TableTopTakes: Gnomi

This week, Peder and I got the opportunity to play a brand-new game by Poppy Jasper Games — an adorable little card game by the name of Gnomi.

Like PJG’s previous title, Lost Woods (which we’ve written about before), Gnomi was made possible via Kickstarter, and has recently been backed. It’s not available for retail purchase just yet (PJG was gracious enough to send us a pre-release copy), but it will be very soon!

Image Credit: Poppy Jasper Games

Gnomi is a super-portable, quick-playing game with simple rules that are easy to pick up. You start by drawing seven cards–four mushroom cards and three gnome cards. The mushroom cards can be used to steal additional cards from other players, and the gnome cards have different abilities you can activate to affect other players’ cards or your own. When you use a card, you must flip it upside down–with a mushroom card, this means it’s been composted; with a gnome card, you’ve made the gnome go to sleep. To win a round, you have to be the last player with at least one card that is still right-side up.

The gameplay is simple, and each round takes just a few minutes to play through, but you’ll still need to use plenty of strategy to win. There’s a touch of luck involved in terms of the cards you draw at the beginning of the round, but mostly, you’ll need to find the best interplay between your gnome and mushroom cards in order to beat the other players. And the more you play and get to know the cards, the more you’ll be able to optimize the hand of cards you’re dealt each round.

When trying this game out for the first time, we did find that it seems a little unbalanced with just two players. Since some of the abilities on the gnome cards affect all players at once, when there’s just two players, your opponent takes the full effect of cards like this instead of the effect being spread out across a group of players, which can make these cards too powerful. However, it’s pretty clear that this would greatly improve when you start adding in extra players. Because of this, we recommend playing this game with three or more players when you can, and we’re looking forward to trying it out with a larger group soon.

Beyond the features of Gnomi gameplay, my favorite aspect of the game is the design–the cute, fairy tale-ish aesthetic is a lot of fun, and I love the artwork for the colorful mushrooms and the many gnome characters. Best of all is the box–unlike being made of thin cardboard as with lots of card games, the box for Gnomi is thick and sturdy enough to handle being bounced around in a bag or backpack. It opens up and folds out from a magnetized flap on the side, so you don’t have to fight with (and inevitably rip) a fold-in top. The cards themselves are tucked into the hollow of the box, and when you lift them out, you reveal a picture of a wily little gnome tending some mushrooms underground.

All these little design details exemplify one of my favorite things about games funded through Kickstarter–because of the way the process works, the game creators are often able to put extra thought into adding creative features to the game and making it a cool-looking object in its own right. This seems to happen with crowd-funded games much more often than with mass-marketed ones, and it adds yet another special element to the experience of playing these games.

True to the creators’ promise for this game, Gnomi would be easy to stick in a pocket or purse and pull out to play during road trips, waiting in line, or hanging out with friends outside. It’s an easy one to teach, so you can jump right in, which could make it a great choice to start off a game night, or a nice one for when you’re in the mood for some gaming but don’t have much time. It’s approachable enough to play with a group of kids, but requires enough strategy to keep older gamers interested too. While it may not attract more hardcore gamers, it’s a great low-key gaming experience, and is a delightful little game that’s sure to please!

Overall Grade: B+

Casual Grade: A+

Gamer Grade: D

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