[Review] Relax Wow
- Many of the kids I teach, and in fact many Koreans in general, really
love Halli Galli. I don't really find the game that attractive, but
the young folk really enjoy the frenzied play, and the game is loud
and boisterous. Thus, when I first played Wow (Enjoy Board Game Co.,
2005 - Chan-oh Jung), I instantly knew that it would be a hit amongst
the same crowd. And after playing it with my game group, I found that
my intuition was correct - they loved it.
But more than kids loved the game. It went over well with adults -
even those who weren't impressed upon my explaining of the game. It's
simply a game in which players must quickly scan the board, and the
fun and frenzied nature of it - especially when playing with six
players. I found it to be a lot of fun - something that I'll play if
I'm in the mood for shouting, and we have fifteen minutes to burn.
It's not a game that I'd want to play all the time, but I certainly
enjoy it more than Halli Galli!
A deck of cards is shuffled and dealt out to each player (player's
need not have the same number of cards), and each player places their
deck in front of them. One player says "Ready, set, go", and each
player flips the top card of their pile over. Depending on what cards
are revealed, several things may happen.
- If two or more players throw down cards that have the same colors
(red, yellow, blue, or white), they must both throw up their hands and
shout "Wow". Players do this regardless of the symbols on their
- If a player throws down a "Trick" card, it has a colored background
like normal cards but does not count as one of them. So if Joe throws
down a red Trick card and I a red Sun card, neither one of us says
anything. If the same thing happens and Bob also throws down a red
Cloud card, only Bob and I would shout "Wow!"
- If a player throws down a "Change" card, players must look at
matching symbols, rather than colors. Symbols include a cloud,
raindrop, sun, and moon. The "Change" stays in effect until one
player is given all the cards.
- If a "Mute" card is on the table, no one says anything. The Mute
card trumps all other cards; and if anyone says "Wow", they must take
all cards on the table.
- If a "Wow" card is on the table, everybody must throw up their hands
and yell "Wow!" A player who does not must take all the cards. A
"Wow" card is trumped by a Mute card.
If one player messes up, by saying "Wow" when they aren't supposed
to, or forgetting to say "Wow", or just being too slow (speed
determined by the players), they must scoop up all the cards on the
table and place them at the bottom of their deck. If no player makes
a mistake, then the cards are left on the table, and the next card
played by the players is placed on top of the ones already there. If
more than one player makes a mistake, they must play "Kawibawibo"
(Korean for Rock, paper, scissors), with the loser getting all the
Play continues until one player is out of cards - in which case they
are declared the winner. If players wish, they can continue the game
until one player has all the cards, at which point they are declared
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: The cards are coated on each side, which makes them
easy to handle and durable. This durability is important, because
these cards are going to be thrown down constantly during the game. I
did find the font for "WOW" humorous, because it looks like "Mom"
upside down - so much so that many of us call the game "Mom". The
card design is great, with each card having a bright colored
background, and a design motif for those who are color blind, so that
they can easily recognize the cards. The symbols are simple and
clear, and it's very simple to differentiate between them. Everything
fits inside a box that comes with two sections: one for the basic game
(which only handles up to four players), and one for the extra cards
(which adds up to six players). The basic game uses only three
symbols and colors, while the expanded game adds another color and
symbol. The artwork for the game, done by Byung-hoon Kim, is fun and
interesting, punctuated with fairies running throughout.
2.) Rules: The rulebook is in Korean, even though the cards all have
English words on them. I was taught the game and got some
clarifications when corresponding with the author; but if you read my
review, you know how to play. The picture illustrations in the eleven
page booklet make it pretty clear when a player should say "Wow", and
I usually follow these examples when teaching the game. Even still,
someone usually forgets what card does what, but a few mishaps will
quickly jog their memory.
3.) Silly: The game requires a certain level of silliness. Some
people just have a difficult time raising their hands and shouting
anything, it's a bit unnatural for them. I understand this, and
therefore won't bring the game out for these folks. But if people
just try the game once, raising their hands slightly off the table,
and saying "wow" in a monotone voice, they gradually get more and more
animated. Near the end of the game, the staid person will be
shrieking with the rest of them, and the game will have succeeded!
For a group that's already in a silly mood, this game will cause that
mode to spiral down into utter nonsense and laughter.
4.) Levels: Some people are going to simply be better at this than
other players. One has to quickly scan the table and see what's out
there. I follow a system - look for Mute first, then Wow, then
Change, then at my own card. Of course, I sometimes lose the game
miserably, so my system is probably not the best. But I believe that
the game is fun enough and quick enough to not matter if one player
dominates over the others.
5.) Ties and Length: The game could conceivably go on forever, if two
players are of equal ability, and consistently just trade cards off
and on. We usually stop once the game is down to only two players,
and declare them join losers. I've also modified our game so that
when players both make a mistake, that they split the cards on the
table, rather than playing "Rock Paper Scissors", which the developer
admitted was a good idea.
6.) Fun Factor: This game is just a pile of fun, reminding me of
similar games such as Slamwich. But unlike Slamwich, in which only
one card is flipped over at a time, this game has all players flipping
simultaneously, which not only decreases cheating, but also helps keep
the game moving at a fast clip. The game is best when played at a
rapid clip, with the next round starting as soon as the player has
picked up the cards from the last round. At breakneck speed, players
make more mistakes, and the hilarity increases.
Relax Wow won't ever make my top 100 games, as it's too fast and short
to really give a satisfying gaming experience, like eating a piece of
candy. But that piece of candy tastes might fine and won't ruin my
diet, so why not eat it once in a while? Relax Wow works best with a
group of raucous teenagers but can be played with a group of adults
and turn them into harebrained, childish rogues. If you like these
moments of levity and nonsense, then Relax Wow is for you.
"Real men play board games"