|AH*LE: A Comedy Game|
|Designer(s)||Air Groobman||Artist(s)||Clara Patt||Publisher||
As you may expect with the title of the game, there will be some language and inappropriate humor here. So if you are offended by certain language, you may want to skip this preview.
Have you ever played a simple card game and had an idea on how to improve it? That is the story behind AH*LE. The designer was taught a card game when he was growing up, and once he was a little older, he wanted to play the game with some friends who had never heard of the game. They played and tweaked the game, and it has become the game we are previewing here. From my research, the core game mechanics has been used in many games (Castle/Palace, Presidents, Shithead, etc.) but AH*LE has introduced a number of new rules, card abilities, and theme creating a unique game. I also get a sense of the Card Against Humanities attitude coming through in this game, which will certainly be a plus in some crowds.
Let's take a look at what this box of AH*LE has in store for us.
The version I received is a prototype so things won't be exactly the same in the final version, but I would expect it should be very similar based on the quality. The box will be a little bigger than two stacks of cards side by side with a little extra room around the edges. The description on the back of the box is short and to the point of what the goal of the game is. The common theme being "Jerk" comes out on the box and in the rules; a common meme of jerks almost already is related to cats, which is certainly used in this game.
The game comes with the following components:
- 62 Cards: Cards that are used throughout the game. They are numbered 2-10, and there are also six unique Speciality Cards with letters and abilities instead of numbers.
- 20 Butthole Tokens: Used for keep track of score between rounds.
- Tote Bag: I don't have this component, but it is listed in the rules. I believe this is provided as a way to avoid using "plastic," which is mentioned as one of their goals to minimize plastic use.
The numbered cards all feel like traditional playing cards with the suit symbol being replaced by the butthole icon the game uses. The Speciality Cards are where the games' unique theme and features kick in. The art on the cards is pretty simple, but they feel exactly like the type of art you would expect from a game called AH*LE. Basically, the images all depict characters who simply don't give a crap and are just straight up jerks. The art on the cards isn't my favorite, but they certainly fit the theme and get the job done.
The rules are pretty good once you do a full read over everything. During my first pass of the rules, I was a little confused on minor details but that cleared up on my second read through. The rules are on a large double-sided paper. One side of the rules essentially provide you the setup and turn breakdown while the other side provides the Speciality Card explanation and the alternative rules. The alternative rules are tweaks to the game in most cases to make things more absurd. These rules certainly add a little extra to the game and make each follow-on game feel a bit different, which is certainly good for replayability.
I would have definitely preferred a small booklet just because it would have been easier to split up the sections and been easier to read. Also, the margins will need adjusted in the final version to make sure the rules don't get split across folds. Again, this is a prototype, and things could change based on final production and stretch goals.
The goal of AH*LE is to be the one to collect the most Butthole Tokens by winning the most rounds. Rounds are won by getting rid of all of your cards, both the ones in your hand and on the table. Players will take turns playing cards of equal or greater value to that of the card on the top of the Pile...or be a real jerk and play a Speciality card.
Each player will end up with 3 piles of cards in front of themselves and cards in their hands along with a deck in the center of the table. Select the starting asshole for the game by finding out who said "I Love You" to their parents most recently or by your preferred method. The Asshole will essentially be the dealer.
- Shuffle the deck
- Deal three cards to each player; these cards should remain facedown. Lay these out side by side in three piles. These are the Power Bottoms.
- Deal six cards to each player's hand.
- Each player will select three cards to place face up on top of each of the three piles (Power Bottoms). These face up cards are the Power Tops.
- The remaining three cards will be the players hands.
- The remaining undealt cards will be placed in the center of the table.
- The starting Asshole begins the Pile in the center of the table by playing one of their three cards from their hand and then drawing a card from the deck.
Play continues to the next person.
So there two phases to the game. The initial phase is played until the deck of cards are gone and player hands are empty, and the final phase involves using the Power Tops/Power Bottom cards. The final phase differences will be covered in a separate section below but follow the same basic rules played throughout the game.
Players will perform the following in this order:
- Play card(s) from their hand OR pick up the entire Pile of cards.
- Numbered Cards: You can play cards of equal or higher value to the top card on the pile. If you have multiple of that value, you may play multiple of that card.
- Speciality Cards alter the rules in subtle ways. They are played onto the stack, but keep the next Numbered Card below it visible.
