Board games feature so many different themes at this point that you can usually find a game that fits any type of mood that you are in. With it currently being winter where I live, I was curious to see if I could find a good winter themed game that wasn’t based around Christmas and actually utilized the theme of winter in the actual gameplay. I decided to check out Snowball Fight (the 2002 version as there are quite a few games titled Snowball Fight). In theory the premise of a snowball fight actually makes quite a bit of sense for a board game as the idea actually seems like a simple translation to a board game mechanic. Snowball Fight does a surprisingly good job with the theme and can be fun for families, but it feels like the game is missing something.
How to Play Snowball Fight
- Choose a player to be the scorekeeper for the game. They will take one of the score sheets and write each player’s name on one of the rows.
- Shuffle the cards and deal six to each player. The rest of the cards form the draw pile.
- All of the players will roll the die to determine who will start the game. Play will proceed clockwise throughout the game.
Playing the Game
To start your turn you will choose an Offensive card from your hand. The card will be placed face up on the table so everyone can see it. You will also choose which player you will attack. If you don’t have any Offensive cards, you will discard a card from your hand and draw another card. Your turn will then end.
The player who is being attacked then has the opportunity to play a Defensive card. The effect of the card will apply to all of the attacking player’s rolls this turn. This card will be placed so everyone can see it. If the defending player has no Defensive cards or doesn’t want to play one, they don’t have to. They will have to discard a card from their hand though.
After both players have had an opportunity to play a card, the attacking player will roll the die. The number rolled on the die will be reduced by the Defensive card that was played (this can reduce the number to zero or to a negative number). If the number rolled still falls within the Offensive cards hit/success range, the Defending player will take Snow Points equal to those shown on the Offensive card. These will be recorded on the score sheet.
If the die roll is not within the success range, the attacking player’s attack has failed.
If the defending player played a card that features the snowflake symbol, they will now have the opportunity to roll the die to try and hit the attacking player back. If they roll a five or six, the original attacking player will take two Snow Points. The attacking player cannot play a Defensive card to help protect them from this attack. If the defending player is eliminated from the game before they can counterattack, the player is not allowed to roll the dice to try and hit the attacking player.
Both the attacking and defending player will each draw a card from the deck to add to their hand. If a player ever forgets to draw a card (they need to be given a reasonable amount of time to draw a card), they will be stuck with less cards for the rest of the game. If the deck ever runs out of cards, the discard pile is shuffled to create a new draw pile. The attacking player’s turn is now over and play passes to the next player clockwise.
End of Game
When a player has acquired 30 or more Snow Points, they are eliminated from the game. The last remaining player wins the game.
Quick Game – Once one player has been eliminated from the game (has 30 or more Snow Points), the game ends. The player with the least Snow Points wins.
Survival of the Fittest – When a player eliminates another player, they will get to take all of the remaining cards from the eliminated player’s hand. This player will not get to draw new cards until they only have five cards left in their hand.
My Thoughts on Snowball Fight
After playing Snowball Fight I am not entirely sure what to think of it. On the surface the game is perfectly serviceable and I think some people will actually enjoy it quite a bit. It just feels like something is missing from the game though resulting in a board game that is completely average.
To begin I have to compliment the game on being quite accessible. The game has a recommended age of 8+ which is fine if not a little high. The rules themselves are really simple as you just play an attack card, choose someone to attack, and then they can play a defense card. You then just roll the dice and compare what was rolled to the charts on the cards. The game mechanics are simple enough that children and adults that don’t play many games should have no trouble playing it. Outside of having the reading skills to read the cards and the basic math skills to see if an attack was successful, I think kids even younger than eight could play the game.
I think another benefit to the game is the actual use of the theme. I think the game does a pretty good job creating a card game based on a snowball fight. The game could have been a little more strategic (more on this later), but all of the mechanics of a snowball fight are present in the game. Players take turns throwing snowballs at one another with the chance to dodge or hide behind cover. There are even chances to retaliate with a quick throw back at the person who threw a snowball at you. The game even utilizes circular cards imitating snowballs which adds to the theme. I think the cartoony artwork works for the game as well.
