Board game designers can take inspiration from everywhere. Today’s game Bounce-Off decided to take the college party game Beer Pong and tried to turn it into a board game for the whole family. Basically instead of trying to bounce ping pong balls into cups, Bounce-Off has players trying to bounce the balls into a gameboard to try and form different patterns. Despite having never played Beer Pong, I thought the idea behind the game sounded kind of fun. I knew it was not going to be a very deep game but it seemed like one of those games that you can have fun with without putting a lot of thought into what you are doing. Bounce-Off is a surprisingly fun game despite its simplicity but it does get repetitive a little too quickly.
How to Play Bounce-Off
- Place the gameboard in the middle of the table so it is an equal distance away from each player.
- Choose whether you are going to use the easier (green), harder (blue), or both sets of cards. Shuffle the cards that you are going to use.
- If there are more than two players, the players divide into two teams. Team members sit across from one another.
- The players choose whether all of the players are going to play at the same time or if the players are going to take turns.
Playing the Game
The game begins when the first card is drawn. The card is placed on the table so all of the players can see it. During the game players will bounce balls trying to get them to stay in the gameboard. For a ball to count it has to bounce off the table at least once before hitting the tray. The players are trying to match the pattern on the card with their balls inside the tray.
The gameplay will depend on which mode the players chose at the beginning of the game. If the players chose to all play at the same time, players can immediately start bouncing balls and don’t have to wait for the other players. If the players chose to take turns, one player will bounce their ball. Play will then pass to the next player clockwise.
If a player/team ever runs out of balls they can take one of their balls out of the gameboard.
When the balls of one of the colors match the design on the card, the corresponding player/team takes the card. The next card is flipped over and the next round begins. The rules don’t specifically say this but I assume you remove all of the balls from the gameboard before you start the next round.
Winning the Game
The first player/team to get three cards wins the game.
My Thoughts on Bounce-Off
While the comparison to Beer Pong may not be perfect, I think it is a pretty good starting point for describing Bounce-Off. Basically the premise of Bounce-Off is players bouncing ping pong balls of the table trying to get them to land in the gameboard. Players are trying to get their balls to land in neighboring spaces in order to match the pattern on the current card. That is basically all there is to Bounce-Off.
Generally you wouldn’t think that such a simple concept would make for a very good game. Fortunately Bounce-Off is one of those games that turn a really simple concept into a surprisingly fun game. It is hard to explain exactly why but it is fun bouncing the balls into the gameboard. It is one of those simple dexterity games that you can just turn off your brain and play. You don’t have to worry about strategy which allows you to solely focus on having fun. Bounce-Off is such a simple game that anyone can enjoy it. The game has a recommended age of 7+ but outside of a potential choking hazard I can’t really see any reason why children under the age of seven couldn’t play the game.
As the game is basically just bouncing balls into a grid, it is not surprising that there is little strategy to Bounce-Off. There are pretty much only two areas where any strategy comes into play. First you have to figure out which spaces you should target. You can either target spaces that will help you win or spaces that will block the other player from winning. In the turn based game this is really obvious but in the frantic pace of the free for all game you have to think pretty quickly in order to keep up with the changing gameboard which will probably lead to some mistakes. The other potential area for strategy comes when you run out of balls. When you run out of balls you have to choose which ball/balls you want to remove from the gameboard. When choosing which balls to remove you have to figure out which block the other player from scoring and which ones you need in order to score yourself. This is usually pretty obvious but can become more difficult in the free for all game as you have to think quickly.
Instead of relying on strategy, Bounce-Off is a game that mostly comes down to skill and luck. Which one is more important is kind of debatable. You can tell that some players are more skilled at the game than others. The more you play the game the better you should get at it since you should be better at aiming and knowing how hard to throw the ball. Like with all of these type of games though there is still a pretty high reliance on luck. While you have quite a bit of control over how a ball bounces, there is still quite a bit of luck with balls bouncing out or bouncing into spaces that you weren’t intending. I would say that the most skilled player will win more games but the reliance on luck should let everyone win the game every so often. With how quick each game of Bounce-Off is I don’t really mind that luck plays a pretty big role in who ultimately wins the game.
Like a lot of these type of games Bounce-Off gives you two different ways to play the game. You can either play where it is a free for all or players can take turns shooting one of their balls. I would say that I probably slightly preferred the free for all game but I thought the turn based game was fun as well. They actually are more unique than you would expect. The free for all game is not surprisingly pretty chaotic as players bounce their balls as quickly as possible trying to give themselves as many chances as possible. I have always like speed games so I found this to be fun trying to complete the shape before the other player/team. It does create some problems when you are trying to take balls out of the gameboard though as you can easily block the other player’s/team’s shots. While not quite as good I thought the turn based game was fun as well. There is a little more strategy to this mode as you have some time to think about what space you should target.
I had a lot more fun with Bounce-Off than I was expecting but the game is not perfect. I would say that I have three problems with Bounce-Off.
