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OCTOBER 6, 1997: 

Dilbert Corporate Shuffle

Wizards of the Coast, 1997
Boxed, $12.95

It's based on Scott Adams's megahit comic strip of corporate lunacy, so the Dilbert card game must be all about -- say it with me -- unfairness! The object is to get rid of all your cards, but high-ups on the company org chart have it easier than their pathetic underlings.

Each card, illustrated with a new Adams cartoon, has a number from 1 to 10. At the start, every player draws a random card. Whoever gets the highest number becomes Big Boss, second-highest is Little Boss, lowest is Junior Intern, second-lowest is Senior Intern, and the rest are Workers. The Big Boss gets (oh, injustice!) an "executive bonus" where he trades any two cards for the Junior Intern's two best cards, while the Little Boss trades for the Senior Intern's best card. The Big Boss gets to spout inane slogans ("Maximize resource utilization!"), and the Junior Intern has to shuffle the cards and perform other chores.

The dirt-simple rules adapt an old card game sometimes known as "Presidents and Assholes" -- play proceeds in tricks. After the deck is dealt out, the Big Boss leads by playing a set of one or more cards with the same number. Following players can only play a set of the same number of cards, and only those with a number lower than any set played so far -- so if I lead with three 8s, you have to play three 7s (or lower), or else pass. The player who makes the last play wins the trick and leads the next trick. Special Dogbert and Ratbert cards screw with the rules.

The first player to play all his cards wins and becomes Big Boss in the next hand. The second player out becomes the next Little Boss, and so on. A Big Boss in one round can drop dramatically in the next, which always provokes taunts, jokes, and fond "if-only" fantasies about your real-world boss.

Wizards of the Coast released this game a couple of years ago as The Great Dalmuti. It charmed thousands then; now, with the hot Dilbert license, it should delight a whole new audience of starveling wage slaves. (Contact: custserv@wizards.com)

-- Allen Varney

Lunch Money

Atlas Games, 1996, $16.95

Kids in a vicious street fight. Yeah, okay, cute idea for a card game -- but whoa! These cards look downright spooky. They're all weird sepia-tint blurry expressionist Edvard Munch/Stephen King anxiety nightmare photos of a sinister seven-year-old girl, captioned with typewritten ransom-note threats. Like, the Roundhouse card shows the girl screaming in wide-mouthed panic over the caption "Say hi to GOD for me." Poke in the Eye bears the motto, "You have EYES, yet you do not SEE." Humiliation shows her emerging from some kind of cobwebbed, uh -- is that a coffin? -- and it says, "Jesus HATES you; and so DO I." Brrr.

Each player has a five-card hand and 15 damage counters, such as pennies. You play numbered attack cards (Elbow, Jab, Uppercut, Head Butt, Pimp Slap, Hail Mary), weapon cards (Knife, Chain, Pipe, Hammer), or special cards (Grab, Choke, Headlock) to damage opponents. They can play Block or Dodge to prevent counter loss, or First Aid to get counters back. After each attack, everyone draws back up to five cards. Cards like Big Combo, Powerplay, and Stomp have special effects. When you run out of counters, you're unconscious. The last kid standing wins.

So far, shrug. The real fun comes with the table talk: "Colorful banter is an important part of Lunch Money," say the rules, "so don't be afraid to get into the game by describing in vivid detail the insults you perform on your opponents." But expect to spend a game or two learning which defenses block which attacks, or exactly how to grab your enemy.

What with the creepy illos and the dramatic descriptions, a Lunch Money game can gradually twist your brain into atavistic lizard hostility. "You try to Headlock me and you're done, bastard." "Eat a Big Combo left hook and spinning backfist, you puny twit!" I don't necessarily like the places Lunch Money takes me, but it sure does it with style. (Contact: AtlasGames@aol.com)

-- Allen Varney

Look for these games at Dragon's Lair (510 W. 35th St.), King's Hobby (8810 N. Lamar), Games Unique (Lakeline Mall), or check the Yellow Pages under "Games & Supplies."


Sony Playstation
Interplay/Universal Interactive Studios

Since the runaway success of Doom, the field of first-person shooting games has become extremely crowded. Disruptor, a futuristic entry into this overburdened genre, manages to be entertaining without pushing the envelope of creativity. Providing a number of increasingly difficult levels, Disruptor features game environments set throughout the solar system, each with its particular objective. Although the game rarely departs from the if-it-moves-kill-it concept, the player is equipped with a number of conventional weapons as well as psionic powers, and some forms of weaponry are more successful against particular enemies than others. Disruptor features interior and exterior areas of combat but the outside action is obscured by fog or steam to keep the game from becoming too visually complex. Lacking a true 3-D engine found in such games as Quake, Disruptor tries to make up in entertainment value what it lacks in sophistication, and, for the most part, it succeeds. The control is responsive and easy to master, and the graphics and the sound are at least adequate, although one suspects the Playstation hardware is capable of much more. A full-motion video intro precedes each mission, but this tiresome feature can be killed with the push of a button. Disruptor can't really compete with Duke Nukem 3D or Quake in terms of overall quality (besides which, those titles are not yet available for the Playstation), but it has sufficient challenge and a high enough body count to please gamers who can't get enough first-person action.

-- Bud Simons

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