Review of Grandpa Beck's Golf

Grandpa Beck's Golf

Golf is a sport that involves avoiding hazards and earning the lowest score possible. Grandpa Beck's Golf is a simple card game that is no different in this regard: avoid the high-valued cards (hazards and bogeys) and keep the lower-valued cards wherever possible. Earn the lowest score, and you win.

Gameplay

The game is played in rounds. At the beginning of a round, each player is dealt 9 cards, which are placed face down on the table in a 3 x 3 grid. Each player chooses any two cards from his grid to turn face up. The card values range from -4 (Hole in One) to 11 (Lost Ball) and most values in between.

On a turn, the current player draws a card from either the draw pile or the discard pile. A card drawn from the draw pile can optionally be discarded, while a card drawn from the discard pile must be played. The drawn card is played onto the player's grid, replacing one of the cards already in play (whether face up or face down). The replaced card is discarded. If a row or column contains 3 identical cards and a total value of at least -3, the entire row or column may be eliminated from the grid.

When one player has turned over all of his cards, the remaining players each get one last turn, after which the round ends. All cards that were face down are flipped face up. Each player totals all of his cards remaining on the table at face value. A bonus of -5 points is earned for any row or column that was eliminated from play. The first player who flipped over all of his cards earns a -5 point bonus if he has the lowest score for the round; otherwise, he incurs a +10 point penalty.

The game continues for a number of rounds equal to the number of players in the game. In the end, the player with the lowest total score wins.

Grandpa Beck's Golf components

Review

Grandpa Beck's Golf is similar to a game called Golf which is played with standard playing cards, but adds whimsical artwork, custom card values, and a few rule changes. Similar to its predecessor, Grandpa Beck's Golf is a simple game to learn and play — nearly anyone of any age should be able to pick it up. It is light enough to facilitate conversation at the table, which is its key advantage. Gameplay comes down to drawing a card and playing it, with no hand of cards to choose from. However, it does offer other interesting choices, such as whether or not to try to eliminate a row or column.

Players who are initially dealt many negative-valued cards may find themselves frustrated as they continually replace these cards and add them to the discard pile for the next player to take advantage of. In addition, the decision about which face-down card to replace is usually arbitrary because their values are unknown. Perhaps the game could be improved if players were given the option to peek at and/or flip over a card instead of drawing and replacing a card on a turn.

While much of the game comes down to waiting for a good card to show up at the top of the draw or discard pile, there are some things to keep in mind to have the best chance of winning. First, try not to discard a card that will help the next player — sometimes it's necessary to hold onto a bad card to prevent an opponent from eliminating cards. Second, choose wisely which cards to try to line up in a row or column — high cards are discarded more often and may give you more opportunities to make a match, but they come with a bigger risk if you are unable to successfully eliminate them.

A round can technically end after 7 turns, which go very quickly. However, a player that ends the round prematurely without carefully considering his score may be penalized. The risk that comes with the decision to end a round is an interesting aspect of the game. Plus, the fact that all other players then have one last chance to "catch up" can lead to some fun and tense moments.

As a nitpicky side-note, the card numbering system in this game deviates from the golf theme, as some of the cards contain a number of strokes (3 through 11), while others contain a number below par (-1 through -4). In golf, -2 and 3 would be the same number of strokes for a par 5 hole, for instance. Combining absolute scores with relative scores is like comparing apples to oranges. Plus, it leaves open the common occurrence of earning a negative total score, which is not even remotely possible in golf. Can you get the ball in the cup before hitting it? Or perhaps before even thinking about hitting it? The thought makes my head explode. The theme isn't all that important to this game, but it did leave me scratching my head a bit.

Grandpa Beck's Golf is a very light game that has its merits for social players who just want a simple activity to facilitate conversation at the table. It certainly has its fun moments, but there are also some improvements that could be made to help it stand out even more.

Pros: Easy to learn for all ages, fast-paced gameplay, some choices to be made

Cons: Mostly luck-based, some improvements could be made to the gameplay and scoring system

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.