- Go Lower: This reverses the order of values played. Now you want to play cards of equal or LESSER value. This continues until the Pile is reset or taken by another player.
- Skip: This skips the next player's turn.
- Reset: This is essentially a 0 that can be played on any card resetting the stack. The pile is not discarded, but the current value becomes 0 for the purposes of future cards played.
- Mirror: This replicates the card and its effects that the Mirror is placed on whether that is a Numbered Card or one of the previously mentioned Speciality Cards.
- Burn: This, unlike the reset, does discard the entire pile of cards. As soon as you discard the previous pile, this player may play a new card to begin the new pile.
- Asshole: This card is discarded for the entire round (do not place in the Pile); you select another player to pick up the entire pile...like a jerk.
- No valid cards to play: If you are unable to play any valid cards, you pick up the entire Pile into your hand.
- Draw up to three (skip if hand is already at 3 or more cards).
Play continues to the next player.
Power Cards Phase
Once the deck is been empty and a player runs out of cards, they begin using the cards in front of them. The cards remain where they are. First, players must play all of their Power Top cards following the rules above. Just like before, if you have no valid play, you draw the entire pile of cards. Anytime a player has cards in their hands, they may only play those cards.
Once you have played all of your Power Tops and have no cards in your hand, you will begin playing you Power Bottom cards blindly. If the card is a valid play, it is placed on the pile as normal. If not, that card along with the pile is added to your hand. Again, following the same rules as the Power Tops.
End of Round
The first player to play all of their cards (in their hand and their Power Cards) is the Asshole for the next round and receives a Butthole token.
The rules don't actually mention how many rounds to play so before beginning, agree on how many rounds you want to play and set that many Butthole Tokens aside. Once those are all awarded, whoever has collected the most is the Biggest Asshole.
If at any time you have four matching number cards all in a row, those four cards are discarded from the pile and not used for the rest of the current round.
Playing a Go Lower on an Empty pile or Reset card has no effect since there are not negative cards; you can still play the Go Lower card simply without the change in card direction.
There are 11 alternative rules, but I will let you discover most of them on your own from the rules. I will just look at 3 of them here.
Eat the Rich: Plays as normal, but if someone has the Asshole card in their hand when someone would win the round, they can play the Asshole card to force that player back into the round by making them draw the entire Pile per the rules of the Asshole card. A fun little variant that makes players really decide how long to hold onto those precious Asshole cards.
Reality Check: This mode put restrictions on which cards the Speciality Cards may be played on. Rather than playing them whenever, each Speciality Card is bound to a rule such as Go Lower and Skip may only be played on cards 5 or lower. This put a unique power limits on those cards and forces people to really decide on the best time to use them.
Fisticuffs: If two Speciality cards are played one after another by two players, the two players must duel. The rules explain a staring contest where players must remain looking at each other and not smile (blinking is fine). You can do whatever you want to try to break the other person without touching them. First to break this has to take the pile. If two Asshole cards are played one after another...the loser is out for the rest of the round instead.
You can see how the alternative rules add a little something different to the game. Be sure to check out the other rules (some are just silly to be honest...look at the Manager rules).
It is a silly game that will certainly be great in some groups; this is not for everyone. Do not bring this game to Sunday dinner if your family prefers light hearted games and are timid. While the mechanics certainly work just fine for most people, the theme will not be for families and certain friends. I could easily see a different themed version coming out that would be very family friendly and could be a great way to bridge the market for this new designer. If you play Cards Against Humanity for the reaction of other players and enjoy traditional card game mechanics, this game is one to certainly look into. I personal expect my normal group will really enjoy the variant rules in particular.
I don't love the rule sheet; as I mentioned earlier, I think a small booklet would likely be better for this just because there is a lot of rules on both sides of the sheet. The rules are not difficult at all, but they could be structured a little better. I think the rules could be cleaned up to allow for a better flow, but they still work none the less.
Overall, the game is built on a solid game and adds unique abilities and a fun theme that will certainly fit into many people party game shelves while not actually being a party game itself. It is certainly a traditional card game first with some immature themes tossed on top making it more appealing to specific audiences. Those same audiences would be much less likely be play the original version (Palaces). So, I think there is a market for this game and if you are interested, be sure to check out their Kickstarter when it goes live June 1st, 2021.
We received the prototype product in order to write an honest review; all reviews reflect the honest opinions of the writer.
Final video in this article is the designer's promotional video.