Dear Joe Gamer: Why Do You Ignore Me?


There is a game genre often shunned by loyal RPG-ers and CCG-ers: the standalone card game. And I now feel it is my duty to do a little evangelization for these gems so often ignored. What is my angle, you may ask? Gut-busting, tongue-in-cheek, wit amplifying humor.

There is a game genre often shunned by loyal RPG-ers and CCG-ers: the standalone card game. And I now feel it is my duty to do a little evangelization for these gems so often ignored. What is my angle, you may ask? Gut-busting, tongue-in-cheek, wit amplifying humor.

The following are games I have come across in recent years of gaming that are just hilarious and fun to play. Some of you may say "Beer & Pretzels, gag me with a spoon" when first glancing at the list, but I impel you to look a bit deeper into these descriptions (and I added a strategy meter for extra reassurance).

Grave Robbers from Outer Space
Z-man Games
2 or more players

So you wanna make a B-movie horror flick? Just in time for Halloween, I introduce this funny card game where the object is to successfully make a B-movie, despite the outlandish (yet sometimes all too real) occurrences involved in doing so.

There are cards that represent characters, props, locations, creatures and special effects. You can use creatures to attack your opponent's characters or use props to defend your characters against creatures. The goal of the game is to create a movie as close to the title chosen at the beginning of the game as possible, using cards from the deck, while still having a strong cast of characters alive when the credits roll.

This game is funny and playable. The premise is great for both basic film fans and movie geeks, and the streamlined instructions are fully comprehensible and thorough. Z-man games even put out a recent "expansion" called Cannibal Pygmies in the Jungle of Doom, which I have yet to play, but I've heard can be mixed together in Grave Robbers or played by itself as another standalone game.

What you get:

  • 120 cards packaged in a dual-deck sized box
  • No dice or special "bits" included or needed

Price: $19.95
Art rating: 6.5
Humor rating: 8
Strategy rating: 7
Fun rating: 8.5
Overall rating: 7.5

Killer Bunnies & the Quest for the Magic Carrot
Playroom Entertainment
2-8 players

Killer Bunnies is by far my favorite game right now. Horribly addicting and insanely fun to play, the game is near perfect (I said "near"). The rules are well written, the cartoony artwork displays little gore despite the object of the game, and the card quality is practically unmatched (thick playing card stock, with a plastic laminate coating - amazing!)

The object of the game, of course, is to claim the "magic" Carrot, which is one of 12 carrot cards that come with the set. At the beginning of the game, a smaller deck of 12 corresponding Carrot cards is shuffled, and the bottom one is deemed the Magic Carrot for that particular game. When all 12 Carrots are collected, the game is over and the person with the Magic Carrot wins. Sounds lame? Just you wait.

The catch (of course there's a catch) to this is at the end of the game, you must have at least one Bunny alive or you can't win, no matter how many Carrots you have! What does this equal? Nasty, cut-throat attacks with uproarious Weapons of various levels, from minor scrapes to mass destruction! Where else can you attack your opponent with a Whisk or Green Gelatin with Evil Pineapple Chunks? Or clean out the whole lot with a Stray Asteroid or the Ebola Virus? There are, of course, special cards that allow you to try to protect your Bunnies, collect Carrots, or buy supplies like Cabbage and Water from the market (so your Bunny doesn't starve when someone plays a 'Feed the Bunny' card on you).

Killer Bunnies is a total riot, and just reading the cards is fun in itself. Even the rulebook is written in a clever, sarcastic manner. An added plus - as I read on the company's website, expansions will soon be out that make the game even funnier with even more added strategy, with cards like "Bunnies in Black" that help you defend against those wicked Beyea Aliens that love to abduct your Bunnies or the "Bunny to the Future" card (featuring a DeLorean, of course) that can help you escape a weapon by sending your Bunny three rounds ahead.

Strategy rules in this game where, if you do it right, it is possible to shut out your opponents by killing off all their Bunnies in time for you to pick up the last Carrot and win (although it takes a true master to do this to a table of 8 people!)

The title of this game alone intrigues enough people to give this one a whirl, but in case you aren't convinced, let me just say that every friend I have introduced this one to has gone out and bought a copy of their own. Now that's an endorsement if I've ever heard one.

What you get:

  • 165 large cards
  • 36 small cards (carrots, cabbage, and water)
  • Six, count 'em, six 12-sided dice!

Price: $24.95
Art rating: 8.5
Humor rating: 9
Strategy rating: 8.5
Fun rating: 10
Overall rating: 9

Geeks! The Convention
Torchlight Games
2-6 players

Well, with the good, unfortunately come the (I'll be nice) not-so-good. Geeks! Is quite funny. I'll give it that. And it is fun in theory. A quick read through the deck will definitely send any RPG-er (especially the D&D crowd) into a giggle-fest. The parodies in the deck are quite amusing. Unfortunately, however, the game play could be a lot better.

In Geeks! You, the player, have your own Busload O' Geeks who are at "Goon-Con" (fellow GenCon goers beware). The Geek types are dead-on. In fact, half the fun of the game is assigning friends of yours to each Geek card. Are you the dice-collecting-RPG-er, the overweight-chip-eating-trekkie, or the I-wish-I-was-really-an-elf-in-full-medieval-garb sort? I personally fancy myself as the goth-girl-gone-vampire-LARPer.

