21 September 2020
Round the circle we go!
At its core, Musical Chairs is a simple card game with a few extra rules tied to its small, circular board. From a hand of eight, players will choose cards to play to a shared line in ascending order with values ranging from one to ten in eight different suits. After playing a card, that player must move their meeple one to three spaces around the board, stopping on one of the eight chairs that represent each suit. This continues until no higher cards can be played, causing the ‘music’ to be stopped, ending the round. Players collect all cards from the central play area matching the chair they ended the turn on, scoring for them at the end of the game.
Indeed, this isn’t the game you remember from your childhood, but it’s familiar nonetheless. Despite some quirkiness in its aesthetics and design, Musical Chairs is a reasonably traditional feeling card game. Admittedly, our first play through left some confusion as to the game’s audience. Children? Music lovers? But putting the theme aside, Musical Chairs reveals itself to be admirably universal.
Yet, as a modern game, there are of course a few rules and innovations separating it from traditional designs. Most notable is the inclusion of ‘special powers’ in the form of chair cushions. Of the sixteen included, eight of these will be placed on the chairs comprising the board. As the game goes on, these cushions are slid off their seats becoming available for purchase, granting extra points and ongoing, game-changing effects. Cleverly, the cushions also act as a timer, giving players a sense of control over the end game.
Visually, Musical Chairs is interesting. The chosen colour palette certainly doesn’t leap off the table, but the imaginative illustrations depicting various musical instruments or motifs transformed into chairs are charming and imaginative. The meeples are nice and the ever-changing tableau of tuneful chairs gives a pleasant table presence, suited to the game’s lilting, rhythmic pace.
Unfortunately, this rhythm never reaches a crescendo that could be considered truly exciting. Whilst casual gamers accustomed to the occasional classic card game might find something fresh here, seasoned tabletop veterans hoping for something new and surprising may be left wanting.
Play it? Maybe
Designer: Kelly North Adams
Publisher: Rio Grande Games
Time: 30-45 minutes
This review originally appeared in Issue 46 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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