re tied for the most (or least!), they all count. So if you have 5 green, 5 blue, 5 purple, and nothing else, you get 15 points! Yet, one more green and you’d have 6 – 5 (x 2) = -4 points. You can see how you might risk the “perfect run” and have it all fall apart at the end. And that’s easy to happen, because your hand is not refilled, so the last card played must be played with no other alternatives at that point, and the center row will have changed to the point where you could end up real screwed.

I’ve read comments that the risk of this last card means the game has no strategy, and while I agree it has very little (it’s a 15 minute filler), I think the rule is fine because it brings emotion. It’s intensely aggravating when that last card screws you, and intensely satisfying when it doesn’t, and you pull off the perfect round. And when someone else gets screwed over, the schadenfraude comes quickly and loudly. It reminds me of Spiel des Jahres nominee Las Vegas, in a good way. In the back of my mind I’ve been meaning to write an article for what I look for broadly in games, and while yes, I enjoy deep strategy, I also have other things to consider. Do I understand who’s ahead at the moment, and what I can do about it? Does the game make me emotional – angry, joyous, tense, excited? Am I playing against the players, or the rulebook? Is there minimal downtime? GAP hits all of those notes very well in a short playtime. 

The only real negative thing I can say about GAP is that several other card games hit all those notes and provide me with some real crunchy strategy in the same price range and playtime, or they have less strategy but they’re considerably funnier. This one would be way, way down the list, after The Crew, Scout, Tichu, The Game, The Mind, No Thanks!, plain ol’ Rummy or Euchre with 52 cards, and many more. I enjoy GAP, and so does my 9-year old (and therefore I’m happy to have it); I just won’t be near the top of any recommendation lists I make. 

The Bottom Line

GAP is an enjoyable filler, but too shallow to avoid getting lost in the shuffle.

 

7

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Author: Derek Thompson


I’ve been a board game reviewer on Geeks Under Grace since 2011. I love card-driven games and party games. I have a Ph.D. in Mathematics and teach the subject at Taylor University in Upland, IN. My wife and kids are my favorite gaming partners.