Our village is under attack. Other tribes want to steal our greatest wealth, but fortunately in this raid, there will be no blood shed. Chief. Each tribe needs him to lead them and ordinary people could look up to him. And whenever one of them dies, all tribes gather up, each of them sends one representative. This is how our families remain well connected for centuries. Sit now by a common fire and watch one such battle.
Or wil you simply become one of the contestants and crave for the win? Why not. In the board game Oss from French label Spiel-ou-Face and companies Ariac Games and Cap Games comes our chance. The game is news from end of year 2013, when it was unveiled at the Essen Spiel 2013. Its authors are Vincent Lemaire, JM Maman and Charles Amir Perret. Original shadow illustration were processed by Le Dimensionaute.
Box is a bit bigger, than we’re used for card games. First of all, its slightly taller and stands out, because on its sides are tribal drawings depicting people and animals in various activities. The lid is then image of a plain, where stands a local shaman and invites participants to tribal fights fire.
In case you heed his call and look inside, a guide in three languages (French, English, German) is waiting for you and with it a cloth bag. Together they conceal view to the bottom, where six jack in different colors are located. Oddly shaped stones representing bones (in ancient history) are pieces, which will be used by candidates for the Chief. He must be able to handle it well to become leader of all clans.
The most important thing in the whole box is deck with eighty cards. More than half of them belongs to individual tribes. Meetings of six clans take part, so that each of them has eight cards with numbers from one to four. The other 25 cards are a variety of tasks for participants of the game. Always when the card is drawn, candidate must perform a trick according to illustration. A little icon at the top of the card shows its type, in the bottom line can be special victory conditions. Among the cards be found also starting player card and six drums, that will be needed for some tricks.
At the beginning of the game, you separate task cards into four decks according to their back side. Each of them is separately shuffled and put face down on the table. First card is reveale from each of them and shows task to start the game with. Each player takes card of his color, shuffles it, and draws a hand of five (out of eight) into his hand. Starting player puts a chief card in front of him. This is the resigning head of tribes, but he still tries to get his job back.
Game lasts four rounds, in which players act together. At the beginning, everyone can place a card from his hand to one of the available tricks. Specifically to three basic piles, because fourth is used for duels between players, which have not yet present in the game. It occurs in the event, that more opponents want to try anyone of the tricks. Number on the card placed under the task by player determines, how many jacks will he use to complete it.
As soon as everyone chooses one of the tasks he wants to accomplish, execution phase follows. Each card cotains an image, that clearly describes exactly, what the player must do. As well as confusion can arise, each card is also wearing a QR code, that when loaded into your phone (eg via Google Goggles), shows explanatory video.
If you do not have Internet, rules describe all the tricks verbally in two parts – preparation and execution. Each of the tasks is exactly like two parts imply. First, you need to do something with your hands. In the second stage, you throw the jacks into the air and in the meantime, you have to do something and then grab all of them back into your hand. Only then you can tell, that you have successfully met the challenge. The attempted card can now be put in front of you as successfully fulfilled. It will bring you points at the end of the game.
In the case of a duel, both opponents move their voting cards to the fourth pile, which is their goal for the fight. One of the two players will lose his tribal card, while the winner can take one of both cards (even the one of his opponent) and put it in front of him (= score it).
If a player did not succeed in a solo challenge, he can repeat his trick. But he has to paiy a card from his hand for this. He loses not only this card, but he will also have one card less in his hand until end of the game. It is clear, that replays (as they are called in the rules) will be used only in exceptional situations.
Before whole round is over, another common task is waiting for players: revealed from deck of challenges. Its fulfilled by everybody, but only one can get the actual card. Each mini game is set so cleverly, that it is clear, who is the winner and get a reward.
At the end of the round, players draw a card, reveal three new tricks for the next round and game continues. After fourth round contest ends. Players add up accumulated points for common challenges (4 points) and points printed on their tribal cards. Winner is the player with highest score sum.
Oss stands players up to tasks, which are a matter of speed and skill. While similar action games are fun and suitable even with children, this game really requires good coordination. The game builds on the classic Jacks game, played by our ancestors in the distant past. Therefore all the tribal finish and graphics. Absurdity and fun of some tricks reminds us a little of Dungeon Fighter (review), although this time, you are playing against each other.
You will find dose of tactics in the game, represented by an opportunity to challenge other player to duel. In four opponents, fights will occur every round and it is up to the players themselves, who will they challenge. However for tactical reasons, they can attack rivals with more points and try to grab them away from them. While game with fewer players is less confrontational. But result of both depend mostly on player abilities.
Repeat option can be used once per round, but it reduces number of cards in your hand to choose from, so you’ll use it mainly towards end of the game. You simply can not score all your cards in four rounds, so you eventually do not mind, that you irretrievably lose some of them.
Numbers on tribe cards determine not only number of points you earn, but also difficulty of the task. You need to find good balance of risk and abilities. If you overdo it, you will not get card and lose contact with other opponents in the game. You will be waiting for their error to get back in the game. But its even possible to get back by flying under the radar and taking big chances.
As its usual for games with a focus on skill, players are improving with each match and will learn really interesting things! Some of the tasks on the cards are really crazy, but others are quite simple. It would seem, that game just might have a problem with balance. But this is just reason, why there is a duel to self-balance. It allows players to challenge an opponent, who choses a simple task and could easily get a high score.
Oss can be played with any players, because it is basically suitable for all occasions. Surprisingly even for players, who otherwise do not love action games, because it is pleasantly crazy. With its easier tasks, it addresses smaller children as well (even since the age of six), but you cannot play with them and do not win. So its better to let them play by themselves. Game is also playable with families or you can take it with you to the restaurant, because its great drinking game. You can play in up to six players, while it will not suffer and you still get game time around half an hour.
The actual rulebook is not good and when you read, it can misguide you in some phrases. Some of the details are explained poorly and for some you have to come back to clarify during the game. This should not happen in a game so simple.
Processing is really good and starts with jacks themselves. They are the foundation of the fun. But we are much more pleased with great idea of QR code on the back of the card. It will direct you to video, that explains, how should you exactly do the trick, but it will not help you in any way. It already printed on the card and the image itself is doing quite a good job in explanation, even with complex tasks. But if you have questions, then just turn on the video. All can be viewed online at publisher’s website: http://www.oss-the-game.com/videos.html
Oss is a fun game to play with the Neanderthal bones and adds more tactical elements to game of Jacks. There are some crazy tricks waiting for you inside and you will enjoy the fun, even when you do not succeed. It also stems from watching other players. And because matches are great fun, Oss remains a very good choice, if you are looking for some light entertainment action game.
Oss lets you throw jacks in the air and do some crazy thing, before they fall back down. At you bet one of the cards from your hand on your ability to do so. Only when you are successful, it can be moved on a scoring pile. There are easier and more difficult tasks In the game, but its not less difficult to get points even for those of easier ones. When you choose it, you are gambling with a chance, that someone will challenge you to a duel, that takes place in another way. The trick is to bet enough. Cards are drawn from three decks and they are quite intriguing, but it would not be bad, if authors prepared an expansion, that would increase the variability. If you have a problem understanding the actual tricks, you can load the QR code into your phone and look at the sample video. Despite the simple basic mechanism, rules do not do their job too well. But if you wade through them, you will find, that Oss is a very entertaining game for any relaxed audience.