Review: Run for Your Life, Candyman!

Review: Run for Your Life, Candyman!

Paul Carboni, Play Unplugged

In his philosophy, Friedrich Nietzsche postulated about the endless return, the idea that everything has happened before and everything will happen over again, exactly the same, for eternity. Friends, I have experienced how terrible this can be first hand. I once had a nightmare within a nightmare. Within a nightmare. All wrapped up in another nightmare. Caged in, you guessed it, still more nightmare.

Every time I woke up from one layer of horror I would gasp, push the covers off me, look at the clock glow 3:17 in furnace red, and feel relief wash over me that it was all over. Slowly, I began to perceive logical incongruities. Time wasn’t working right. I kept trying to open the door, but I could never reach it to turn the knob. Then in an instant I comprehended what was happening. My relief turned to dread, I started panting raggedly, and sweat bloomed cold on my forehead. Then I woke up again, and the nightmare continued.

Smirk and Dagger‘s  board game Run for Your Life, Candyman! is a lot like that nightmare, only with gingerbread men, Tom and Jerry style violence, and infinity percent more puns. Oh, and actually it’s fun! Can’t forget that part.

Unlike my recurring nightmare, playing this game is an immensely enjoyable experience!

When I was recruiting people to help me test the game for the review, I described it to them as a cross between Candy Land and The Hunger Games. It is a very apt description, so that’s how I’m going to describe it to you. Run for Your Life, Candyman! is like a cross between Candy Land and The Hunger Games. You play one of six gingerbread men trying to escape the magical candy kingdom and avoid being shipped off by the king to a candy store. But only one cookie can make it out alive. It’s a race to the end, and a death match along the way.

The game comes with six unique game pieces, the board, twenty-five damage sheets, a “Dash n’ Bash” card deck, and a “Special Treats” card deck. Game play is similar to Candy Land with Players taking turns drawing cards from the Dash n’ Bash deck and moving along the game’s track to the candy icon printed on the card. If a player draws a character card, they teleport to the character’s icon on the track. That’s the dash part. The bash part occurs when players pass each other or land on the same spot. Each player has a sheet to record the damage they’ve taken. There are six body parts (two legs, two arms, torso, and head). Each part has a corresponding  candy icon. To attack, a player draws a card from the Dash n’ Bash deck and assigns a point of damage to the corresponding body part. So a player that draws a peppermint swirl card assigns one point of damage to the part marked by a peppermint swirl (which happens to be the head). When a player takes four points of damage to any one body part it is ripped off and given to the attacker as a trophy. If you lose your last body part you’re out of the game.

Special Treats cards are just that. Players collect them by drawing cards for movement with one of the candy icons on it (which candy icon is determined before the game begins by flipping the top card of the Dash n’ Bash deck). Special Treat cards range from weapons your gingerbread man can equip and use multiple times, to powerful attacks that are used once and discarded.

Interspersed across the board are special icons. A player who ends their turn on these icons or draws the appropriate card from the Dash n’ Bash deck starts a Candy Cage Match. That player chooses another player, forces them to the same space, and the two take turns drawing cards and beating the crumbs out of each other until one manages to escape. And just when you thought the carnage couldn’t get any worse, there’s The Twins. Before you reach the end you have to pass through The Twins’ danger zone. At the start of each turn in the danger zone, The Twins make four attacks against you to get your delicious, delicious cookie parts.

The new face of your nightmares!

The game is absolutely brutal. Damage happens fast and frequently. Candy Cage Matches allow you to pull characters who have gotten away from the fray back into it. And just like in Candy Land, the character cards can be your greatest ally or your most frustrating bane. Friends quickly become enemies, and expect at least one grudge match to develop every time you play. Playing through the game feels chaotic, and there are more than a few laughs to be had as you tear each other limb from limb. I knew before I sat down to play the game that I would enjoy it, but I was surprised by just how much fun I had.

But despite the madcap hijinks, Run For Your Life, Candyman! still has flaws. For one, after players leave the game, there’s not really a whole lot for them to do aside from watch the carnage ensue. It’s not a terribly deep or strategic game, so its long-term playability could be a bit suspect, depending on what your primary playgroup fancies. Further, while the game embraces the randomness and chaos of having your fate decided mostly by luck, using it to enhance the play experience, the fact remains that if you don’t like luck based games, you probably won’t enjoy this game much.

The Breakdown

Positives
+ Game art reflects the “good candy gone bad” theme really well
+ Special treats add variety to the gameplay
+ Unapologetically brutal play experience without destroying friendships; you can let that little monster in you out guilt-free with this game
+ Great party game, it generates an adrenaline rush in the players and the high lasts a while after the game ends

Negatives

– Game can run a bit longer than is fun
– If a player is removed early, they’ll be watching from the sidelines
– Replay value uncertain
– While it has a surprising amount of strategy for a luck based game, it is still a luck based game

Like my nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from, you will frequently find yourself being pulled back into the bloodbath just when you thought you had left it behind for good. If you enjoy irreverent fun and are looking for a new game to play at your next party to start the night right, pick up Smirk and Dagger’s Run For Your Life, Candyman! from your friendly local game store for the suggested retail price of $29.95. Do you already have the game? Tell us about it on the forums, yeah?

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