Reviewed by: Herb Levy
(Out of the Box Games, 3 to 10 players, ages 10 and up, 20-30 minutes; $19.99)
In the Old West, travelling salesmen often attempted to convince the local populace of the benefits of whatever elixir they had with them. The elixir, of dubious quality at best, was commonly and contemptuously called “snake oil”. But whether that concoction had any value was beside the point. The point was to make the sale. And that is the goal of all the players in the latest party game from Out of the Box: Snake Oil.
Snake Oil comes packaged with two different sets of cards: 36 double-sided Customer Cards and 324 Word Cards. (This is actually the second edition of the game with Out of the Box adding more word cards for added value.)
Each player is dealt a hand of six Word Cards. One of the players starts the action by drawing a Customer Card.
A Customer Card gives that player a role to play for the round. That player may be a “Zombie” or “Dumpster Diver” or “The Last Person on Earth”. As such, the player with the Customer Card is looking to buy something. It is up to the other players to convince the customer that the product they are selling is the best for that customer’s particular needs.
Now, the other players select two cards from their hands. These cards are combined to form an often wacky and bizarre product. You might have a “Bracelet Bomb” or a “Nose Pad”. Maybe a “Meat Chain” or “Hand Armor” is the product you are offering. In turn, each player gives a 30 second pitch to convince the customer that their product is THE product for their particular needs. Whichever player does the best job of convincing the customer (as judged by the customer by whatever criteria the customer wishes to use) receives the Customer Card. Play then shifts clockwise with the next player drawing a new Customer Card, players refilling their hands back to six and the pattern repeated. After each player has had a chance to be the customer, the game ends. Whoever has captured the most Customer Cards at that point is the winner!
This game doesn’t exactly blaze new trails. There are definite similarities to Apples to Apples, originally published by Out of the Box (and featured way back in our Spring 1999 issue) in one player acting as judge and choosing a winner each round, a game mechanism that has been warmly embraced by the game buying public as evidenced by the legion of clones it has spawned. There is also a resemblance to The Big Idea (designed by James Ernest and published by Cheapass Games back in 2000) in that both games are all about trying to promote a strange product. But the difference between The Big Idea and Snake Oil is the latter’s addition of a “customer” which provides a specific, targeted, audience for the sales pitches.
To call Snake Oil a game is a bit of a misnomer. It is too easy to control who will win. Since everyone knows who is making each sales pitch, it is easy to “game” the game by refusing to give Customer Cards to the player in the lead even if the salesperson in question deserves it. After all, there are no hard rules to follow in awarding the Customer Cards. But that’s missing the point. Consider Snake Oil as an experience. The pleasure of play has little to do with winning or losing but with the laughter and craziness that flows like a river as people try to market the most outlandish items and make it all sound convincing or, at least, semi-reasonable. Or not, if weird serves you better. As you might expect, Snake Oil is strongly dependent on the right mix of players. But if you’re in the market for a fun party game, with the right group, Snake Oil is an easy sell.
Summer 2013 GA Report Articles
Reviewed by: Kevin Whitmore (Rio Grande Games, 2 to 5 players, ages 8 and up, 30 minutes, $34.99)
The year is 2097, the world is swathed in ice. Civilization has been swept aside, leaving few survivors who must band together for mutual defense and the quest for food. Tribes compete for limited resources, and only the biggest tribe will reign… It’s a bleak future that ...Read More
Reviewed by: Herb Levy (Hurrican, 2 to 6 players, ages 8 and up; about 30 minutes; $39.99)
With the death of Julius Caesar, Octavius, his adopted son, rose to power. In 27 BC, Octavius was awarded the title of Augustus and soon became the first Roman Emperor: Augustus Caesar. Players, in the role of representatives of the Emperor, compete to gather Senators to their side, ...Read More
Reviewed by: Greg J. Schloesser (Alea/Ravensburger, 2 to 4 players, ages 12 and up, 90+ minutes; $59.99)
Stefan Feld has developed quite the reputation for designing highly intricate games that contain a multitude of mechanisms, many of which are original and very clever. His designs are typically aimed at the strategy gamer rather than the family market. As such, dedicated gamers usually eagerly anticipate his ...Read More
Reviewed by: Herb Levy (Ravensburger, 2 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, 30-45 minutes; $39.99)
Subtitled "a Strategic Construction Game", Casa Grande lives up to its name as players compete to build as many structures as they can in a relatively small area where the sky is the limit! Casa Grande, a Günter Burkhardt design, comes with building blocks, building platforms and player markers ...Read More
Reviewed by: Chris Kovac (Rio Grande Games, 2-5 players, ages 13 and up, 60 minutes; $54.95)
Cinque Terre is a "pick up and deliver" game, designed by Chris Handy, challenging players to pick up and deliver produce to five scenic villages on the Italian Coast. The person who has generated the most points by the end of the game wins. Each player starts with a ...Read More
Reviewed by: Herb Levy (Mayfair Games, 3-5 players, ages 12 and up, 75-100 minutes; $35)
In the mid 19th Century era of power politics in New York City, the Five Points area of Manhattan was known for crime, gangs and political corruption. Against this background, Andreas Steding has designed a game placing players into the heart of the struggle, competing to control neighborhoods and install ...Read More
[This issue features an analytic look at Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar by Joe Huber. To better understand Joe's "balancing act", it might be a good idea to refresh your memory of how the game works. Towards that end, we've "flashbacked" to the review of the game as it appeared in the Winter 2013 issue of Gamers Alliance Report.] Reviewed by: Herb Levy (Czech Games Edition/Rio ...
