Fun, gross, light-hearted party game
Great graphic design
Simple to teach
For some people, “gross party game” also goes in this category
“I drank a fish smoothie, and now I have diabooties. As a result, I’m suffering from swollen hands, burning pee, and my toes have fallen off.” is the kind of thing you might say while playing Death Wish. I don’t actually have diabooties. That’s not a real thing.
Death Wish is a game for up to eight players, where the winner is the first person to die. The way to die is to be the first person to collect a certain number of skulls on Disease cards, with the recommended winning score going down as the number of players goes up.
Not counting the excellent player aid cards, Death Wish ships with four types of cards: Diseases, Afflicters, Symptoms, and Outbreaks. We’ve already met the Disease cards, which you’re trying to collect to win. In order to pick up one of the four Disease cards from a replenishing row in the center of the table, you need two things: An Afflicter of the same color, and a certain number of Symptoms of the same color. Some colors are harder to come by, but are worth more points. Some Diseases require multiple colors, and some Afflicters and Symptoms are wild and can act as any color.
The list of things you can do on your turn is crushingly simple, and you pick just one each time. You can pick up one Symptom from a replenishing row of four, or two random ones from the top of their deck. You can pick up a random Afflicter. You can add a new Disease card to the row, covering up one of the four that is already available. Or, if you have the matching cards, you can trade them in for a Disease.
And that’s 95% of the game right there. You have a maximum hand size, and your Afflicters are public information, so you have to try to angle which colors you’re going for, so that another player doesn’t snag the Disease you were aiming for before you can get it. Most Diseases let you play an Outbreak card when you contract them, and that adds some spice to the game. Outbreaks can be minor bonuses for yourself, or attack cards that you can play against someone else. Since everyone’s disease progress is visible, choosing who to attack is generally an obvious choice: pile on the person who is winning.
So, it’s a game that works for a large group of people, that is simple to learn, and makes you say outrageous things. This is a party game for adults (or kids, if you don’t mind some mild language and the risk of turning them into a hypochondriac). We tested this game with a fairly diverse set of gamers, and even the crusty old Eurogamers laughed and smiled while they were complaining about how simple it was.
I’d like to take a moment to compliment the art and writing here. The cards are an exercise in beautiful minimalism. They’re easy to read, with bold colors just slightly washed-out, implying underlying illness. And when they aren’t just listing real-world symptoms, the writing is great, too. The diseases in particular are quite funny. There’s a real danger that I might be suffering from meh-pilepsy or snarkolepsy. And the solid writing and graphic design extend to the excellent rulebook.
Check out the Death Wish Kickstarter campaign.
((A prototype copy was received for the purposes of this review, although that did not affect the outcome of the review. Prototype components are shown and are subject to change before final production.