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Ensure Your Fair Share of the Loot in Goodcritters from Arcane Wonders

You know that painting that shows the dogs playing poker?

Now take that image and substitute most of the dogs for other animals like a rabbit with an eyepatch, a rhino with brass knuckles, and a fox in a slinky black dress. Got it? Good. Then replace that pile of chips in the center of the felt table with a big ole heap of loot, and you’ve set the stage for Goodcritters from Arcane Wonders.

Goodcritters takes a loot sharing mechanic similar to Cash N Guns and adds in both bribery and deception –making a good concept even better!

Goodcritters: Democracy For The Win

Like Cash N Guns, several loot cards are put on display at the top of each round.  However, instead of menacing one another with foam guns to shoot or scare your fellows crooks away from a haul, everyone plays every round…and whoever is The Boss does all of the distributing.

The Boss may distribute the loot however he or she wants. Maybe he tries to keep it all himself, or perhaps she tries to split it up as fairly as possible. Every critter at the table will get a chance to accept the distribution as it is (Vote Yes), reject it (Vote No), Skim a little extra off the top, Rob another player’s stash, or Guard their own earnings every round.

Each of these actions are represented by a card that is played face down by all players after the loot is distributed.

Players can also move the token representing their critter so that it stands menacingly in front of another player, implying a Threat. Threats mean that the player might well intend to Rob the opponent his or her token is in front of. They don’t have to play the Rob card–it can be a total bluff!–but they can only Rob the player their token is facing. Maybe that’ll scare them into Guarding with their turn instead of Robbing, Skimming, or Voting!

Then, starting with the Boss and working clockwise, each player’s action is revealed and resolved. If there are more Vote Yes cards in play than Vote No cards, the loot is banked as it was distributed and the player who served as Boss keeps his office. If the reverse is true, new loot is added to the pile, the office passes to the first player clockwise from the Boss who voted no, the loot gets redistributed, and new action cards are played.

This process continues until The Fuzz (Get it?! ‘Cause they’re all animals!) card is turned up from amongst the loot pile, at which point every critter skedaddles with their earnings!

Goodcritters: Up the Ante with Some Bribery

There is an optional ruleset that allows players to bribe their fellow felonious critters while everyone decides which Action they’ll take. They can use loot from their stash or Payoff Cards to try and secure a fortuitous deal; they can even promise to take certain future Actions if their comrades will perform a certain Action in the current round–channeling their inner Wimpy!

But the rulebook is clear: Bribes are not enforced by any rules in the game, and players are free to cheat, swindle, or lie as much as it suits them to! It’s just like real life, folks!

You can make the bribes more conditional by tossing down what are called Payoff Tokens (not to be confused with the Payoff Cards) demanding either a Vote Yes or Vote No action from the player in exchange for the promised loot. If the player does anything but what that token demands, they do not collect the loot and that stack of cash goes back to the briber.

I love this additional wrinkle to the Cash N Guns-esque gameplay mechanics! It not only sets Goodcritters apart from Cash N Guns, it sets it above it in my opinion. Keeping the bribery rules optional allows the game to retain a simpler gameplay for a younger audience too; younger, I’d argue, than even the box suggests (12+). But you’d definitely need players in that older age range to make the bribery options viable.

Goodcritters: Cheese It! It’s the Fuzz!

Goodcritters is good as is, but there are definitely a couple of elements I think future expansions could open up and improve upon:

  1. With this “base game,” the type of loot doesn’t matter in the end; just the total value across all of your loot. The rulebook explicitly says that future expansions might change this, and I would welcome that as an optional ruleset. For the younger crowd, that might be introducing one thing too many. But for my gaming group, the added depth of tracking fair distribution not only of value but also of type could make things really interesting!
  2. All of the critters play the same; ie there are no unique powers for each critter. It would be fun to see some thematic powers tied to the various animal avatars that could shake gameplay up just a little bit more. Again…I think keeping it optional is key because the base game is great as it is!

Goodcritters is definitely one of those games where expansions could definitely improve the game, but aren’t necessary to make the base game great.

I host an occasional game night for students ages 11-18, and as fun as Cash N Guns is, I can’t get away with pointing foam–or even finger!–guns at children. Goodcritters delivers the fun of that game with none of the potential scandal, so it is a guaranteed feature going forward. Plus it will keep every player (up to 8) involved from beginning to end; no sitting out after taking too many Wounds. I couldn’t be happier with that!

This is definitely one worth adding to your collection! You can snag it from Amazon here.

[Disclosure: Nerds on Earth was provided a copy of Goodcritters by Arcane Wonders in exchange for an honest review.]

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