[In this issue, we welcome Derek Croxton. Derek remembers when putting "dice" in a game title was only done sarcastically, as when referring to Avalon Hill's War at Sea game as "Dice at Sea". He got into the hobby via Dungeons & Dragons but quickly moved on to Titan and wargames. Like many gamers of a certain age, he has found his time too limited ...
Reviewed by: Herb Levy (R&R Games, 2 to 6 players, ages 14 and up, 60 minutes; $29.99)
It's back to the track with the latest entry in the stable of horse racing games: Homestretch, designed by Frank DiLorenzo. This game allows players to enjoy two sides of horseracing: ownership and betting. Each player begins with his own set of Bet tokens and a player token ...Read More
Reviewed by: Herb Levy (Nürnberger-Spielkarten-Verlag, 2 to 5 players, ages 8 and up, about 15 minutes; about $10)
Dice are one of those game components that are game constants; you see them almost everywhere. But after years and years of taking them for granted, the attraction that gamers have for dice can wane until dice can often be, well, boring. And that's why, when a ...Read More
Reviewed by: Herb Levy (Pegasus Spiele, 2 to 5 players, ages 10 and up, 45-60 minutes; $49.95)
The beautiful city of Venice provides the setting as players, in the role of Venetian nobles, compete to exert influence while constructing bridges and gondolas to become the "eminence grise" of Venice in the new Stefan Feld design, Rialto. Rialto comes with player boards for each participant, councilmen ...Read More
Reviewed by: Andrea "Liga" Ligabue (Matagot/Asmodee, 1-6 players, ages 13 and up, 30-45 minutes; $34.99)
As probably you already know from reading my reviews, I'm not a great fan of collaborative games. What is collaborative in the intent often degrades into a solo experience where one player drives the game for all. Throughout the years, designers have cleverly opted for different tricks to avoid this ...Read More
Reviewed by: Herb Levy (Out of the Box Games, 3 to 10 players, ages 10 and up, 20-30 minutes; $19.99)
In the Old West, travelling salesmen often attempted to convince the local populace of the benefits of whatever elixir they had with them. The elixir, of dubious quality at best, was commonly and contemptuously called "snake oil". But whether that concoction had any value was ...Read More
The 3 R's Meet the 3 E's Growing up and going to school, all of us were inculcated with the three Rs - reading, writing and 'rithmatic. And those 3 Rs have served us well. Not only in our regular everyday lives but in our lives when it comes to gaming. Reading has been put to good use in pouring over hundreds (thousands) of rules ...Read More
Reviewed by: Pevans (Feuerland Spiele/Z-Man Games, 2-5 players, ages 12 and up, 90+ minutes; $7
9.99) I came to Terra Mystica late. I missed it at Spiel ’12, but noticed when several people mentioned it as one of their favourite games of last year. I somehow got the impression it was a card game, a notion that was rapidly dispelled when I saw the deep box ...Read More
[Throughout the years, Gamers Alliance has been fortunate in attracting to our pages some of the finest talent in the World of Games. One of those talents is Joe Huber. Not only is Joe knowledgeable about games from a design standpoint (after all, he is the author of several successful published games - with his Starship Merchants - co-designed with Tom Lehmann - recently featured ...