My wife and I recently attended an outdoor event and we wanted to bring a few games along to play while we waited for the festivities to begin. We were looking for games that are highly portable and didn’t have a big footprint, games that could use a blanket or the top of a cooler as the playing surface. We have a few staples for this situation (games like Coloretto, Roll For It, Tides of Time, San Juan) but we’re also always looking for new games to join the mix. Another stipulation for these “travel” games is that they have to be easy to teach and learn. Because we’re at a loud outdoor event there are always lots of things going on and if the game takes 15 minutes to set up and explain, it just isn’t really a good fit.Since our young son was attending this event with us, we also wanted games that he would be able to play, if he so desired. In addition to one or two of our usual suspects, we decided to bring two new games we recently acquired from Gigamic: Difference and Ciao!. This review will focus on Difference; you can find the review for Ciao! in a separate post.
We chose Difference because it seemed like a really nice looking “find the difference” type game. These games are typically super casual and can be played with just about anyone so we thought we’d give it a shot.
The first thing you’ll notice about Difference is the nice looking tin box that it comes in. It is a great size; it actually fits into my front shorts pocket. The lid is notched so it won’t accidentally open, spilling the contents everywhere. This might not seem like a big deal, but when it happens to you, you’ll realize how much of an oversight it is to leave out these notches. This is my biggest complaint about the Roll For It Deluxe Edition. In my opinion, the deluxe version of Roll For It is the only version worth owning. The card art is beautiful, the dice are great, the embroidered bag is a plus, and the tin makes it a wonderful display item. However, there are no notches in the lid. What!? Seriously? I know, it is fairly depressing. My copy is held together with two rubber bands, which means it isn’t actually a wonderful display item any more. But, without those rubber bands the lid can open any time it wants. Sadly, this is one huge oversight and, while trying to transport the game, a glaring flaw. But I digress. Thankfully, all of the tins from Gigamic have wonderful notches in the lid so it stays safely shut at all times.
The next thing you’ll notice, and really the only other thing included aside from the instructions, is the cards. They are very large and wonderfully illustrated. Since the cards are the only game component, it makes sense that they are nice. There are two sets of cards (50 cards total) and each side has a different illustration, providing four different sets to play with. The two sets represent two levels of play: easy and difficult.
There are a few rule variants in the rulebook, but in the standard rules the players agree on which card set to play with. Those cards are then shuffled and one of them is placed face up in the center of the playing area. The remaining cards are evenly dealt, face down, to the players. The center card is called the Reference Card. To start the game, each player simultaneously turns over their top card and tries to find the two differences (there will always be exactly two differences between any two cards) between it and the Reference Card. The first person to do say shouts “Difference” and their card becomes the new reference card. That player draws their next card while the other players continue to reference their current card and play continues. The game ends when a player runs out of cards and is declared the winner.
Because we’re awesome adults and Difference is a simple spot the difference game (or so we thought), we decided to start with the difficult card set. Wow, we were not expecting such a challenge. It is really difficult to find the two differences needed to turn in your card. For many cards, we were simply stumped. We’d pick up the reference card and look at it closely, holding it right up to our eye as if that would help. It didn’t. It took us far too long to find most of the differences. I guess we thought Difference would be a bit faster paced like Spot It. For us, that was not the case. After basically giving up on the difficult cards, we decided to give the easy cards a try. While these “easier” cards might in fact be a little less challenging than the difficult cards, they still required a great deal of attention to find the differences. There is just so much detail in the cards. Playing Difference isn’t like doing one of those Find the Difference puzzles in an old Scholastic magazine. Those are fun because they are quick, and you can actually find all 10 differences before you’re called back and have to leave the magazine in the waiting room.
In Difference, the fun comes from the fact that it is actually challenging. You might find the differences on one set of cards fast enough. And after that, you might think it is going to be a walk in the park. But then the next set comes out and it has been ten minutes and you’ve still haven’t found both differences. This is when we enabled the Beginner rule, which allows players to cycle through their cards instead of holding onto a single one forever. This did make the game a little less challenging since for some card pairs the differences are a lot easier to spot than with others.
Difference wasn’t quite the fast paced spot the difference game we thought we were going to get. But, it does offer a rewarding challenge that I haven’t encountered from this type of game. The fact that the difficult set of cards is actually difficult was a welcomed surprise. Because of this degree of difficulty, Difference wasn’t really suitable for our young son; most of the tiny detailed differences were beyond his ability to notice on his own. We also weren’t a huge fan of a shared Reference Card in the center of the playing area. This made it really difficult to see the card well enough to spot the differences. We continuously passed the Reference Card back and forth so we could actually see the details. For us, we both agreed that Difference makes a better solitaire game that it does a multiplayer game. For long car rides, Difference is definitely worth bringing along.