I really like deck-building games. If you check out my Top 10 Games you will see Eminent Domain listed there. You can also check out my review of Tanto Cuore — A Better Game Than Expected. And in the near future, I will post a review of El Alamein, a sequel to the card building game Barbarossa.
Anyway, this brings me to the new game by Japanime Games/Arclight Games: Dynamite Nurse! And why I think there are 4 reasons you should give it a try!
1 – Japanime Games/Arclight Games have a great track record!
These companies have been pushing out deck-building games for years now. They not only know how to make a solid game, but the quality of the overall product is excellent. Cards have great art, box is solid (it’s a standard card box), rules have been play tested well, cards are balanced in terms of power, and the games generally are fun.
2 – You really, really, really get to mess with each other in this game
Do you like games that resemble multiplayer solitaire, where each player takes a turn but you never really have to fight/mess with any other player, you know games like Race for the Galaxy? Do you like Euro-style resource management games with rules that discourage direct conflict and give special advantages to players lagging behind? Do you like cooperative games where everyone works together to accomplish some namby pamby “save the world” let’s all feel good sort of goal?
Well too bad for you, Dynamite Nurse is the opposite of that! In Dynamite Nurse each player operates a hospital and your goal is to heal patients. But much like the real health care industry, if you see some patients that are in really bad shape or critical condition, you can assign them to your opponents’ hospitals. You get victory points for each patient that you successfully heal and lose points if they die (you get a Kill Mark). So heal the patients that you can, and send the ones that might die to your opponents! And there are plenty of cards that let you inflict pain on other players’ patients. So if you just plain can’t heal your own patients, make life miserable for everybody else’s patients!
Disclaimer: no actual real-life patients were harmed in the making of this blog. Honest. Only cardboard facsimiles of anime patients were harmed.
3 – There are plenty of paths to victory, because there are a lot of different strategies available from the “town” of cards
Like most of Japanime/Arclight Games deck building games, the “town” of available cards to draft is quite extensive. Thus, there are many ways to victory. You can concentrate on drafting cards that give you coins (used to buy more powerful cards), you can go for low-cost combo cards (like White Magic), you can concentrate on events, or you can go for cards to mess with your opponents. There are many choices. There is even a rule that if you don’t want to buy the top card on the event pile, you can blindly buy the next card underneath it (if you have enough gold to do so). Also, when you cure a patient you get to draft the top card on the “Nurses” pile. Sometimes these cards have negative VP, so there is even a sense of strategic timing involved.
4 – There are three timing mechanisms that add to the strategy
First, there are only 15 Kill Marks. When the last Kill Mark is drawn the game ends immediately. So if you better watch that pile (the Kill Marks are stacked from #15 to #1 to let players know how many are left) and plan your strategy to maximize your VP just as the pile runs out.
Second, on each player’s turn another patient is added to the line of patients being transported in ambulances to player hospitals. On your turn, you can assign the new patient to whichever player you want (e.g. assign patients in bad shape to your opponents and assign ones with minor injuries to yourself). However, there can only be a number of patients in ambulances equal to the number of players. Once the ambulances fill up, patients get sicker (i.e. flip over to critical condition) as they wait to be admitted. And patients already in critical condition will die if they wait around too long.
Third, your hospital has only two beds, and if you have more patients admitted than that, your patients get sicker. So the proper assigning of patients to players, admitting your patients to your hospital before they die in an ambulance, healing them to open up beds, and watching that Kill Mark pile are all part of a successful strategy.
In the game we played last night, Stew and Lee were both in the lead (Bob and I were behind by a good margin), but Lee had managed to get all 3 patients in the ambulances assigned to Stew when Lee used a card to move all of them to Stew’s hospital, where he didn’t have beds for them all, they subsequently died, Stew grabbed the last 3 Kill Marks, and the game ended with Lee winning.
5 – You can be the Dynamite Nurse!
Okay, I guess there really are 5 good reasons!
Whoever has the most Kill Marks has to grab the Dynamite Nurse card. At the end of the game, it counts as two more Kill Marks, which is going to inflict more negative victory points on whoever has the card (see the photo of the Kill Mark card front and back above). But, when you have the Dynamite Nurse card, you get an advantage: a good number of event cards and cards that mess with your opponents get put back into the town after you use them — but not if you are the Dynamite Nurse! Instead, you can put them in your discard pile where they eventually get shuffled into your deck, get back into your hand, and you play them again! Check out the “Reference Letter” card in the photo above. If you are the Dynamite Nurse, that card is much like the musical Cats…you can see it over and over and over and over!
So if you like deck building games, or like anime products, or just plain like a good card game, pick up Dynamite Nurse and kill some patients…er, I mean heal your patients. Did I mention that my wife is a registered nurse? I didn’t? Oh well, anyway she says that Dynamite Nurse in no way resembles actually nursing care. I just thought that I would let you know.