Good bluffing games provide suspense, surprise, buckets of table talk and a little problem solving – pretty much everything great about tabletop games. And bad bluffing games? An impenetrable mystery none of the players can possibly solve.

That gets boring quick.

The secret is providing just enough information and mixed incentives to get the players talking… and no more.

Gambler x Gamble! by Cosaic does just that. It’s also one of those rare titles that stretch from family night to a table of hardcore gamers.

So grab a chair – we’ll deal you in.

Theme

Players must bankrupt a particular casino by winning all 1.5 billion(!) dollars from the bank. To do so, they’ll hire different gamblers to form rival teams, with the player whose team holds the most chips ultimately winning.

By the way, this is where the strange wording of Gambler x Gamble! comes from. As the rulebook puts it:

Gambling with gamblers – the start of a curious bet.

Just don’t look too closely at that premise, or it begins to fall apart. All you really need to know is a bunch of gambling archetypes are descending on Vegas to break the bank (and maybe each other).

The illustrations also have a strong anime flavor, so naturally each character can be flipped to engage ‘Super Mode’ for extra winnings.

Gambler x Gamble! packs a lot of quirk into a small box, and I found myself playing with characters just to see their alter-egos. Who could resist the charm of (a character I’ve taken to calling) Mild-Mannered-Dad-Holding-a-Burger?

Mechanics

Characters in Gambler x Gamble! have three features: the cost a player must pay to hire then; the winning number required for that character to pay off; and how much that pay off earns.

For example: Mild-Mannered-Dad-Holding-a-Burger costs 1 to add to your team, and wins 3 chips when the round’s result is 1. Super Mode simply increases the winnings to 5.

But how do we know which characters pay off?

Every round, each player places a single Luck Card (numbered 0-3) on the table – the first player face up, the rest face down. The first player then gets one last chance to alter the round by paying to skew the final result up or down.

These Luck Cards are added together, determining which characters pay off in the round. It’s a simple system with the added benefit of sharing the focus point – as the start player changes, everyone takes a turn being center of negotiations.

Players use winnings to add more gamblers to their teams, eventually breaking the casino by winning all the chips.

There are a few extra wrinkles – one particularly expensive gambler with a payoff that instantly wins the game, and a catch up mechanism that penalizes the lead player if no characters pay off in a round – but that’s pretty much it.

Gambler x Gamble! is a solid design that builds to a satisfying conclusion.

I can’t guarantee it isn’t ‘solvable’ in some mathematical sense, but really you’re playing with the wrong attitude if you reach for a calculator…

Components

Gambler x Gamble! is a modest game – a deck of cards, a bag of plastic chips, a well-translated rules sheet.

The character cards are undeniably cool. The stock is fine, and the graphic design spacious enough to allow English and Japanese characters without too much crowding.

Unfortunately, all the other cards (First Player, Luck, the ‘Fumble Stock’) are generic, while the chips… I’m sad just thinking about the chips.

They should be poker chips. Maybe miniature poker chips for the sake of size – but definitely poker chips!

Instead they’re thin, generic plastic counters from any number of children’s toy boxes. Obviously there are cost implications, but it’s hard to feel like a big-shot casino shark without real poker chips on the table.

But I have a solution. For an instant upgrade, just crack open the dusty poker set you haven’t used for 18 months, and put those components to use! Now you’ve got a game worthy of 1.5 billion dollars…

What do others think?

Gambler x Gamble! hasn’t gotten a lot of traction internationally, and there are only a handful of  comments (not full reviews) on BoardGameGeek. However, the feedback is generally positive:

Very unique bluffing game.

miriku

Surprisingly good bluffing game for 3-4 players.

Cartmenkid23

This is a marvelous little gem and I’m glad I imported it… If possible, use real, chunky poker chips – for me, they make a big difference in the game experience.

matthulgan

Conclusion

The best games are those that actually get played.

In my house, I know Gambler x Gamble! will be played. In different contexts, with different people, accompanied by different beverages, I can see this coming out for a long time to come.

Take a look if you’re in the market for something social that won’t put your brain to sleep.

4.5 lucky dice out of 5.

Number of Players: 3-4

Playing time: 15-30 min.

Age: 10+

Country: Japan

By: Cosaic

Price: 19.99€ at NiceGameShop