Author: Jeff Tidball
Category: Card Game
Company/Publisher: Atlas Games
Cost: $24.95 US
Page count: n/a
Playtest Review by Kevin Mowery on 05/25/98. Genre tags: none
As soon as I saw that my local hobby store had a copy of Spammers, I immediately bought it. I'd known for quite a while that it was coming out, and what internet junkie could resist a game about spam e-mail?
Once I got it home, I opened up the box and started looking at the cards and rules. "Hm," I thought, "there are supposed to be some counters here." So I e-mailed Jeff Tidball, the game's author, and told him I didn't get any counters. He responded promptly. "Aiiieee!" he said, and he sent me a sheet of counters. So, finally ready to play the game, I just had to wait until I could get some friends together. Memorial Day was that day.
The game's design is simple enough. There are two decks of cards, the Action deck and the List deck. Both decks have identical designs on the back, except for the words "Action" and "Lists". A more radical difference in card backs would make it easier for players to tell the difference between decks (the Lists deck is much shorter, but many players don't give more than a cursory glance to what they're grabbing--just different colors would be helpful). The List cards are mailing lists to which players have access. Action cards come in three varieties: Scams, Hardware, and Mailings. You play a sleazy internet entrepreneur trying to sell various Scams to an unsuspecting public.
The rules are fairly simple. Each player gets 6 Action cards and three Lists. They choose one list to be proprietary, meaning only they may send mailings there, and the other two become part of the Unwashed Masses, to which anyone can mail. You play your Scams and your Mailings (which typically give you a bonus to your roll for a successful mailing). Some lists have a certain type of people on them, and those people are more susceptible to certain types of Scams (Wealthy, Gullible Retirees, for instance, are more susceptible to "Free Stuff" Scams). As you mail spam to a list, more and more people on it get disgruntled. Eventually proprietary lists move into the Unwashed Masses pool, and Unwashed Masses lists can be removed from play if they're over-spammed. A successful mailing (determined by a die roll) increases the rating of a Scam by 1 (or 2 if it's *really* successful). The first player to get a single scam with a rating of 12 or multiple scams with a total rating of 20 wins.
That's all simple enough, but there are a couple of other factors. The Hardware cards allow you to break specific game rules (a routing tap allows you to mail to other people's proprietary lists, for instance). Mailing cards are even more insidious. Every Mailing card also has a special ability, which can be used in lieu of making a mailing. The higher the bonus you'd get for a mailing, the better the special ability. These special abilities range from getting back a just-played card to increasing the ratings of your own Scams without mailings or rearranging all your Scam ratings, as long as the total is the same.
In the first game, one player managed to get five different Scams into play, with a total rating of 10. "I only need two more points," he said. Thinking he was mistaken, I pointed out that he'd need 20 points across multiple Scams. He got his two points and used a mailing card to rearrange his points, immediately winning.
Aside from the similarity between card backs, there were only two other problems with the game, both minor physical design flaws. The first is that each List card shows a crowd of people of varying size on it. The problem (and it's a miniscule one) here is that it's always the same people. So the "Bigots on Parade" list is populated by minorities, and the "Sex-Starved Teenage Boys" list has women depicted on the card. The only other problem I found was that there are a lot of counters, and nowhere in the box to store them neatly. I ended up having to get an old Ziploc baggie to put the counters in and wedging them inside the cardboard contruction that very nicely hold the two decks and the single die.
All in all, though, it's a wonderful game, and well worth the $25 it'll set you back. I'm already looking forward to Mr. Tidball's next game "Cults Across America", which is a comedy board game about the conquest of North America by the forces of the Cthulhu Mythos. Just like in "Spammers", you get to play the bad guys again. I can't wait!
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)