Today I'm going to talk about three very small games from Button Shy. By very small I mean these don't come in a box; they store in a wallet, as they're 18 cards each. Here's a pic from BoardGameGeek for scale:
For the skeptical, I will tell you there can be plenty of play in those 18 cards. I've only gotten 3 games from them so far, though I did back their last campaign on KS. A number of their games come from specific 18 card competitions, with specific themes. Most take about 20 minutes, so if you're waiting with someone for a bit, they're great. Unlike a lot of newer games, these won't break your pocketbook either, at $12 for the base games, and up to 4 for expansions.
Skulls of Sedlec is the first game I'm going to discuss. It plays with 2-3, and an expansion allows for solo play. This game is indeed based around the most famous example of Memento Mori architecture.
Each card has two skulls on them, top and bottom. Each skull type has it's own scoring conditions. On your turn, choose one of three actions: dig, collect, or stack. Digging involves turning over the top card from one of 6 piles. Collect is taking one of the faceup cards into hand. Stack is playing from hand into a pyramid shape. Stacking must be done when a player has two cards in hand.
The variety and distribution of different skull types is what makes the game interesting. One tactic won't work for every game. Sometimes, you won't get royals or peasants, but you might get priests and convicts enough to win. And it isn't just the quantity, but the placement that matters. Here's a pic(from BGG) of a final pyramid:
Seasons of Rice is a 2 player game of Rice farming. One side of the card is an ancestor with special scoring. The other is a rice field with features of paths, farmers, and buffalo. After ancestors are chosen(as well as starting fields), each player is dealt 7 cards. The game is split into two drafting rounds, the wet and dry seasons. The wet season, players choose 2 cards, one to their field and the other for the dry season. Hands are then swapped. When one card is left in hand, dry season begins. Dry season is selecting from the available pool until empty.
Rice paddies are scored as they are closed, with bonuses from farmers and buffalo within. Ancestors provide additional scoring, some at the end, and some during play. Loose buffalo cost points.
Tussie Mussie is for 2-4 players, and is based around Victorian flower meanings. Each card is unique, and has scoring conditions and possibly scoring features.
The game centers around an "I cut, you choose" mechanism. That is, the active player draws two cards; one is faceup, the other down. The next player chooses which one to take, which must maintain its up or down status. Cards are added left to right; adjacency matters sometimes. Three rounds to 4 cards each and the game is over.
I like these in the order I put them. Sedlec seems the most interesting, requiring flexibility and patience. Seasons of Rice has a tile laying and variable scoring that I like, as the ancestors may change your playing methods. Tussie Mussie will play quickly, even at four players, and the theme might draw some more gentle minded folk in.
Cower not! And play well.