While at Goon-Con, your Geeks will participate in gaming (Magic: the Gouging and Gorehammer 401k are examples of these funny parodies), while trying to avoid anything that will spoil your geeky fun (like your angry girlfriend, your mom, or someone stealing your snacks - God forbid!)

Your opponents will control their own Geeks and will attempt to send your Geeks to the Bus Depot, and thus out of the game. Once all of your Geeks have left the convention, you're out, and the last man (or woman) standing wins.

In closing, the premise is funny and the 4-color art is great (although printed on very thin, almost unplayable cards). The problem with this game is you must have the right cards at the right times, or surviving is a near impossibility and the rules are rarely helpful. Game play gets old really fast, but it's good for a laugh or two for new gamers or people who want to get a quick chuckle in before diving into something a bit deeper.

What you get:

  • 40 Geek Cards
  • 125 Convention cards
  • A rather messy and un-closable box

Price: $24.95
Art rating: 10 (-2 for awful card quality)
Humor rating: 9
Strategy rating: 4
Fun rating: 6
Overall rating: 6.5

Cheap plug here - Steve Jackson Games will be producing just such a standalone card game for Ninja Burger.

Based on the glorious Ninja Burger web site created by the honorable
aethereal FORGE, the card game will be designed by Steve Jackson (who is
already making a nuisance of himself around the office with Ninja jokes). He
modestly hopes to repeat the amazing success of Munchkin and Star Munchkin.
He further hopes to have you your burgers and fries in 30 minutes, WHEREVER
you are, as he does not consider himself worthy of seppuku and would type
even less skilfully without his full complement of fingers.

The Ninja Burger Card Game is tentatively set for a Spring 2003 release.

Details here:


You are so very right. The stand alone card games are often ignored, which is too bad. I can recall spending hours and hours and hours in college playing the original Illuminati and Hacker by the Illustrious Mr. Jackson. Avalon Hill's Naval War was always good enough to skip class. Has anyone else here played Family Business? It's a card game in which opposing mob families attempt to put each other "up against the wall". My gaming group in college went through two different copies of that game because we played it so much. Ahh. The satisfaction of playing the St. Valentine's Day card and watching 15 gangsters being discarded.

Whatever happened to "Nuclear War"?

Nuclear War is still out there - and actually, the basic mechanics of card play in Killer Bunnies is very similar, where you must predetermine which cards you will play 2 turns in advance...

As Wooz also mentioned, Family Business is a great game with a great theme as well...

Watch for "Part 2" in this series, because there are so many of these gems out there and they deserve love too!

Hey 'Paula,

Thanks for mentioning "Grave Robbers." It's one of my favorites.

You'll probably get to this one in Part 2, but let us not forget "Fluxx." Premise: simple. Strategy: lots. Fun: you bet!

Also The Three Stooges card game is great for mindless (virtual) salpping, hitting and head konking.

-Smokestack Jones
Maker of the Sampo!
You got a battle? He'll solve it.
Check out the book while the GM resolves it.

Dice, dice baby...

Yes, thanks a ton for mentioning Grave Robbers from Outer Space and Cannibal Pygmies. They are two of my favourites...I' designed them.I'm glad to see there are people out there who play my games and stand alone games in general. I thought about doing Grave Robbers as a CCG ( there's certainly enough material for it) but I'm sick of CCGs and figured there are probably lots of others out there who are too. The first printing of Grave Robbers is just about sold out, so anyone interested in getting it should do so soon. We also have a Yahoo! group dedicated to Grave Robbers and Cannibal Pygmies in the Jungle of Doom. We answer rules questions and offer strategy tips. Keep watching the skies...

Aeon has already mentioned the now-legendary Munchkin. It's hilarious and where backstabbings lead to more laughter than outright fist fights, unlike so many CCGs.

There's also Knight of the Dinner Table: HACK! It's not quite standalone but it's pure fun when you have enough people with a deck of their own. I just wish it wasn't dead.

Of those of you who have played Grave Robbers From Outer Space and/or Cannibal Pygmies in the Jungle of Doom, who would like to see a pure sequel to Grave Robbers and who would like to see us take on the genre of Asian cinema? Both games are in the works, but we're trying to figure out which to publish next? What are your thoughts?

Ralpheous> I would be very interested in a pure sequel to Grave Robbers. Possibly interested in an Asian Cinema based game.

KissingPaula> One stand-alone card game that I purchased many years ago and have nearly worn out from playing it so much is Steve Jackson's Car Wars the Card Game. It went out of print for quite a few years, but it has recently been re-released. I'm tempted to pick it up again. If you have never played it, you should check it out.

Finally, someone besides me and my small circle of friends learn the joys of Killer Bunnies.

I was at GenCon, when it first came out. I got an autographed giant card of one of the carrots that is going to come out in a later set (a Spock carrot), was shown the one misprint card, which only was in the boxes sold at GenCon, and met the creator of the game.

For most of my friends, I had to drag them to the demos. After they heard about the backstabbing and cuttthroat tactics, they loved it. Then they saw the cards. All the ones with the money to get one bought a copy. I just bought the newest set today.

Interestingly, I also meet the creator of the game, although he didn't say that outright, the staff at the booth dropped enough clues. It turns out that Kaballa, that bold guy on lots of cards, is him. He's a really funny guy, and well connected. Once, the guest of honor of the day (that colonel guy from Stargate SG-1) came up and chatted with him. The creator gave him a giant Stargate card, autographed of course, and they got there picture taken together.

I hope they have a booth at GenCon next year. He was a hoot to play with.