The first issue I had with the game is that I think each game should have been a little longer. Only playing to three cards leads to Bounce-Off being a really short game. Most games should take ten minutes or less. While you could easily just play another game I think the game would have benefited from being a little longer. I think playing to five or six cards would make the game better. With players only having to get three cards to win, it adds some luck into the game as one player/team could quickly win three cards and the other player/team would have no chance to catch up. Playing to five or six cards would have given the other player/team time to catch up and would have lead to the more skilled player winning more often.
Second while Bounce-Off is a fun simple game, its simplicity doesn’t always work in its favor. With the game being so basic it tends to get a little repetitive after a while. It is fun trying to bounce the balls into the grid in order to match the patterns. Each game is so short though. You will quickly play a second, third, fourth, etc. game but after a while it just feels like you are doing the same thing over and over again. This gets a little repetitive after a while. After around 30 minutes or so you will probably be sick of playing the game. At this point you are going to want to put the game away for another day.
The final problem that I had with Bounce-Off actually makes the first problem worse. Maybe it is just me but I have no idea why the game only included nine cards. As you need to win three cards in order to win a game, within two or three games you will have already played through all of the cards included with the game. You are then forced to play with the same patterns over and over again. After a while it get kind of annoying having to form the same patterns over and over again. I really don’t know why the game didn’t include more designs as in just a couple minutes we came up with several different patterns that wouldn’t be anymore difficult than the cards included with the game. Due to the lack of cards I think you are eventually going to have to start making your own design cards in order to keep the game fresh. The good news is that it shouldn’t be that difficult to make your own cards.
Component wise Bounce-Off is pretty much what you would expect out of a Mattel game. The balls are your typical ping pong balls. They aren’t really thin but are nothing special either. The gameboard is fine as it is pretty solid and should last. The biggest problem I had with the game was the lack of cards. There is no reason why the game couldn’t have included more cards. It wouldn’t have taken long to come up with more patterns and adding more cards wouldn’t have added much to the game’s cost.
While I enjoyed Bounce-Off quite a bit, the game actually puts me in a strange situation. Generally I would have no problem recommending Bounce-Off to people who think the concept is interesting. In the case of Bounce-Off though I probably wouldn’t recommend the game unless you find it for really cheap at a thrift store or garage sale. The problem with Bounce-Off is that there have been several spinoff games. I have yet to play any of the spinoff games but after reading the rules for these other games I actually think several of them would be better than the original game. The various Bounce-Off spinoff games are as follows:
- Bounce-Off Party (Amazon) -Bounce-Off Party looks like it is the deluxe version of the original game. The game includes six gameboards instead of one, as well as more balls and cards. The game includes two different modes where you can either play a relay mode having to complete three different patterns or you can combine all of the gameboards together to create a massive board which allows you the opportunity to create larger patterns. Outside of cost I see no reason not to purchase Bounce-Off Party over the original game as you can always play the original game with the party game.
- Bounce-Off Blow-Out (Amazon) -Bounce-Off Blow-Out takes the concept from the original game and expands upon it. The game includes several new games which sound pretty interesting. Outside of not having the design cards from the original game you could play the original game with Blow-Out as well. I would recommend picking up Bounce-Off Blow-Out instead of the original game.
- Bounce-Off Rock ‘n’ Rollz (Amazon) -Bounce-Off Rock ‘n’ Rollz takes the normal game and adds a mechanic where the gameboard can tilt from side to side which allows some of the balls to slide between a couple different spaces. I am not sure whether this would improve the game as it could add another element to the game or could just be a gimmick.
- Bounce-Off Rock A’Round (Amazon) – Bounce-Off Rock A’Round is basically the same as Rock ‘n’ Rollz except that the game adds additional trays to the sides of the gameboard.
- Bounce-Off Stack ‘n’ Stunts (Amazon) – Bounce-Off Stack ‘n’ Stunts seems to be where the connection to the original game starts to stretch a little. Basically the game comes with slides and other contraptions that you can bounce the balls into. The premise of the game is performing various trick shots that the other players can’t pull off. Basically Stack ‘n’ Stunts is what you would get if you combined Bounce-Off with a game of “Horse”.
- Bounce-Off Bullseye (Amazon) – Bounce-Off Bullseye combines the original game with a game of darts. Players bounce the balls trying to get them to land in spots that will score them points. I could see this spinoff being either really good or really bad.
Should You Buy Bounce-Off?
Bounce-Off is a game that is not going to be for everyone but I found it to be more fun than I was expecting. There is just something fun about trying to bounce the balls into the grid that is hard to explain. The game is quick and easy that anyone can enjoy it. Bounce-Off doesn’t have a lot of strategy to it but there is a decent amount of skill involved even though luck is also going to play a role as well. While I personally preferred the free for all mode, I also enjoyed the turn based gameplay. While Bounce-Off was a fun game it is one of those games that you can only play for so long before you put it away for another day. This is mostly due to the lack of challenge cards as you will have to use the same cards over and over again which gets repetitive after a while.
Basically my recommendation for Bounce-Off comes down to whether you think the concept of bouncing balls into a grid to form different shapes sounds like fun. If it doesn’t sound like your type of game, you probably won’t like it. If you think that sounds fun though I think you will enjoy Bounce-Off. Unless you find the original game for cheap though, I would maybe recommend checking out one of the spinoffs first as they seem to expand upon the original game.