We are probably all familiar with the Olympic ideal: the most important thing is not to win, but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. But are you familiar with the Pegasus Spiele ideal: the most important thing in Why First? is not win, but to lose. Not only to lose, but to become the biggest loser. Just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but that horrible feeling that you did everything you could do, but still were not able to get a prize. That’s the feeling that helps great athletes become even better. Simon Havard understood that and made a game about it.
What do you get for your money?
You get one game board, 6 player pawns, 6 player cards, 32 Race cards and the rules
How do you play the game?
This game is all about being second. You have to be second best to get points and after five rounds the player with the second most points wins the game.
There a small board with 29 spaces, value minus 12 to plus 16 and every player start with their player pawn on the start space (zero).
Then every player draws five cards from a deck of 32 cards with values from minus four to plus five. There are more minus and plus ones than twos and there’s only one plus five and one minus four.
Now everyone simultaneously picks one of their five cards, 1-2-3-Go!, and places it in front of another player or in front of himself. Then the players go a number of spaces forward or backward on the board according to the card in front of them, if the other players gave given them any cards of course. Players do that three more times. The fifth card you have to place in front of yourself and then, at the end of the round, the player who’s on the second farthest space on the board gets the amount of points equal to the space he or she is on. So if you at the picture below, the red player would receive four points and the rest none.
After every round you reset the board and play five new cards. When the fifth round ends you total all your points and the player with the second most points wins the game.
This is a little, quick, card game. It’s funny to notice that every round evolves in a similar way. As does the whole game itself. The first couple of turns will be quite chaotic. After all, you don’t know which pawn or pawns to manipulate to become second best at the end of the round. After you’ve played two or three cards, you’ll have a better idea which player to target and which cards to play.
The same happens when you look at the game as a whole. Only after the third and probably even after the fourth round you know how many points you or another player have to score, so you’ll eventually end up in second place.
So, basically, during the largest part of the game you are in the unknown and that tends to result in chaos.
You place cards in front of yourself or in front of players in such way that it’s most beneficial to you. However, you have very little information about what your opponents might want to do, so you can’t anticipate on that until later in the round when more information is available.
The idea that you have to play the last card in front of yourself is nice. You have to think ahead or otherwise you moved all the right pawn, but mess it all up yourself in the last turn and move yourself the wrong way. However, there so much that can happen along the way that it’s is very hard to make a solid plan.
The chaos makes Why First? a very light game, but it is easy to teach and the idea of having to be second best to win the game is a very interesting idea, but is it enough in the long-term? I don’t know.
I would definitely say that you have to play the game with three or four players. With six players it’s really too chaotic for my taste and with five it’s OK, but not great.
Flavour and Theme
There’s no theme here, just numbers on cards. It also doesn’t really feel like a racing game to me.
The game looks cheerful and colourful with those happy and cartoony pawns on the cards. It’s not the best looking game out there, but it does the job.
Quality of the components
The components are fine. The game is nice and portable.
Although this is a chaotic game, with cards flying over the table every turn, you still have the feeling that you have some influence over whether you’ll do good or not, especially near the end of every round. It’s not a lot, don’t expect having to make loads of difficult decisions, but it’s just enough so that it is not a random card throwing fest.
Why First? is a light game, light, light, light, but sometimes disrupting the plans of your opponents is the only thing you need to do to have good time. If you like that kind of game of course.
I do find it a fun filler myself, but I’m hesitant to recommend it to everybody. It’s a good game for families or friends who like to play a quick game with a bit of a ‘take that’ element. However, if you like more tactical card games and you’re looking for a new one to add to your collection, then this isn’t the one you’re looking for.
So, if you know what you’re dealing with, then Why First? can be a fun game to play and it doesn’t cost that much, so therefore I do, although very, very cautiously, recommend it.
Nope, sorry, I cannot go that far.