How to Play
The following rules are for the 2011 version of Slapshot which might vary slightly from other versions of the game.
To begin the game, all of the players select one colored token and place it on the preseason spot on the board. The cards are sorted by type of player (goalie, defensemen, and forward) and they are shuffled. Each player gets one goalie, two defensemen, and three forwards to start the game.
During a player’s turn they can take one of three actions:
- Trade a Player
- Draft a Player
- Play a Game
Trade a Player
When trading a player, the current player takes a card at random from any of the other players. The current player then needs to give a hockey player of the same type back to the player they took a card from. For example if a forward was taken, the current player has to give the other player one of their forwards. The player may not give back the player they just took from the other player.
Draft a Player
To draft a player, the current player needs to discard a card. That card goes at the bottom of its’ corresponding deck. The current player then takes a card from the deck of the same type of player that they discarded. For example if they discarded their goalie, they need to take the top goalie from the goalie deck.
Play a Game
If the current player decides to play a game they chose an opponent. The player that is challenged is the home team and gets the homefield advantage of starting the game up by one point. Both teams go through their cards and arrange them in the order they would like to play the cards. The game then begins with both players flipping over their first card. In most circumstances the player with the higher ranked card will score a point. If both cards are the same rank, no point is scored. If only one player flipped over a goalie, no points are scored unless Tiny Tim is played by the other player since he scores against any goalie. If both players flip over a goalie, the higher ranked goalie scores a point for their team.
All six cards are played in this manner. Whoever has the highest score at the end wins the current game and moves their playing piece forward one space. If the game is tied, overtime is played. Overtime is played in the same way as the normal game except that whichever team scores first wins the game.
Four cards in the deck are bruisers indicated by a red cross on the card. Bruisers are unique in that they injure the player they encounter. In a matchup with a bruiser the higher ranked card still wins the point but the player who faces a bruiser is injured. That player is removed from the current game that is being played. At the end of the current game all injured players are placed on the bottom of their respective decks. The team(s) who lost player(s) to injury draw a new player(s) of the same type as the player that was injured. If both teams had injured players, the home team (the team that was challenged) gets to draw new cards first.
When one player reaches the playoff space, the season ends and the two players furthest along the track compete in the playoffs. If there is a tie for second place, the tied teams play a three game series to decide who moves onto the playoffs. The team that reached the playoff spot gets to be the home team in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 7th games meaning that they start the round with a 1-0 score advantage. The other team is the home team in the 3rd, 5th, and 6th games.
During the playoffs, neither player is allowed to draft or trade any of their players. Injured players are removed from their teams in the normal fashion. Games in the playoffs are played in the same manner as before. The playoffs consist of a 7 game series with the team who wins four games winning the game of Slapshot.
Before finding Slapshot at a local flea market, I had never heard of the game before. After doing a little research it turns that there is at least six different versions/variations of the game with the first being created in 1986. The game seems to have a a pretty large fan base. Not being a huge hockey fan (I am more of a football fan), I didn’t know what I was going to think about it. After playing it I have to say there is quite a bit that I like about the game but there is also quite a bit that I think could have been improved.
If I had to compare Slapshot to another game I would have to say that it borrows the main mechanic of the game from the classic game War. For those not familiar with War, you pretty much just play cards and whichever player played the highest cards gets to take the card played by the other player. The game ends when one player has all of the other players’ cards. I liked playing the game of War when I was a child. Recently I played another game like War (my review of Top Trumps Greek Mythology) but it was a nightmare. The game was boring beyond belief and it was a broken game. With my terrible experience with Top Trumps I didn’t have high expectation for Slapshot’s gameplay since I had lost faith that the game mechanic of War could actually be turned into a good game. War is somewhat fun but the entire game is based on luck which doesn’t make a very good game. While Slapshot still relies too heavily on luck, it actually does a decent job removing some of it.
Slapshot actually has several additions to the game that try to reduce the amount of luck. The most obvious is the fact that you can rearrange the order of your cards before facing the other player. This gives the player some control over the game if they are good at guessing what their opponent is going to do. Unfortunately unless you are psychic (or cheating) you are still only guessing. Therefore the impact of rearranging the cards doesn’t eliminate much of the luck involved the the “War” mechanic. In general you will probably do pretty much as well if you just randomly organize your cards than actually put some strategy into the order.
Drafting and trading players are the two mechanics I believe do the best job eliminating the luck aspect of the game. Don’t get me wrong, there is quite a bit of luck in drafting or trading for the right player. You at least have some impact on the outcomes though. In drafting you get to decide which player you would like to get rid of. You could get a worse card but if you are giving up the player in the first place it was probably was not that good in the first place.
Trading on the other hand has quite a bit more risk/reward to it. Due to games being played, you end up finding out what players other teams have. Therefore you know if your cards are worse than the other players’. If one team has a strong roster you are likely to win the trade. With a trade there is always some risk though since before picking a card you never know which position you will have to give up. If you are really strong at a position and that position is drawn, you might end up losing the trade. In the game I played I consistently won trades (many that the odds were against me winning) while another player lost most of his trades. Essentially with trades you need to decide whether the risk is worth the reward.
