Welcome to The Jivecat Jazz Club… Nice!
I love a game with an unusual theme. I find it makes play interesting and you can have experiences that you never would have had otherwise. I have to say that I have never had a wish to be a voodoo spirit trying to hang out with the “in-crowd” jivecats in themed jazz bars, but I’m always up for trying things once, and I have Swinging Jivecat Voodoo Lounge to thank for this opportunity. I also seldom feel the need to put in any preparation for playing a game, but on this occasion I went and got myself a bowl haircut and a black turtleneck. I also twirled my moustache into little points and removed most of my vocabulary and replaced it with words like “Nice!”, “Funkalicious” and “Voodootacular”.
Are the components a bit of a dive?
When Swinging Jivecat Voodoo Lounge arrived the first thing that struck me is how oddly shaped the box was. I had an idea of the theme already but that was about all I knew. I cracked into the cellophane and was met with honestly the last thing I expected… Martini glasses. Whilst not integral to Jivecats, it supplements the theme perfectly. You also get a player aid each which looks like a coaster and the tokens you use during the game need to be stored in the glass so it looks like you have a cocktail on the table with you. Sadly, you don’t score any more points for actually having a cocktail with you otherwise all of our players would have been knee deep in monkeys by game end. All of the components seem sturdy and there is very little in the way of processing mistakes on the monkey point tokens or the rest of the tokens and they even supply enough baggies to keep everything in; always a bonus with component heavy games.
Enter the funky lounge lizards…
The idea of Swinging Jivecat Voodoo Lounge is to work your way through the squares in each party to get through to the Lounge Lizards, hopefully get in with the Cool People and eventually get into the private party going on in the middle of each lounge where the majority of the Swinging Jivecats hang out. Once you start hanging with the cool kids, the objective is to be the first person to get to 15 points.
You start Swinging Jivecat by choosing your player colour and adding your skull tokens to your glass. You then need to lay out the board, adding 3 skull cards to the left of the board and 3 trend cards on the right hand side. Next you collect your point markers. For the record, these are categorically THE BEST point markers I have ever seen. You get monkeys… Orange ones and blue ones to keep score. Orange ones signify one point and blue ones are five. Lastly, you need to deal each of the players 4 clique cards each. So, with your monkeys and martini in hand, it’s time to crank up some jazz café background music and start playing Swinging Jivecat Voodoo Lounge!
Let’s get Swinging!
To start the game you all get to choose your starter lounge lizard which are signified by having speech bubbles on their numbers. You select 2 starter lounge lizards each by placing your token on them. Selection then moves round in a clockwise direction and the last person to place their first token gets first choice for their second token. There is no small amount of strategy involved in choosing your starter lizards as you can try and plan your way towards the important jivecats in the centre or the other scoring cool cats, or you can keep an eye on the trend cards to earn yourself some monkeys and net yourself an end of game point bonus as long as you’re still in the position to keep that trend card at the end of the game.
An example of a trend you could net yourself during play is “Odd Man Out”, which you collect if you manage to get a token on characters numbered 3, 5, 7 and 9. Once collected, it can give you the option to place a token on an even numbered contact without playing a clique card, so long as you pay a skull. Another example is the card called “Friends Everywhere”, which aims to get 2 chips in each lounge on the board. Once completed it will give you an amazingly powerful bonus to ignore the adjacency rule when collecting another contact. Keeping hold of these trend cards also nets you extra monkeys at the end of Jivecats so they’re definitely worth having.
So how do you schmooze your way into the company of the cool people? The same way you probably would in real life… by plying them with drinks! All adjacent lounge lizards are connected by a spotlight on the board and these are the ones you can buy drinks for, and you buy them drinks by using one (or a number) of your clique cards. As well as being used for buying drinks they also can be used as attack cards to mess with your fellow swingers. There are a few different types as you can see below and they can be used to help yourself as well as to hinder your opponents. Some effects include stripping your opponent of their hard earned (or stolen) bonus effects, and another is the ability to have an extra number on tap if you need it to schmooze a lounge lizard.
Sadly, the voodoo doll cards do not work as actual voodoo dolls otherwise the winner would have known more about it. *stab stab* Nope, still no effect. 🙁
Despite the rules saying that the first person to 15 points is the winner, that’s not strictly true. Once someone collects 15 points this triggers the game end and then the players get to have a last ditch attempt to collect as many points as possible. This is where anyone’s ruthlessness will start to show as it’s an ideal time to start removing other players tokens and making last ditch attempts to get the trend cards that you have been working towards. As briefly mentioned before, you gain an extra monkey for each active trend cards that you have once the game end is reached.
Is SJVL a few monkeys short of a barrel?
Is Swinging Jivecat Voodoo Lounge worth a look? Well, I have to say I had a blast playing it. The first time I played through I did so with 2 players and whilst it was alright, this is at its core a game about social interactions, and as such it really needs social interaction. There is an additional rule about playing with 2 or 3 phantom players to keep Jivecats even and to add some complexity but it doesn’t really make up for playing with real people. The next time we played with 4 people and some drinks and we had a fantastic time. The game was won right at the end by the player struggling in 2nd all the way through, and the whole game was really close fought.
This game can be quite a cut-throat experience, given the powerful clique card bonuses at each player’s disposal, but you don’t necessarily have to play that way. The most interesting thing that I noticed about Jivecats was that we all took different paths to get as close to the win as we did. I managed to get into a lounge and milk all of the single point and jivecat positions in it, whilst the eventual winner managed to do so by collecting 5 different trend cards and playing the scoring points here and there strategy. None of us really felt the need to mess with each other a great deal; but I can imagine some of the other people in my gaming group using the attack cards to mercilessly dominate the other players instead of taking the civil route we all did. I think it adds a nice multifaceted touch to Jivecats since there’s no one way to win, and someone could steal a victory from the jaws of defeat.
Lastly, I have to mention that the price tag on Swinging Jivecat Voodoo Lounge is quite high because of the components so had it not been so much fun to play then I’d have been pretty upset about it. Luckily this wasn’t the case and I firmly believe the game is worth the asking price.
Swinging Jivecat Voodoo Lounge is brilliant fun and definitely works better for groups as opposed to couples, but is worth a play no matter how large your gaming group.
Buy it! Otherwise someone will keep stabbing a voodoo doll card which looks like you: http://www.gamesquest.co.uk/new-releases/swinging-jivecat-voodoo-lounge
Check out the following links for more information about the game; including a copy of the rule book:
Daily Magic Games: http://www.dailymagicgames.com/swinging-jivecat-voodoo-lounge/
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I am just a regular guy that fell into board gaming. That's why I am no longer allowed in my local Toys R Us. I'm a huge fan of deckbuilding games and games with unusual themes or mechanics. OK, maybe I'm not that regular after all.