I backed this game on Kickstarter.
The game: Gnomi by Brian Fouts, published by Poppy Jasper Games in 2017 following a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Elevator pitch: 10-minute filler card game that doesn’t require a table to play – just keep your cards in your hand and put the decks in your pocket!
What’s in the box? Small, sturdy box has a magnetic lid and contains a deck of 25 mushroom cards and 21 gnome cards, a 7 card expansion and rules.
The cards are of decent quality; not great, but nice. The art is ok, and at least the cards are easy to use.
The cards might benefit from sleeves, but while the box looks like it could hold sleeved cards, it doesn’t: even thin, close-fit sleeves make the deck too thick so the lid doesn’t close.
What do you do in the game? Everybody starts with four mushroom cards and three gnomes. No additional cards are drawn during the game.
On your turn, you have three options: use one mushroom card and request a mushroom of the same colour from another player, use two mushroom cards to take one random mushroom from another player, or use a gnome power. If you can’t do anything, you can always pass, but that requires you to mark a card used.
Used cards are flipped upside down: the mushroom become compost and the gnomes go to sleep. If all your cards are upside down, you’re out of the game. The last player to stay in the game wins the round.
Gnome cards let you steal mushrooms from other players, flip cards back from the compost, wake sleeping gnomes, put opposing gnomes to sleep and so on.
Lucky or skillful? Lots of luck. Early game is mostly lucky guesses. During the game you get useful information, when you see mushrooms going from one player to another, and you can use that to remove some luck. But it’s still very heavy on luck.
Abstract or thematic? The gnome theme is silly and makes a tiny bit sense, but mostly it could anything.
Solitaire or interactive? Quite a bit of interaction: you’re trying to steal cards from your opponents after all. You choose who you attack, sometimes you know who has the cards you want, sometimes you’re just picking someone at random.
Players: 2–6. The two-player game didn’t impress me much; seems quite pointless. I’ve tried with 2–4 players, and based on that I’d guess this is a game for 4–6 people.
Who can play? Age recommendation is 12+, but that’s too high. Players must be able to read and hold their cards hidden from other players, but kids who can do that can play this game just fine. There’s some strategic nuance that smaller kids won’t figure out, but it’s not tricky.
What’s to like: Simple rules, very easy to teach; doesn’t require a table to play; doesn’t last too long.
What’s not to like: Heavy emphasis on lucky guessing; boring art.
My verdict: Gnomi has an interesting promise: it’s a card game you can play anywhere. That’s true: you have seven cards per player, those cards never leave someone’s hand. If you do have a table, putting sleeping gnomes and composted mushrooms on the table does make the game slightly easier to follow.
Gnomi is pretty heavy on luck, though. Your gnomes can be useful or not, and that depends on luck. In the beginning there’s no information, so it’s all up to lucky guesses.
The game has player elimination, but it’s mercifully short. Playing several rounds doesn’t take long and balances some of the luck. I think the art should be more spiffy – right now the game doesn’t really look as attractive as a light low-barrier-of-entry game like this should.
On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Gnomi gets Indifferent from me.