Bruisers/Injuries also have some impact on the luck in the game. Bruiser cards are actually a pretty interesting concept. Brusiers’ value comes from getting rid of good cards from the other players (as long as you are able to line them up against the other team’s good players). On the other hand their rank is usually not very high (one 0, one 2, and two 5s) which means they will usually lose you a point. Early in the game I thought they were quite valuable since the player who had the bruisers kept eliminating some of the best cards from the team who faced them. As time went on though they became less valuable since they consistently lost games for their manager due to their low rank. In my opinion the bruisers have some value but I wouldn’t keep more than one of them at a time.
Another interesting concept in Slapshot is homefield advantage. I applaud the game for coming up with a creative way of implementing home field into the game. I think home field plays a good role in equalizing the teams since the strong teams are the most likely to challenge another team. In Slapshot home field is quite important. While playing the game some games were total blowouts but I would say that a majority of the games were within one or two goals with quite a few games going into overtime. This means that home field could have an impact of the outcome of quite a few games. Home field really comes into play when you get to the playoffs.
Overall I thought the overtime rules were a little disappointing. I get why they were chosen since they follow hockey rules regarding overtime. The reason the overtime rules are disappointing is that there are essentially only three options of how to play overtime and if one team is considerably stronger they are almost guaranteed to win. Your options pretty much come down to starting you hand with your strongest card, your second strongest card, or your goalie. Then you use the other two of the aforementioned cards. Finally you place your other three cards in order of rank. Since you don’t know what your opponent is going to do you just randomly guess which scenario will work out for you.
In the game I played, two teams (including my team) were considerably in the lead for most of the game. As we approached the playoffs I knew that my team was stronger than the second place team since that team had been decimated by injuries. So I tried to rush to get to the playoffs as quickly as possible to take advantage of that fact. This ended up showcasing the biggest problem with the playoffs in Slapshot. If you are weaker going into the playoffs you have little chance of winning since except for injuries you are stuck with the team you bring to the playoffs. The playoffs in the game I played ended up going to five games with me winning four of the five games. The other player did a great job with their weaker team taking three game to overtime. Unfortunately it seems very hard to overcome a weaker team in the playoffs.
Some other thoughts I had on the gameplay include:
- The game is very easy to learn and play. The game has a recommended age of eight. I didn’t play the game with any children but I think children even younger than eight may be able to play the game. The instructions could have explained a couple things a little better but the instructions as a whole are well written.
- The game does have a tendency to drag on at times. My group ended up playing with the rules where people could make unlimited trades/drafts. This lead to periods where several rounds passed where every player either drafted or traded. The estimated length of the game is 30-60 minutes. The game I played was on the longer end of that spectrum. The game does have a rule variant which limits the number of trades and drafts a team can make which should shorten the game a little. I think the game would be better served closer to 30 minutes than the 60 minutes that my game ended up lasting.
- The game has a built in problem where if one team is considerably weaker than the other teams, every other team can pick on them. Essentially a weak team can keep being challenged by other teams in order to get easy wins. I think the game could have used a rule where a team would get some time to rebuild before another team could challenge them.
Overall I would say the gameplay in Slapshot is a pretty average. The game does a lot of nice things and does do some things to eliminate some of the luck. It is also a unique/wacky interpretation of the game of hockey which should interest most hockey fans. Unfortunately the game still relies to heavily on luck. If you have played the game “War” or something similar and didn’t like it, you won’t like Slapshot since it doesn’t differentiate itself enough.
Overall the theme and the components of Slapshot are pretty good.
I would say the cards’ artwork is one of the strongest aspects of the game. The cards’ artwork is done in a cartoony manner and it works well for the game. The artwork is interesting while at the same time not being distracting. The rank numbers and the enforcer icons are easy to identify. The pun names on the cards are a little hit or miss. Some are actually pretty creative while others just make you groan. Slapshot is not a game for serious hockey fans. The game actually does a pretty good job simulating hockey but it is done in a non serious manner.
Other than the cards, the components are kind of disappointing. The game includes a card tray to separate the three sets of cards. It would have been nice to use the try while playing the game but it really doesn’t pay to use it for two reasons. First there could have either been stickers or some other way of indicating which stack was which. This would have made it easier to identify which stack was which. The biggest problem with the tray though is that it takes too long to put discarded cards on the bottom of the pile. The tray could have been designed in a manner where you could have quickly slipped the discarded card at the bottom of the pile.
In addition to the card tray, the gameboard and the player markers are kind of pointless. They are only used to keep score but more work could have been put into them. The player pieces for example could have at least been circular instead of a square since then they could have looked like a hockey puck. The gameboard is pretty bland since it is just a hockey rink with numbers on it to indicate the different spaces.
Overall I thought Slapshot was a decent game. The game is fun to play and has a good theme. The biggest problem with the game is that at times the game comes down to plain luck and your choices don’t feel like they impact the game at all. If someone else wanted to play the game I would play it again. It is the type of game I would only play every few months though.
If you don’t like hockey I don’t think you will like the game since the theme helps overcome some of the issues of the game. If you don’t like the card game “War” due to its’ reliance on luck, I can’t see you liking Slapshot either. If you are looking for an interesting, non-serious hockey game though and don’t mind luck having a pretty big impact on the game, I think you will really like Slapshot.