Review of Sitting Ducks Gallery
In Korea, shooting galleries are quite popular. They're at all the amusement parks, and even the smallest of carnivals invariably has some kind of stand where one can shoot guns loaded with small corks at stuffed animals and other prizes. I'm horrible at these games and just do a dreadful job every time I bring the rifle to my shoulder. At the same time, I love playing them - probably nostalgia from when I was a child, but it's just a lot of fun for me to shoot at different targets. Sitting Ducks Gallery (Playroom Entertainment, 2005 - Keith Meyers) takes this theme, giving each player a number of ducks in a shooting gallery, and having them attempt to keep their ducks alive, while shooting down the others.
"Take Aim" cards, of which there are many, cause a player to place a targeting token above a card in the Duck Line, even an "empty water" space if they wish. If the Duck Line moves, the targets stay where they are.
"Shoot" cards cause a player to kill one duck over which there is a target token. The duck is removed from the Duck Line and given to its owner, while all ducks behind it move up one space, and the top card from the Duck deck is flipped over to take the last spot in line.
"Line Forward" cards move the whole Duck Line forward one spot, putting the duck in front of the line at the bottom of the Duck Deck, and revealing a new card at the end of the line.
"Moving Back", "Move Ahead", and "Fast Forward" allow a player to move their own duck, attempting to avoid targets.
"Bump Left" and "Bump Right" cards cause a player to move targets.
"Duck and Cover" lets a player hide their duck underneath another duck card.
"Bottoms Up" allows a duck to hide for one round.
"Disorderly Conduckt," and "Duck Shuffle" rearrange the Duck Line.
"Quick Shot" allows a player to remove a duck from the board, without needing a target token.
"Double Barrel and "Two Birds" target and shoot two ducks each, respectively.
"Misfire" kills a duck that is adjacent to a targeted duck.
The result is a game that seems to fall somewhere between Guillotine and Family Business - a light hearted romp in which players maneuver cards in the middle of the table for their benefit, and to their opponent's detriment. It's fast and fun; and while there's a smidgen of tactics in the game, it's mostly just a way for up to six people to blow off steam and laugh, while shooting at other folk's ducks. As in any game of this genre, it's easy for one player to get ganged up upon by the rest of the players, but Sitting Ducks mitigates that by a random, moving line.
A "Duck Deck" is formed of five ducks from each player's color (a sixth duck is placed face-up in front of a person to denote their color) and five "empty water" cards. The deck is shuffled and six cards are dealt out face-up onto the six spaces on a long board placed in the middle of the table - each duck facing the left. The deck is placed after the last face-up card. Each of these spaces (comprising the "Duck Line") has a spot above it for targeting markers to be placed during the game. A pile of these targeting markers is placed near the board. A deck of action cards is shuffled, and three are dealt to each player. The player whose duck is furthest to the front of the line goes first with play passing clockwise around the table.
On a players turn, they MUST play one of the three cards from their hand, drawing a card to replenish it. Sometimes a player can't complete an action, for some reason, in which case the card is discarded. Other times a player is forced to harm one of their own duck, in which case they just have to suck it up. Either way, once the player plays and draws a new card, they pass to the next person.
There are a variety of action cards included with the game:
When a player has their last duck killed, giving them six in front of them, they have lost the game. However, they still can play action cards on their turn, taking sweet, sweet revenge against their opponents. The last player who has ducks alive with all other ducks dead is the winner!
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: The cards are of the highest quality and have some very nice cartooney artwork on them. One card's artwork in particular (the Bump Right and Bump Left cards) reminded me very much of a famous Gary Larson cartoon, and that almost seems to be an inspiration, although the illustrations here are much nicer. Everything is bright and shiny, and the whole game has a happy, fun feel about it - no blood and gore here! The long board, while not necessary, is a lot easier to handle than simply having cards lined up in a row on the table. Play a couple games where the cards move around and there's no board, and you'll see what I mean. The targeting tokens are just round cardboard tokens and are the least quality component of the game, which is really saying something. Sitting Ducks has high production values, and everything fits nicely in a cardboard insert in a fairly large box (not really that big, but big for the size of the game).
2.) Rules: The rules booklet, which comes in English, Spanish, and French, is four large, colorful pages, of which only two are the actual rules. The other two have detailed explanations of each card, as well as a few hints and tips. Sitting Ducks is fairly easy to explain to new people; the only hang-up that happens is when people have a hand of cards that they can't use - sometimes that causes initial confusion amongst new players.
3.) Choices: Three cards in your hand doesn't really seem to give one a lot of options. And sometimes, you do sit there and just discard a card, since there's nothing you can do at that point. I'm not a big fan of that part of the game - I wish that there was an action that a player could always take, lest they sit there and feel that they do nothing. However, the game does go by rapidly, so that this isn't really that big of a deal. And, because there are only three cards in a player's hand, occasionally they are forced to kill one of their own ducks. This doesn't happen often; but when it does, it's very amusing to watch (provided you aren't that player.)
4.) Attitude: When playing Sitting Ducks, one has to realize that the game doesn't have great strategic options and plans. The player must simply play the cards they have in their hand to their best advantage. If a player is quickly wiped out by a concerted effort of the other players, they should realize that the game is fairly short, and join in the fun. At least the game allows eliminated players to have their just vengeance, since they can still play cards to the very end.
5.) Diplomacy: Actually, I think that the game is more about negotiating with other players, and learning who to shoot, and when. If a player viciously attacks one player, they should expect the same done to them. At the same time, the best way to win the game is to coast in under everyone's radar. I played one game where no ducks of mine appeared on the line at all for about the first ten rounds! This was great, or so I thought. People were so disgusted with my good luck that when my ducks finally appeared, they were all blown away in short order. Ah well.
6.) Fun Factor: The game has a bit of the "take that!" factor, and that's where the key to having fun with it lies. If you don't like games that allow players to attack each other, a la Family Business, then Sitting Ducks isn't going to change your mind much. If you don't like the randomness of the line in Guillotine and the few options you have in that short, quirky game, then Sitting Ducks will probably be a pass for you. But if you're someone who loves quick games that have players playing cards, hitting people around the table left and right, making quick alliances with other players, trying to keep your ducks alive, then this one will be a lot of fun for you.
High production values, a fun theme, and bright cheerful atmosphere make Sitting Ducks Gallery one of my favorite from its genre. It isn't a game I want to play all the time, as the strategy is very low. Yet because I can get many groups to gladly play it - teenagers, groups of adults who want to just have a blast playing a game - I suspect it will see a lot of play (it already has!). Sitting Ducks Gallery won't be a game that we'll still be talking about in ten years, I'm sure. But for right now, it's a rollicking time.
"Real men play board games."