If you’ve managed to get further than the title, I’m guessing that you will already be very familiar with Rick and Morty. They are the main characters from the animated cartoon series produced by Adult Swim and their names form the title of the show. Rick is an amoral and visually unappealing super genius who lives with his ‘normal’ daughter Beth and her husband Jerry, of whom Rick is entirely contemptuous. Morty and his older sister Summer are Rick’s grandchildren, and each episode involves one or more of Rick’s outlandish inventions taking him and Morty on an adventure in space or in an alternative dimension; often both. If you haven’t seen the show, do check it out. It has been shown on Sky TV and all three seasons are currently available on Netflix.
I’ve heard that Rick can be a bit of a cult
The Rick and Morty cartoon series has a well-earned cult following, not least because it spoofs pretty much every science fiction trope in the genre. And publishers Cryptozoic have a fondness for taking popular TV and film franchises and turning them into games. There was a time when board games produced as TV tie-ins were almost universally dire but, with one or two exceptions, Cryptozoic have made a pretty good job of implementing their merchandising franchises into very playable games…
Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind isn’t Cryptozoic’s first go at a Rick and Morty game. They seem to have developed something of a specialty in producing a series of so far very different Rick and Morty games, each of which has been built around the events of a single episode of the series. Rick and Morty: Total Rickall is a hidden role game based on an episode where none of the characters knew who was real and who was really an alien parasite. Rick and Morty: Anatomy Park is based on an episode that mimicked the 1960’s sci-fi movie Fantastic Voyage, so that players are competing to develop a miniaturised theme park inside the organs of a homeless man while simultaneously trying to fend off disease organisms. Rick and Morty: Mr Meeseek’s Box o’ Fun Dice and Dares Game follows the events of another episode involving magical genie-like beings from another dimension whose only purpose in life is to help. That one, however, is more of a novelty than a game.
In an infinity of multiverses, anything and everything is possible
Like each of the previous Rick and Morty games, Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind was designed by Matt Hyra. Though he is Cryptozoic’s in-house designer, he comes to the table with a strong track record of game design, including work on numerous trading card games and games such as GKR Heavy Hitters, which raised almost a million dollars when it ran last year on Kickstarter and which has built an appreciative fan base in the couple of months since its release. Matt Hyra also co-designed Cryptozoic’s DC Comics Deck Building Game. This has had countless iterations and expansions, each of which can be combined. The DC Deck Builder, along with other deck building games in the Cryptozoic range, use what is described as the Cerberus Engine, distinguishing them from other popular deck building engines such as the one used in the range of Legendary games from Upper Deck.
In Cerberus Engine games, players typically each have an oversized hero card showing their overarching special ability or power. They have a starting deck of 10 cards which, as in most deck building games, they use to buy more powerful cards. The twist with Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind is that three of the 10 starting deck cards are not merely weak, they appear to be completely worthless: these represent Beth, Jerry and Summer, the three other members of Rick and Morty’s family. You’ll want to burn these cards and remove them from your deck ASAP – except that maybe you shouldn’t because, during the course of the game, you will encounter other cards that powerfully reward players who are able to combine their use with one or other of these seemingly worthless cards…
The episode on which Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind is predicated is the one where we first encounter the Council of Ricks: an all-powerful intergalactic government made up of Ricks from across the multiverse of alternative realities. It makes for a very workable scenario and a fun game. The game will probably be completely meaningless to anyone who hasn’t watched the Rick and Morty TV series but, for fans of the show, it is suffused throughout with flavour and theme. Players encounter different incarnations of the main characters and they use inventions and equipment items from the show as well as various dimensional locations, each with their special powers or effects.
One to avoid with pedantic mathematicians
The artwork for Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind obviously uses drawings from the series but even the text of many of the cards provide thematically amusing twists. For example, the card representing leading Council member Rick Prime allows you to transfer one card of each different prime number value from your discard pile into your hand. Geddit? It’s just a pity that the designer ruined the joke by listing 1 among the prime numbers. I cannot begin to describe the intensity of argument this gave rise to in play, with mathematically minded players vehemently disputing the printed text!
Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind is not the best deck building game in the multiverse and its appeal is aimed squarely at dedicated fans of the show, but, if you’re one of them, and if you like deck builders, then you’ll certainly love this game. Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind supports two to five players, and fans of the cartoon will appreciate the fact that everyone gets to play as Rick, albeit with each of you focusing on a separate personality trait (so as to allow for each player to have a different special ability). Although, as you’d expect in a deck builder, everyone begins with an identical starter set of cards, there’s a lot of variation in the other cards on offer; enough certainly to keep you entertained across multiple plays.
Rick vs Lex Luthor
There’s an important bonus too in the fact that Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind uses the Cerberus Engine. A feature of the various Cerberus Engine games – those involving Batman, Superman and all the characters from the DC Comics universe and those from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings – is that all of the core cards in all of the games have exactly the same card backs. That means it’s possible to shuffle them together to mix and match cards and characters from the various different games. As if Rick and Morty’s madcap multiverse wasn’t enough for you, you can integrate Rick and Morty into the DC universe (or, at a push, into Tolkein’s Middle Earth) and create your own Council of Ricks/Justice League/Fellowship of the Ring crossover. I don’t know about you, and I concede this may just be an example of my inner child crying out, but I find that really exciting!
And eschewing the Cerberus melting pot and sticking strictly within the Rick and Morty franchise, you can expect more to come. Cryptozoic have already announced a sequel to Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind. Rick and Morty: The Rickshank Rickdemption Deck Building game is due out later this year. Though details are still skimpy, you can reliably expect the new game to be combinable and fully compatible with this one.
If you’re looking for a deck building game and you’re not already a Rick and Morty fan, I recommend that you first go and watch a couple of episodes of the cartoon (Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind is the 10th episode in Series 1). Assuming you’re hooked, then you’ll get a real kick out of the Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind game and you’ll agree with my 7/10 rating. With this game, and with most of the others published to date, Cryptozoic have done a first-rate job of capturing the anarchic spirit of the Rick and Morty TV show and distilling it into a fun game. If you don’t care for the TV show, however, this game will hold no interest for you and I confess that, stripped of theme, there are probably better standalone deck builders out there.
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Selwyn has been playing, collecting and writing about board games for more years than he readily admits to. He has written about and reviewed games for Games & Puzzles, Spielbox and Tabletop Gaming, and his Board's Eye View page on Facebook includes short reviews and commentary on both old and new games.