When the concept of Run For Your Life, Candyman! (Smirk & Dagger Games, 2005 - Curt Covert) was explained to me, I just started to laugh. During my first game of it everyone was laughing pretty much the entire time. It's not like Candyman is a great game. In fact, it's not even a good game! It's just that the concept of the game is so ludicrous (Candyland mixed with Battletech) that one cannot help but laugh. The game is downright silly, and I doubt we'll ever see Candyland at the World Boardgaming Championships.
Now as to whether you should own the game or not - that depends. If you're someone who loves the humor in Munchkin and other such games and don't really care about gameplay, then Candyman might be right up your alley. Or, if you want a game on your shelf to sardonically bring out the moment anyone mentions Candyland, again - this may be for you. The latter reason is why I'll hang on to the game - it's just so preposterous in its premise, and the gameplay is a bit over the top. Gamers will most likely despise it; people who like oddities will gladly want it.
Each player plays a gingerbread man and is given a sheet representing their man with a grid of six squares printed on each arm, leg, and chest and seven squares on the head. Players put their man on the Start space of a board that looks like Candyland drawn by someone on drugs. Apparently, players have discovered that the "joy" which is Candyland is really a place of horror, where people eat young cookie guys and must escape to the end. Along the way, they are beating the snot out of each other with whatever weapons they can find and avoiding the pitfalls along the way. Two stacks of cards are shuffled - one "Dash "n' Bash and one Special Treat deck - and placed face-down by the board. The top card from the Dash deck is flipped over until a card with a single piece of candy is shown. That card is placed near the board to show that if a player draws a card with that piece of candy on it, they receive a Special Treat Card.
The oldest player goes first with each player going clockwise. On a turn a player draws a Dash card for movement, taking a Special Treat card if applicable. Most Dash cards show one or two pieces of candy (same or different). A player must move along the path (either backwards or forwards), moving to a space that matches the candy icon on the card. When there are two different candy icons, the player may move to them in the order of their choice. If a player lands on a candy that has a "drop" (like a chute from "Chutes and Ladders"), they move to the corresponding space.
Now, as a player moves, they may take a potshot at each and every person they pass or land on. For each person they are attacking, a player turns over a Dash card. The candy shown thereupon corresponds to a part of a gingerbread's body (for example, chocolate bars equal the right arm). One square is crossed out for each damage taken; and when all the squares on one section are crossed out, that part of the body is TORN off and thrown away. If a section of the body that has been destroyed is hit again nothing happens. If the Dash card is a special card, the player may do two damage to the body part of their choice.
When moving, if a player turns over a Dash card that shows a character on it, they transport to the matching spot on the board (can't make any attacks unless they land on someone). If a player turns over a "Candy Cage Match", they move to the nearest Cage Match space and initiate one. In a Candy Cage Match the challenger moves any other player to the same spot, and both attack each other by drawing the top card from the Dash deck and applying damage to their opponent. This continues until one of the players draws a card that has a piece of candy on it that matches the space where the Cage Match is occurring - at which point the match ends.
The Special Treat cards can be played whenever indicated on each card. Some of them are weapons that allow extra or special damage. These weapons are often "equipped" on a specific arm, and if that arm is destroyed so is the weapon. Other cards avoid attacks or allow extra movement.
The last nine spaces on the track are the zone of "The Twins" (greedy psychopathic children). Any player whose token is on one of these spaces at the beginning of their turn takes four cards worth of attacks. The first player to make it to the final space wins the game! Also (and more likely), the first player to eliminate all competition also wins.
Some comments on the gameâ€¦
1.) Components: While pretty, the game's components are pretty much equal to a lot of American games - meaning that they're nothing special. The game comes with a pad of gingerbread sheets, as well as a photocopiable page in the rulebook. The cards are decent quality, but the figures are little cardboard stand up gingerbread men in plastic holders. As a spoof of Candyland, the components work great; but there's really nothing to write home about here. The box is big and has catchy artwork (also done by Curt) but is really too big for what's inside.
2.) Rules: The rules come in a four-page booklet that explain the rules fairly clearly. A few examples are included, but the game is simplistic enough that more rules aren't really needed. I found the game easy to teach (talking over the laughter) and easy to learn.
3.) Humor: Ripping off a gingerbread man's arms is hilariously funny. Perhaps after three games, this might wear thin, but I'm not sure I would play the game that much anyway! The whole concept of licorice whips, candy bazookas, and Cage Matches are hilarious. And the thing I enjoyed the most was the spoof on Candyland, one of my least favorite games ever. Candyland offers no choices; and besides teaching counting and colors, it isn't a useful game to teach children.
4.) Strategy: Candyman offers a few more choices than Candyland. You can move in either direction, choose who to attack, and when to play your special cards. Frankly, however, the strategy isn't really that big of a deal. The game is chaotic beyond belief, and a player could win the game in three minutes, if they get lucky with their draws. On the other hand, a player can be almost to the finish line, then get sent way to the back. This will no doubt annoy people (it did me!), but I'm not sure that the game is about crossing the finish line anyway. It's more about the absolute pulverization of your opponents! The games I've played have been general massacres with cookie men dying everywhere, and the winner usually just having an arm left or something.
5.) Players: With two or three players, this is a DULL game. Four to six livens it up, as the attacks and battles are occurring on pretty much every turn. Yes, this makes the game more chaotic, and the chance of someone surviving is slim to none. But that's what the game is about anyway and to pretend it's any more would be silly.
6.) Fun Factor: Liking this game almost seems like a guilty pleasure. I want to have it so I can pull it out the next time my daughters ask for Candyland (that would be wrong, though). Telling people that I have a game that allows gingerbread men to kick the tar (gumdrop buttons?) out of each other is worth owning the game for - for me.
However, that's the conclusion of the whole matter. I own the game as a showpiece - a snarky commentary on the sad state of some American games. I do not own the game, or even suggest it being played for its strategic appeal, for it has almost none. It's not as bad as Candyland, but it's close. However, I don't think the designer meant it to be anything more than a spoof and a good time for a bunch of people in an odd mood. In that, he succeeded. Whether you want this game or not will depend on whether you want an oddity to add to your collection (buy it), or a good game (don't buy it.)
"Real men play board games."
Now it's time for a few comments from me.
I own this game, in fact I traded a copy of one of my self-published games to one of the owners of Smirk and Dagger games to get it!
This is a great game when you just want to have fun. Though it does *look* like the old game CandyLand this game is so much better!
You get to actually beat each other up as if you were gingerbread men!
I do have to say that out of the many times we have played this game only a small percentage ever ended with someone "winning" according to the rules. We tended to play more of a "last mans standing" game... or was it a "last body part not destroyed" game...
Either way, If this game looks like fun to you you should pick it up. It is the kind of game you would play over a few beers.
You can go directly to Smirk and Dagger games to get it or you can find more information about the game over at BoardGameGeek.
You can buy this game directly from Funagain games.