The first time I saw Creative Clash it was being played by two players at GenCon 2015. One player kept drawing cards that negatively effected the other player, and it really looked as if the constant barrage of "take that" cards being sent their way was ruining the recipient's fun. I'm not a fan of games with a heavy "take that" aspect, and so I put off playing Creative Clash, dreading that I would dislike it, and that I would end up writing an overly negative review.
Thankfully, the impression that I was left with wasn't indicative of the game as a whole, and I can say that, while the "take that" aspect of the game is certainly present, it is a much smaller piece of Creative Clash than I was anticipating. Creative Clash pleasantly surprised me with its cheeky humor, endearing art, and light engine building mechanics, seeing far more plays in my game group than I had anticipated.[caption id="attachment_54895" align="aligncenter" width="587"] Each player randomly draws a Principal at the beginning of the game, each with a special power and Ego goal.[/caption]
Each player in Creative Clash is positioned as the head of a creative agency competing to be the first to reach their Ego goal. Each player's total Ego goal is listed on a Principal card, dealt randomly at the beginning of the game. All Principal cards have a special ability, which helps to determine which course of action each player will be shooting for as the game plays out.[caption id="attachment_54897" align="aligncenter" width="587"] Workers, and Skills to train them in, are highly sought after in order for each player to get their Studio up to speed.[/caption]
Players draw cards from a communal deck and must determine the most efficient way to use those cards in order to most quickly inflate their Ego. The cards on offer range from Employees that can be hired into a player's Studio to help work on Projects, the Projects themselves, Skills that can be purchased and placed onto the Employees in order to meet Project requirements, Stuff cards that give the player an immediate Ego boost to Event, and Person cards that have many different effects, some of which are good for the player, some of which are bad for their opponents.[caption id="attachment_54898" align="aligncenter" width="587"] Events and Persons throw some chaos and randomness into the mix.[/caption]
The way that the Employee/Skill/Project card dynamic works lends the game a satisfying engine-building element. Projects often require more than one Worker and for those Workers to have one or more specific skills. Being able to fulfill a demanding project for a nice Ego and Coin reward by having a number of Workers with a diverse Skill set is fun, as is playing a series of cards into your Studio that can help you establish a steady inflow of Coins.[caption id="attachment_54899" align="aligncenter" width="587"] Players with enough Coins can purchase Stuff, which gives an instant Ego boost.[/caption]
The only real downside to the engine building offered in the game is that you can't really plan for the eventuality of building a Project or Coin engine as you can't be sure exactly which cards you'll draw. It isn't uncommon to draw a Project card that requires a Skill that you just can't manage to get your hands on or draw into many Stuff cards that you can't afford as you can't get a steady income generated.[caption id="attachment_54900" align="aligncenter" width="587"] Projects provide Coins, Ego or both and can require a sizable, skilled workforce.[/caption]
On top of this inability to plan are the "take that" cards and a few cards that are played instantly as they are drawn that really add a chaotic element to the game. The sum of all of Creative Clash's parts total out to a game that can't be taken too seriously and sits on the light end of the board gaming spectrum. It won't make up the core of a game night but is a good game to begin, or wrap up, a night's gaming. Creative Clash also sets up and plays quickly enough that it makes a good option to reach for when you want to catch a quick game rather than take time to set up and play through something heavier and more involved.[caption id="attachment_54901" align="aligncenter" width="587"] Each player has a player board that shows turn order and keeps track of their Coins and Ego.[/caption]
A note on player count: Creative Clash supports 2 to 5 players, although I would recommend against playing with just two players. The nature of the game means that you live and die by the card draw, and with two players it severely limits the options that players have when it comes to the total number of cards seen in a game and the cards that negatively effect an opponent. With two players there is no real choice involved with these cards; the only real option is to just play the negative cards against your opponent as soon as you draw them. If only one player draws these cards it can feel outright punishing and severely diminish the fun for the other player.
Upping the player count not only increases potential targets for these cards but makes the effect of many of them far more interesting as well as giving the player the choice of which opponent to play the card against. The game time does increase directly with player count, but the card distribution tends to even out more as a larger number of cards are seen each game, improving the overall experience.
A note on “chrome”: The cards in Creative Clash are very nice. They are thick, a bit larger than standard, and have a great finish. The art won't blow anyone's socks off but it is consistent and stylish and much of the flavor text on the cards is witty and humorous without trying too hard or being overly reliant on memes. The wooden tokens used to track Ego and Coins are decent although they are a bit too big to fit on the same space on the player boards at the same time.
The bottom line:
Creative Clash is a fun, light card game with elements of engine building and some "take that" thrown in for good measure. The theme of controlling a creative agency is unique and actually fits the mechanics of the gameplay. It is satisfying to successfully build up an engine of Workers and Skills in order to complete Projects as they come to you, although if the cards don't fall in your favor, it can be equally frustrating to constantly be short on Workers or lacking the one Skill that all of your Project cards need.
Get this game if:
You are looking for a light card game with some "take that" elements.
You want an easy to play game to ease into, or cap off, a night filled with more heavy board gaming.
You like games that let you go with the flow rather than expect you to form and execute long term strategies.
Avoid this game if:
You prefer games that place more importance on player decisions than which cards are drawn.
You dislike random card draw determining your course of action.
Creative Clash can be purchased directly from The Infantree and rules can be downloaded here. The copy of Creative Clash used for this review was provided by The Infantree.
Creative Clash is a light card game that is quite fun for 3 or more players. Cheeky humor and some light engine building add up to a fun experience overall.