The following covers two Hidden Burrow games. You can read my impressions of the others released so far: Mystic Match and Witches' Brew. The two I cover here, Slap Jack-O-Lantern and Go Dig!, are shorter, simpler game experiences.
Slap Jack-O-Lantern is like a Mario Party minigame in real life. It’s fast-paced and based on quick reflexes and potential high levels of annoyance for your playing partners. The central mechanism is slapping: slapping down as fast as you can once you see the Jack-O-Lantern.
After printing out the PDF files for whichever style you want and cutting out the cards, you then shuffle them and deal each one out. Players do not need an even number of cards, so you keep dealing until you've run through the deck. Once dealt, players have to keep their cards face down. For all you know, the very first card you play could be the Jack-O-Lantern. Slapping it before anyone else is key to success.
All the cards, save for a couple (the Trick cards, see below), have cute pumpkin illustrations or the charming little Jack-O-Lantern. In turns, you place these cards down in the "pumpkin patch" - the pile at the center of the table. If you slap the Jack-O-Lantern, you then get all the cards beneath it, and you want every last one of them to win. Slapping the wrong card will make you look both foolish and over-eager. This was the case for one of my partners who slapped the first card played and had to give up all his cards.
There are two other card types besides the Jack-O-Lantern. Some cards have one or multiple pumpkins on them and are marked “P,” for pumpkin. They force you to discard one card if you slap them. I loved the little pictures on them - the pumpkin cards made me think of the little pumpkin-shaped candy corn pieces. Others, less charming, have either a melting or a crushed Jack-O-Lantern on them and are marked “T,” for trick. These require you to discard every one of your cards upon a mistaken slap.
While printing and cutting out the cards, I thought there was no way I could mistake any of the other card types for the Jack-O-Lantern. However, in the heat of the game, I felt like I was about to slap every card that was placed down except the Jack-O-Lantern, which I typically hesitated before. Once you start seeing the cards placed down in quick succession, anticipating the special moment, you suddenly find your Jack-O-Lantern-recognizing faculties are frail and quick to break down.
The first game I played I managed to win. I thought it was because I was playing with older relatives who had slower reflexes. But then when I played with relatives my age, I lost every time, and only ever slapped the melting Jack-O-Lantern Trick card. The person who won each time? Left-handed. Perhaps there’s a left-hand and a youth advantage? Regardless, some will have a clear advantage in the fast-slapping arena.
I found the person playing any card has a slap advantage in getting to it first. So if you play the Jack-O-Lantern, and know it as soon as it’s played, your hand is there, ready. Now, you could also be retreating your hand from having played it, so this could also leave you at a disadvantage: you have to quickly move your hand back forward after having just started to bring it back. In either case, if you play the Jack-O-Lantern, it would affect your chances of getting a slap on it. Additionally, how close each player may hold their hand to the card pile is not established by the instructions, so it's up to house rules. Hope you don't have a bratty relative who insists you can hold your hand right next to the pile (hey, a ruler's length away, buddy!).
The instructions say to decide how hard or light each player should slap beforehand to prevent injury. There is also the reminder that “it’s not who can slap hardest, but who can slap fastest.” However, these words carry little weight in the heat of the game, when everyone is blood thirsty to pounce the first poor little Jack-O-Lantern they see. When I held back for fear of causing injury, I always missed. It’s questionable whether such precautions will actually be held to, especially among those who care only about winning to the detriment of all else (even their loved ones' hands). I appreciate that the precautionary note is there, though, as it is needed.
This is a quick, fun, and surprisingly intense game. It requires fast reflexes and will keep you tense the whole while. The cards come fast, and you’ll be ready to pounce the Jack-O-Lantern as soon as it appears. Again, if you’ve played Mario Party, those minigames are a great point of reference. Enjoy them? Pick this up and print it out. Don’t? Haven’t played Mario Party? Ask yourself how much you’re ready for a fast reflex game.
Get this game if:
-A fast-paced game of quick reflexes interests you.
Avoid this game if:
-The tension of waiting for the Jack-O-Lantern to appear and then quickly slapping it would be too much for you.
Go Dig! is Hidden Burrow’s own graveyard themed Go Fish!. Your goal is to assemble a complete skeleton, whose parts come in pairs. You ask to swap cards with other players to get the ones you need. If the other player does not have the card you requested, they tell you “Go dig!” and you draw from the “graveyard” pile in the middle of the table.
The skeleton drawings are cartoon and clearly intended to be lighthearted. As you complete your skeleton, you can place your cards down to form a picture it. Legs, arms, and hip bones go together, a left and a right of each, and then the skull and torso pair up. Once you get all these pairs together, you win.
This game goes by the quickest of each of Hidden Burrow’s titles so far. It also seems the simplest. The cartoon skeleton is less remarkable than the delightful illustrations that accompanied Mystic Match and Witches’ Brew, and the simplicity lacks the fast-paced fun of Slap Jack-O-Lantern. So far this is the one Hidden Burrow game you could skip over, unless you’re a completionist and have to print them all.
Get this game if:
-You’d enjoy a Go Fish! alternative and a fun cartoon skeleton.
Avoid this game if:
-You’re looking for a substantial card game (check out Mystic Match instead).
These copies of Slap Jack-O-Lantern and Go Dig! were purchased by the author.
Disclosure: the author is a friend of the developer.