So I think it is finally time to start talking about the actual gameplay. This is where my opinion of the game starts to diminish. The game is not terrible as I think some people will actually enjoy it quite a bit. The game shares a lot in common with your typical take that game. When a player targets you they do so knowing that you likely will want to target them back. No one is going to survive without taking some shots. No decision is without risk as you could always miss, the other player could play a card with a counterattack, and you likely just angered another player who might want to attack you back. In many ways this feels like a real snowball fight.
The problem is that there doesn’t feel like there is a lot of strategy to the game. There are some decisions to make in the game as you have to choose who to attack and what cards to play. The problem is that it is usually really obvious what you should do. As for who to target a lot of people would likely want to target the player who targeted them. In most cases though it likely is best to target the player with the least points so far. This is because you don’t want to waste your turn getting another player closer to elimination while another player sits back with only a few points themselves. If it ever becomes a battle between you two they will have a huge advantage. Therefore the most strategic way to play the game is likely to spread the points out as even as possible where there is usually an obvious player that you should target next.
In a way this is a positive for the game as the final outcome should be pretty close. Unless the players decide to gang up on one player, you likely will have a game where the first eliminated player will only have to wait a short time for the rest of the players to be eliminated. Close games are almost always preferable to games that have blowouts as it keeps all of the players engaged until the end. Until you are eliminated you likely will have as good of chance as any other player to win the game.
As for what cards to play, this is usually pretty obvious as well. As for attacking you might as well play your most powerful cards most of the time unless you have a strong suspicion that the player that you are attacking has a good defense card. As for defense cards you should assess how much damage the card played by the other player could possibly deal to you. If it only deals a few points you should either play your weakest defense card or not play one at all as you will have to take some points throughout the game. It is better to save your good defense cards for when a player plays a strong offensive card against you.
With the little strategy that the game does have being pretty obvious most of the time, it results in the game relying pretty heavily on luck. Luck comes into play in a number of different ways. The most obvious are the die rolls. Any game that involves die rolls will have some sort of luck involved. The player that has die rolls work in their favor has a very good chance of winning the game. If you roll well on offense you are almost guaranteed to hit the player you are targeting. Meanwhile if the players attacking you roll poorly, you likely won’t get many points. There is not enough strategy in the game to offset a player that has the die rolls go in their favor.
The next biggest factor in the game’s reliance on luck is what cards you end up drawing. The cards in the game are not particularly balanced. In some ways the game tries to balance this by having the attack cards that are stronger require a better roll to be successful. This somewhat works, but there are still cards in the game that are better than others. The distribution of cards in your hand have just as big of an impact though. Basically you want a good balance between offensive and defensive cards. If you have no cards of one type you either can’t attack on your turn or will receive a bunch of points if players attack you with no way to defend yourself. If your card distribution is off for part of the game, you are going to have a hard time winning. Because of this I am kind of curious if the game would have benefited from having two draw piles with one having offensive cards and the other defensive cards. Then players could draw whatever type they wanted preventing this type of situation from occurring.
Finally I wanted to talk quickly about the game’s components. I liked the thematic feel of the circular cards, but it makes them harder to shuffle. The cards themselves are of a decent thickness where they should last if reasonably taken care of. I liked the quantity of cards as well since you likely can either finish or come close to finishing a game before you have to ever think about reshuffling the discard pile. The problem is that the cards could have probably used a little more variety. The game doesn’t have that many different types of cards, and a couple of the types are the same exact card outside of the name/theming. I think the game could have benefited from a few more different types of cards which maybe could have brought a little more strategy to the game.
Should You Buy Snowball Fight?
Ultimately Snowball Fight is a very basic game. The game is mostly harmless fun. The game is easy to play where the whole family could enjoy it pretty easily. It plays rather quickly and does a surprisingly good job simulating a snowball fight. If you are looking for a snowball fight game, it likely will give you a lot of what you are looking for. The problem is that the gameplay is kind of lacking in a few areas. The game has a little strategy, but it is usually pretty obvious. This leads to the game relying pretty heavily on luck as dice rolls, the cards you draw, and whether the players decide to gang up on you likely will determine whether you are going to win the game.
Because of this I am not entirely sure what to say for a recommendation. If you aren’t really interested in the theme, or generally prefer games with at least a decent amount of strategy, I don’t see Snowball Fight being for you. If you don’t mind that the game is a little basic and are really intrigued by the theme though, I think you could have fun with Snowball Fight.