Time for my first review of 2017:
Parade is a game from 2007 that was designed by Naoki Homma and published in English by Z-Man Games. It’s a card game for 2-6 players that takes 20-30 minutes to play. The basic theme is that the characters of Alice in Wonderland are having a parade, but many are wearing the same costume. So as some join the parade, others leave in a huff, and this will earn you points. Points are bad.
The game comes with 66 cards and a score pad. The 66 cards are divided into six suits numbered 0-10 – the White Rabbit is black, the Dodo is yellow, the Cheshire Cat is purple, the Mad Hatter is red, Humpty Dumpty is green, and Alice is blue. Each player is dealt a hand of five cards, and six cards are drawn from the deck and laid in a line to form the parade. Use the box to mark the front, and you’re ready to play.
On your turn, you’ll play a card from your hand to the end of the parade. If the value of the card is equal to or greater than the number of the cards already in the parade, you’re safe and you draw a card to end your turn. If there are more cards already in the parade than the value of the card you played, you may have to take some cards. To determine what cards must be taken:
- First, count forward as many cards as the value of the card you just played (do not count the card you just played).
- When you reach the end of your count, any card included in the count is safe. All others enter removal mode.
- Of the cards in removal mode, if any are less than or equal to the value of the card you played, take them and place them in front of you.
- Also, if any of those cards are the same suit as the card you just played, take them and place them in front of you.
At the end of your turn, you’ll draw a card, and the game continues. Once a player has taken a sixth color, or the draw deck is exhausted, the endgame is triggered. All players take one final turn (not drawing another card). Each player will then be left with four cards in hand. Two of these will be played out in front of you, and the other two will be discarded.
For the final scoring, determine who has the majority in each suit. That player (or players if there’s a tie) flips that entire suit face down. When all majorities have been determined, count your points. Each card in a face up suit is worth face value in points, and each card in a face down suit is only worth one point. The player with the lowest score is the winner.
COMPONENTS: The cards are good quality, and each is well illustrated with the character it represents. Each character is paired with a color, which is a good thing for color-blind people, as well as people who might have trouble distinguishing between the purple and black in low light. Card illustrations were done by Chris Quilliams, and while there’s no variations within each suit, each character is distinct from the other five.
I do want to give Z-Man some grief about the size of the box. They’re clearly trying to keep Parade in the same line as Arboretum and Archaeology, and gave it a box of the same size. But it’s twice as big as it needs to be. The insert is a tray with two wells for cards, and all 66 cards in this game easily fit in one of them. This should really be a pocket game, but with a box that size, you can’t just stick it in your pocket without finding another storage solution. The only component that indicates that the box needed to be that size is the score pad, and frankly, that wasn’t necessary at all. There aren’t a bunch of scoring categories, as in 7 Wonders. If you really need help in that category, just use the calculator on your phone.
In the long run, the size of the box doesn’t matter. It looks cool with the purple and the grinning Cheshire Cat on the cover. But this $20 game could have been cut down to $12 or $15 with a smaller box, so I think it deserves a mention.
THEME: Fans of Alice in Wonderland might be disappointed to learn that this game really has nothing to do with that IP. The six characters in use are merely here as a framing device, so that you’re not just saying “I play a purple six.” Actually, you probably will be saying that as “Cheshire Cat six” doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily. The point is, while it’s fun to have a game with characters from Wonderland, it doesn’t really connect to the gameplay at all. Also, I wish there had been a Caterpillar, Queen of Hearts, or Jabberwocky somewhere in the game.
MECHANICS: This is a point avoidance game, along the lines of No Thanks or Hearts. You simply don’t want to score, or (probably more accurately) try to at least minimize your score. However, as in Hearts, sometimes taking cards is a good thing as the game reduces each card’s score to one if you have a majority in that suit. This makes the game a sort of area control game. It also includes the tricky step at the end where you can play two cards into your tableau. This might seem like extra pain, but it could make the difference between your four red cards being worth 25 points or 4. That introduces a bit of hand management to the game as you may want to sit on a couple of cards that you want to spring out at the very last moment.
The process of figuring out which cards are available to be taken can be a little clunky, and you’ll find yourself counting how many cards are in the parade several times throughout the game. I usually combat this by saying “It’s seven to you”. Overall, however, the game plays pretty well and the mechanics come together into a pretty unique game.
STRATEGY LEVEL: Parade is not really a strategic game, primarily because there’s no way to plan, especially with the higher player counts. You can get a general idea of what you want to do, and be sure you hold on to cards that may be helpful later, but there’s every chance that the player in front of you will just tank your ideas. So it’s a reactionary game, with more of an emphasis on tactics. There’s a big strategic decision to be made in the end when you determine which cards to play into the suits in front of you.
ACCESSIBILITY: It will take a turn or two to get your head around what you’ll be doing, and of course, actually seeing it in action will be the best teacher. But it’s not that complicated once you get into it.
SCALABILITY: I’d probably recommend lower player counts with this one. Six players is certainly possible, though I haven’t played with that many. I can imagine that it really makes things challenging with planning ahead (which is challenging enough with fewer players). Probably three or four is the best.
REPLAYABILITY: This is not a game you’re going to want to play constantly. But it is replayable in that your thought process will have to be different with each turn, and this will make games play out differently. It becomes a puzzle you need to solve, one that’s constantly changing and evolving.
INTERACTION: There’s not much in the way of direct player interaction here. You do need to keep other people’s sets in mind as you determine what to play, but all of the interaction is indirect as you take turns playing cards into the parade.
FOOTPRINT: The parade can get long if people aren’t taking cards, so you’ll need a space large enough to accommodate that.
IS IT BUZZWORTHY? This is a very fun game. It plays quickly, has nice artwork, and provides a definite mental challenge. I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for some new filler material, or even just some short and small games.
Thanks for reading!