Author: James Ernest
Category: Card game
Company/Publisher: Cheapass Games
Page count: n/a
Playtest Review by Sam Lindsay-Levine on 05/17/99.
Genre tags: none
"Everyone is falling, and the object is to hit the ground last. It's not much of a goal, but it's all you could think of on the way down."
This is perhaps the dumbest objective for a game that I have ever seen in my entire life.
Admittedly, the sheer concept is enough to make most people break out laughing when they first hear it--or possibly only people with senses of humor as strange as that of my friends. No matter. Either way, you've got to admit it's a novel concept.
The actual gameplay is equally novel. Falling is a card game; not, as one of my friends thought when he heard the objective, a LARP. ("So, do we all just jump in the air and try to land on each other or what?")
What makes the game interesting is that there are no distinct turns. One person is the dealer (usually the winner of one round becomes the dealer for the next) and deals one card to each person, face up into a stack. Each player can use only the top card off of their stack at any time, playing it sideways in front of any player (including themselves if they wish).
The card then alters the next deal to that player, either a Hit giving them one extra card, a Split giving them a whole new pile, or a Skip passing by their turn entirely. Pushes and Grabs move Hits, Splits and Skips from player to player, Stops cancel other cards or postpone the inevitable collision, and Extras double anything else.
Plus, of course, the Ground cards. These cards are *not* shuffled in with the rest, and are put on the bottom of the deck. If you get dealt a Ground card, you just stopped falling. The hard way. Most of the strategy involves building up Skips and Stops for the endgame and trying to stop other players from doing the same.
The gameplay is exciting and fast, and players toss cards around at high speeds, sometimes performing amazing combinations, and sometimes just pointless ones. A round of play takes under five minutes, so a group can play many rounds in a very short time.
A downside is that because of the interesting play mechanic, it takes up to half an hour to teach new players how to play well, starting with just the three basic cards and adding more when they feel they know what they are doing. At the end of the half hour, though, they'll have had a great time and be begging for more. A word of caution: don't try to teach the game much faster or new players will get the impression that the outcome is totally random. Go very slowly at the beginning, so new players can pick up some of the strategies.
The art is amusing, if not exceptional. It's very easy to tell what a card is simply from the background color, which makes it easier to react quickly and leads to more craziness. The layout is best described as "functional", although my style rating is raised a notch just for the coolness of the inherent idea.
Although nobody's going to form regular Falling play groups or hold Falling tournaments, the game is a great way to spend a half hour or while away time with some friends. At $9.95, it's an amazing value (like most products from Cheapass Games) and one I recommend whole-heartedly.
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)