Released back in 1965 the original Operation has been a classic board game for decades. Like a lot of classic board games, Operation has had quite a few spin off games created over the years. Most classic board game spinoffs stick pretty close to the original game only slightly tweaking some of the rules. Operation has been a little different. Most of the Operation spinoff games have actually deviated quite a bit from the original game’s gameplay. I am guessing a lot of this has to deal with the fact that there is only so much you could do to tweak the original gameplay. The most recent Operation spinoff game is Operation X-Ray Match Up which I am taking a look at today.
In a way Operation X-Ray Match Up feels like a prequel to the original Operation game. In this spinoff you are taking X-rays of Cavity Sam before you perform the operations in the original game. The goal of the game is to acquire more ailment cards than the other players. The players will take turns trying to match as many X-rays as possible. You will draw a ailment card, and then try to find a matching X-ray card. The X-ray cards themselves all look the same until you place them on top of the machine which will show a hidden image. If this image matches one of the images from the ailment card, you will take the ailment card. If it doesn’t, you need to keep searching for the correct ailment card. At the end of the game, whichever player has acquired the most ailment cards will win the game.
If you would like to see the complete rules/instructions for the game, check out our Operation X-Ray Match Up how to play guide.
I really didn’t know what to expect from Operation X-Ray Match Up before I started to play it. I have never had strong feelings about the Operation franchise. The Operation spinoff games also tend to be gauged towards younger audiences. This is especially true for Operation X-Ray Match Up as it has a recommended age of 4+. While it has its issues, I have to admit that I was kind of surprised by Operation X-Ray Match Up.
Operation X-Ray Match Up shares very little in common with the original Operation game. Outside of utilizing the same overall theme, the gameplay shares next to nothing in common. The original Operation game is built around dexterity where you try to use the tweezers to remove small pieces from Cavity Sam’s body. None of this is present in Operation X-Ray Match Up. Instead I would classify it as a speed memory game. Basically you are trying to put X-rays onto the machine as quickly as possible in order to get more matches before you run out of time. As the X-rays are always returned to the same spot, a memory mechanic comes into play. If you can remember where the corresponding X-ray is, you can quickly create a match.
While there are speed memory games out there, I wouldn’t consider it to be a huge genre. It creates a interesting dilemma for me as well. I generally like speed games, while memory games are one of my least favorite genres. For some reason this combination works a lot better than I expected in Operation X-Ray Match Up. The game emphasizes both elements pretty equally. To do well you need to be quick as you only have a limited amount of time each turn. Being able to pick up the cards and place them onto the machine quickly is really important. At the same time remembering where certain cards are located can really save you a lot of time. The player that is best at both elements is likely going to win the game.
I was genuinely kind of surprised by how much I enjoyed Operation X-Ray Match Up. The game has issues which I will get to soon, but the premise of the game is surprisingly fun. Adding the speed element to a memory game really helps a genre that I personally wouldn’t say that I am a fan of. Racing to quickly place X-rays onto the machine to get a bunch of matches is quite fun. It is satisfying when you can get quite a few matches on your turn.
This works well with the fact that the game is really easy to play. The game was designed with younger children in mind, and you can tell. The game requires no reading. It mostly comes down to trying to find matching pictures. The rules are really simple where they can probably be taught to new players within a couple minutes at most. You can then jump right into the game. I see no reason why anyone except for really young children having any trouble playing the game.
This leads to Operation X-Ray Match Up’s biggest issue. Unfortunately the game is way too easy. The game was meant for young children so this shouldn’t be a surprise. I can’t see older children or adults having much trouble getting quite a few matches every single turn. This can mostly be attributed to the fact that there are too few X-ray cards. With only ten cards, after the first turn you likely will have a good idea of the general area where each item is located. You may not always get it right on your first guess, but you should find each match within two or three guesses. You will then fly through the ailment cards. Basically every game we would get through all of the ailment cards within six turns at most (two turns for each player).
The game just ends way too quickly. This will likely be different with younger children, but I would guess most games will take at most 5-10 minutes. I would expect most games to be on the shorter end of that range. Since the X-rays never move, it is too easy to remember their locations. This actually gives a disadvantage to the player that goes first because the other players will know where a lot of the items are before they even start their first turn.
This is kind of a shame because in theory I actually think Operation X-Ray Match Up could have been a good game for adults. The gameplay itself is actually surprisingly fun. It is just too easy. If the game would have had more ailment and X-ray cards I think it would have made the game more challenging. With more X-ray cards, there would be more that you would have to remember which would naturally make it more difficult.
We ended up trying out our own variant rule hoping that it would help. After each round ended we mixed up the X-ray cards. This goes against the entire premise of the game, but I think it actually improved the game (for older children and adults). This shifts a lot of the emphasis away from the memory mechanic. Instead the game focuses a lot more on the speed mechanic as well as forces you to think on your feet. I actually think this improves the game. It makes the game more frantic as you race to find more matches. This adds a sort of skill to the game as well as you need to quickly process the X-rays you reveal while trying to find a match. If you are only playing with adults or older children, I would recommend giving this variant a chance.
Despite the game being really easy, the game can still be enjoyed by adults and older children. I think younger children will get the most out of the game though. The game seems perfect for younger children. It is easy to play and is simple enough that children of any age should get at least a couple matches each round. Younger children should enjoy the simple premise and the gameplay. I actually think Operation X-Ray Match Up is a good memory game if you want something more than the typical turn over two tiles/cards and hope that they match.
Before wrapping up I wanted to quickly talk about the game’s components. I generally thought they were pretty good. As I mentioned earlier I wished the game included more X-ray and ailment cards to make the game more difficult. The whole premise behind the game is quite clever though. You honestly can’t tell what each X-ray card is until you put it on the device. It is cool to see the image be revealed after it is put on the light. Otherwise the artwork is nice and the game unit works surprisingly well. For the game’s retail price of $15 I thought the components were quite good.
Heading into Operation X-Ray Match Up I can’t say that I had high expectations. This mostly was because I am not a big fan of the original Operation, and it was obvious that the game was designed for younger audiences. I was genuinely impressed by Operation X-Ray Match Up. The combination of speed and memory mechanics work surprisingly well together. It is fun racing to try and match as many cards as you can before your turn ends. The game is really easy to play as well. The main problem is just that it is too easy. Almost immediately you will have a good idea where all of the items are which will allow you to breeze through the game. It is a shame that the game isn’t harder as I think it could have been a good game for adults and older children if it was.
Because of this my recommendation for Operation X-Ray Match Up is kind of complicated. If you hate the game’s premise and the fact that it is so simple, I don’t think it will be for you. If you don’t mind the game’s easy difficulty or have younger children though, I think you will enjoy Operation X-Ray Match Up and should consider checking it out.
Operation X-Ray Match Up
Year: 2021 | Publisher: Hasbro | Designer: NA | Artist: NA
Genres: Children’s, Memory, Speed
Ages: 4+ | Number of Players: 1+ | Length of Game: 5-10 minutes
Difficulty: Light | Strategy: Light | Luck: Moderate
Components: X-ray scanner, 4 wheels, 10 X-ray cards, 40 ailment cards, instructions
- Surprisingly fun combination of speed and memory mechanics.
- Really easy to play which should be great for younger children.
- Way too easy for older children and adults.
- Ends too quickly.
Rating: 3/5 This is sort of a combination of what I personally would give the game and what it deserves for the target audience. For older children and adults it would probably rate lower. For younger children though, I think it would rate higher.
Recommendation: For those who think the premise sounds interesting, and either have younger children or don’t mind that the game is on the easy side.