WBG Score: 8
Player Count: 2-5
Published by: Helvetiq
Designed by: Sophia Wagner
Helvetiq have made a number of beautiful small box games that I love. Tucano and Kinoko are two recent favourites. Whenever a new one comes out, I am always instantly intrigued. They always seem to pack so much game into these tiny boxes. When Mada was announced, I was instantly intrigued. I googled what the word meant. In Hindu theology it means "arrogance, excessive pride, obstinacy, stubborn mindedness" so I was interested what this had to do with a card game. Then I checked out the mechanics. Push-Your-Luck! Ah! That all makes sense then. Let's get it to the table and see how it plays.
This has to be one of the easiest games to get to the table. Shuffle the deck and deal three cards to each player, then place the remaining cards face down on the table. You are now ready to play. That really is it! Maybe use the time saved to pop the kettle on?
How to Play
Players will then take it in turns to either pick up a card or place a card down in front of them. You can only place a card if you have one that either matches the current face up card previous placed, or raises it. You can only have three cards in your hand at a time, so if you have three cards already, all you can do is play a card. If you do no have a card in your hand that you can play, and you already have three cards, your only option is to take the top card from the deck and play it blind. If it matches or beats your top card you play on. If not, you are out.
Whenever someone is out, all other players will then remove their top card and keep it face down by them for end game scoring, and then place the rest of their pile into the current discard pile. All players that didn't loose can then discard as many of their current hand as they choose, or keep them for the next round. The loosing player must keep all their hand. The next round then begins with some players starting with some cards in their hand, and others perhaps not.
There are three extra cards in the deck. The single Lemur card that allows you to take the top card from your pile and place it with this Lemur card at the bottom of your deck, thus lowering your current top card. If you have a few cards on top of your pile with the same number, this card will drag them all to the bottom.
The Scorpion card must be instantly discarded as soon as it is drawn. You must also discard one of your hand cards with this if you have at least one more in your hand. A great way to get rid of a card from your hand that you don't want.
The double Lemurs card allows you to swap your current deck with any other player, discarding the Lemur card into the general discard as you do. Some real mischief can be done with this game.
Rounds will run until someone has five face down scoring cards and then the game ends. The cards score not for their numerical total, but for the number of flowers on the cactus. So the two would score one, the seven would score three, and the 13, the highest card in the deck, would score six.
Is it Fun?
Playing Mada is so much fun. Deceptively so. As it is such a simple game to learn and teach, and as there are so few options on your turn, you may be forgiven for thinking this won't be that entertaining when you play. But as you get into this little beauty, you will realise just how entertaining a few cards with a few simple rules can be. The push-your-luck element is clear. But changing decks with other players, drawing a 13 blind, when that was the only card that could save you, or using a wild card to extend your run a few more turns is so satisfying.
There is a little bit more strategy that you first think in this game too. When you can see other players all with higher numbers down, you can safely assume the end is nigh. So, at this point, it may be a good idea to play one of your higher cards, even if you could play a lower one, so that when the round ends you score more points. But of course, the game could run on longer than you anticipate, as other players play 13 after 13, use wild cards, or get lucky with the blind draw. So, you must always plan a few turns ahead when possible.
Looking at your cards, you feel like you have so few options. Play a card, or draw a card if you can. But that limitation creates tension. And that tension creates a real enjoyment. Of course, it won't always go your way. But rounds of this game can be very quick. An overall game can run between 10-20 minutes depending on player count and the luck of the draw. So, you can always just play again if you didn't get the cards you wanted. And I am certain that most times, the winning player will fancy another game too.
The games are fast, fun, and full of great moments. The surprise of a late deck switch when you have a nice build of numerical cards to play on top of your current low card, to then have that switched to a high card you cannot beat with your current full hand, only to then draw blind and hit a 13... The cries of joy and shock from the other players will fill the room constantly from moments like this with Mada.
I have really enjoyed playing this game, and would rate it as one of my favourite small box games from Helvetiq so far. It is so quick to play, but offers to much, I find myself reaching for it before, between, and after most game sessions right now. And seeing as I play pretty much every day, that's a lot of plays.
I would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys short filler card games and is looking for something new to add to their collection. It is perfect for anyone who enjoys push-your-luck or hand management games, or games with lot's of thrills and spills. I am truly enamoured by this wonderful little game, and can see myself playing many, many more times. Being so small, with such a simple game mechanic, it's perfect to take with you to restaurants or pubs too, no mada the space available, this games works. (Sorry, I had to do it at least once).