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Reviews: Danger Guy
by Cedric Chin

Danger Guy packageDanger Guy
Written by Marc Davis
Published by Alien Menace

"Hehehheheheheheh... FIRE!" -- Beavis.

Remember those safety public service announcements you saw as a kid? Dick Van Dyke or another actor without a job would wander through a house, point to a door with smoke billowing behind it, and say, "That's dangerous!" Then some cartoon dog would say, "Take a Bite out of Crime!" or something.

In Danger Guy, you play a Danger Guy (aka. Stick Figure man) walking about a map (someone's house, rooms left over from a random adventure game, the Batcave, whatever), encountering dangerous hazards and objects, making things safe, and sacrificing bits of your body in the process. Your objective is to score the most points by making things safe. The game ends when the deck runs out.

The game consists of 100 cards and two sheets of 150+ counters. (You'll only need to cut out 5 of them per person beforehand, or raid your Cheapass bits box for pawns and matching counters.) The rules are three pages long, but the information isn't organized well (you don't even know you're on a map until the latter half of page two!).

Each player begins with seven cards and one "body" (two arms, two legs, one head; I'll explain in a moment). In the initial round, players build the map by playing any map cards they have in their hand. Map cards consist of Empty Map Tiles and Dangerous Objects. Each map card has up to one entrance (warning cones) on each side. These cones must line up with those on other cards, and as with most games, cards may not overlap.

At the beginning of each turn, you fill their hand to seven and immediately play any map cards. Every turn, players can have one action for each arm, and may move one map card per leg, in any combination. A few things count as an action: playing a Danger card on an Empty Map Tile or Dangerous Object; playing a Counter card on the same map card as your token to mitigate a Danger; or playing a Special card, per its instructions. Danger cards create one of five types of danger (Electrical, Environmental, Fire, Mechanical, or Sharpness), and Counter cards usually mitigate only one of the five types. You may not discard a card from your hand. At the end of your turn, play proceeds to the next player.

To score, whenever you mitigate a Danger on a Dangerous Object, you score a point. If you mitigate the last Danger on an Object, you also score a number of points equal to the number of Dangers mitigated on the object, and the object is made safe. No more Dangers may be played on a safe Object. It's Alien Menace's idea to use the word, "mitigate", not mine.

An Empty Map Tile (EMT) may not be crossed if it has a Danger on it. (The rulebook calls Dangers on EMTs Hazards.) Hazards on EMTs are mitigated by Counter cards (just like Dangers, so why call them Hazards?), but score no points. Hazards played on an EMT do not affect a player's ability to leave it.

Professions are a type of Special card. When a Profession card is played, it comes into play with three counters on it, which may be used to mitigate a particular Danger. The Danger Ranger, for example, comes into play with three counters against Environmental Dangers and Hazards. A counter may be used without taking an action. If a player plays another Profession on himself, the previous Profession and its counters is discarded.

Finally, you can sacrifice arms, legs, and your head to mitigate any Danger or Hazard. This requires no actions. For each arm you sacrifice, you receive one less Action per turn for the rest of the game. For each leg you sacrifice, you receive one less Move per turn for the rest of the game. If you sacrifice your head, you no longer play, but you receive a five point bonus.

The rulebook isn't written well. As I said, you don't even know you're using a map until the second half of page two. The rules don't explicitly tell you that you can only play Counter cards on the space you're on. (We soon realized that if you could play Counter cards on any space, there was no need to move your Danger Guy anywhere.) We're not sure why there are two scoring entries for losing your head.

The first round of mapbuilding seems to favor the first player, who gets to choose the most favorable path. It's pretty easy to "push" during the first few turns (see below), with the possibility of the first few players making all the Dangerous Objects in play safe, causing the others to do nothing during their turns. This isn't really a problem with the game, but boy did the players who couldn't take advantage of it whine a lot. Removing the initial round entirely seemed to work fine.

The most common scoring was "pushing". That is, make a dull but safe play, using your first action to play a Danger, then your second action to Counter it. This scored one point for Countering the Danger, one point for Countering the last Danger on the object, and made the object safe, preventing other players from playing Dangers on it and thus unable to score points.

Later in the game, as the map became larger, players went off in their own directions. Since you don't always lay out map cards perpendicularly (ie. short side to long side), it was easily possible to play paths of map cards which wouldn't be able to join with each other, and paths eventually would dead-end (an initial layout of isolated paths led to less player interaction). This added some tactics to the game: do you "push" and prevent other players from scoring along the path you're on, or would "pushing" keep you behind whoever's winning the game? What will you do once you're out of Danger Objects to score on your path? Hint: don't leave another player alone with a Dangerous Object, because he'll just add more Dangers to it, and score massive additional points for making it safe.

Professions are a nice mechanic. Since you have two Actions per turn, the most Dangers you could remove is two per turn. Leave just one more Danger, and some other player could make the Dangerous Object safe and score the additional points. Professions allow you to remove the corresponding Danger without using an Action. Smarter players would set up a Dangerous Object so that two of the Actions would be mitgated by Counter cards, and the rest from the Profession; since there were more than two Dangers on the Dangerous Object, players without the Profession could not make the Dangerous Object safe in one turn (see the three-Danger Dangerous Object, below).

A risky tactic we occasionally used was the "Most Dangerous Object in the World". If you and another player find yourselves at a deadends with nothing but "safe" Objects, and can't play Hazards on an EMT to delay an opponent, keep piling Dangers on one Dangerous Object to prevent the leading player from making it "safe" (or tempt him to lose an appendage!). Then move there as quickly as possible. Since you two have more actions than the other player, he won't be able to play Counters as quickly as you can play Dangers. This often didn't work, but it did cause one player to rip off his arm, leg, and head in one turn (okay, so he also did it because the game was almost finished), and there was much rejoicing. One recommendation to prevent a player from winning the game with a MDOitW is to only allow one appendage to be sacrificed once per turn.

As mentioned, another conundrum was the three-Danger Dangerous Object with an opponent nearby. Do you Counter any of the Dangers with your two Actions, knowing that someone else may Counter the last Danger and score the bonus points for making it safe? Or do you waste precious time, hoping someone else will let you Counter the last danger? We thank Alien Menance for introducing moments of anxiety in our otherwise boring lives.

Despite our complaints, we enjoyed this game. Danger Guy offers a surprising amount of planning and player interaction, certainly more than you can shake a stick at. Just make sure it's not flammable or you'll lose an arm.



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