CV: A four-sided game review

CV boxCV is a pretty small dice/card game in an infeasibly large box that was released at Essen a few weeks ago. It works well two, three or four-player and should play out in under an hour, but can generate quite a bit of chat and go a little longer (depending on the group).

It certainly wasn’t one of the big releases of the show but it’s probably the one that has (so far) left the biggest impression on me, so I wanted to review it as soon as possible. For me it creates a unique play experience, which is still making me smile a lot after five plays (with two, three and four players – the game’s limits).

While oversized the box has a good insert and is used well to show off the game’s wonderful artwork. Each of the 87 cards is individually illustrated by Piotr Socha who has a wonderfully whimsical and comical style, reminiscent a little of the style used in Dixit crossed with that of your typical children’s book. There are also seven custom dice, a small board and some tokens – plus a scoring pad and pencil.

Set up is very easy. The cards have five different card backs: you deal the ‘starting’ cards to all players, ‘goals’ to each player and onto the board (some are individual, some contested) and then place the other three stacks (representing early, mid and late life) on the board as draw piles – and away you go.

Teaching

CV bitsIf you like a strong theme that feels perfectly aligned to the gameplay and components, look no further. And best of all, this makes CV a very easy game to teach.

It also helps that you’re dealing with two very simple gameplay mechanisms: set collection and Yahtzee. On a turn, players will role four (and later more) dice and then have the option of two rerolls (one result, unhappy faces, cannot be rerolled and too many may lead to a disaster, adding a nice push-your-luck element).

The resulting icons on the dice are then used to ‘buy’ cards from the board, which are then replaced from whichever deck is active (early, mid, late life) before the next player’s turn. The cards come in five colours representing relationships, knowledge, health, work and possessions: only one card of each type will benefit you at any one time, with the rest making a stack below it.

CV Essen promos

The three Essen promo cards

These cards give benefits to you in later rounds, such as ‘free’ symbols (as if you’d rolled a certain die face); extra dice each round, or the ability to pretend one symbol is another. Once all the three card decks are depleted, give or take, the game ends.

Scoring is again thematic; if you have the ‘Hard Worker’ goal you’ll need lots of jobs, while the ‘Successful Person’ will need two possessions for each job card they have to score bonus points – and the ‘Renaissance Man’ needs a good mix of everything in their life.

The four sides

CV gameThese are me, plus three fictitious amalgams drawn from observing my friends, and their respective quirks and play styles.

  • The writer: The theme shines so brightly. The dice symbols (happy, sad, money, health, knowledge, relationships) make sense in both which are used to ‘buy’ a card, and what benefit that card then gives you. You will need a relationship and money for a child; once you have it, it will cost you money every round – but will add both a relationship and happiness symbol. No money, and your child will be taken away!
  • The thinker: Once I’d realised there was very little here to actually think about, and no need to try and win, I started to enjoy myself – but then half an hour later I started wishing we were playing a ‘proper’ game. You can’t deny the production quality, but this is really complicated Yahtzee with a social element and for that I think it slightly overstays its welcome. There’s just a bit too much ‘working out’; less symbols and fiddliness would’ve helped it no end.
  • The trasher: Don’t tell anyone, but I actually enjoyed myself playing CV. It’s obvious from the off that what you’re doing is all a bit silly and with the right crowd it’s a nice way to wind down after some serious gaming. There is zero player interaction, and loads of luck, so you just end up helping each other on your turns – until near the end. Then you start nailing those end-game cards to try and get the win (I can’t help myself). Not every game needs confrontation; and if I’m not going to be fighting, don’t give me orcs and spaceships and world maps to get my hopes up with!
  • The dabbler: This could be my perfect game! Its social, with plenty of talking points every round, which tend to be both gamey and funny. The art on the cards never gets boring, while CV really easy to teach and doesn’t outstay its welcome if its played in the right spirit. If people are chatting and laughing during the game, they’re not playing it right – get it off the table and to some other players!

Key observations

My collection from Essen, with CV taking pride of place

My collection from Essen, with CV taking pride of place

This is one of the earlier reviews of CV, so there are not an awful lot of talking points around yet! On the negative side the cards have a pretty nasty chemical smell to them, but I’m sure that will fade it time. But what else?

I guess the only other real fear some will have with CV is replay value; a concern that has been raised by a few people on BoardGameGeek already. Personally it hasn’t been an issue yet, but then I’ve played almost exclusively with different people each time (except Zoe, who luckily likes it as much as I do).

While 87 cards isn’t that many, and you’ll see them all in every game, with four players you’ll not get the chance to draw an awful lot of them each game. You’ll also be going after different cards too, depending on your goals, and what happens in the early game can really alter what you look out for.

‘But Chris’, I hear you cry, ‘you said it’s about the experience and not the game’. Well, that’s true as well – and for me, after five games, I’m still looking forward to the next story my cards will tell. Will I be a scientist jogger with twins who still rides a scooter? Or a games designer turned celebrity with my own factory but no relationships? I can’t wait to find out.

Also, both the box size and game style leaves CV open to a myriad of expansions; something I’ll buy in a heartbeat (at the right price) and that will certainly add to the shelf life if my enthusiasm does start to wane. The most obvious one that comes to mind is pets! This game would really benefit from some dogs, cats etc and they’re the perfect subject matter for the artist.

Conclusion

CV cardsI’m not sure how easy it will be to find, but if you’re looking for a social family game that’s light on rules but does offer a level of thought I can’t recommend CV highly enough.

From the art and component quality to the rulebook and general presentation, it gets top marks.

I’m currently rating it an 8.5, which puts it just outside my top 10; and the highest ranking I’ve given to any game that’s less meaty than my usual favourites (which tend to be medium weight euro games).

If it does start to lose a little lustre with another five plays I’ll come back to the review and amend my mark, but for now I’m quietly confident that this will continue to hit the table with all kinds of folks – especially once Christmas come along. I just hope it gets the kind of distribution circulation it deserves (I can’t even see it on Amazon yet).

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