Button Shy games have a certain set of characteristics: they are eminently portable (18 cards in a plastic wallet sized sleeve), they’re easy to teach (the rules live on a piece of paper smaller than a paperback book page), they have a surprising depth of gameplay. Super Slopes, one of the newest games from the micro-game titan certainly fits those criteria: a ski run packed with yetis, energy drinks, forest hazards, and as many points as you can grab on the way down the mountain. Let’s find out more about Super Slopes.
Super Slopes Overview
In Super Slopes you’ll build your own unique ski run by drawing cards from a shared face up display. After selecting your card you’ll place it onto your map in “bricklaying fashion”, either side of an existing card, or top and bottom offset. After each player has drawn a number of cards—dictated by player count—the game ends and scoring takes place.
Selecting a card
When cards are initially placed into the main display, they’re arranged in descending order (based on the number in the top left corner). You may only select a card whose “leg” connects to the ski run which begins at the topmost card. There are 3 exceptions to this rule, based on special abilities you might earn from previous placed cards.
When deciding which card to pick, consider the following:
- At the end of the game you’ll select just one ski run, and follow that from one end point to the other.
- Your score will increase for every point icon you cross on your run, of a color selected before you start your run.
- You’ll lose 1 point for every yeti you cross.
- Your run will come to an end if you run into a forest.
- Every energy drink you collect will allow you to bypass one yeti or one forest.
- You’ll earn 2 point2 every time your route goes from a high card to a lower card (from 15 to 14, or from 9 to 2).
- You’ll earn 1 point any time your route crosses back onto a card your ski run has already touched.
Most cards have special ability icons in their top right corner. Once you’ve collected 2 of an icon you’ll be able to use that ability on each subsequent turn. The abilities allow you to add a 6th card to the draw pile (giving you additional choices), skip over a card when selecting, or pick a card in the middle of a selection run instead of only at the end. These abilities can be useful if collected early, and used at just the right time.
Super Slopes Final Thoughts
My previous favorites from Button Shy, Circle the Wagons and Skulls of Sedlec, are excellent examples of the sheer amount of gameplay and variety you can pack into 18 cards. And while I don’t think Super Slopes is quite to that same level, it’s still a pretty slick feat: a tableau builder in just 6-8 cards per person by game’s end? Impressive.
But let’s talk about Super Slopes.
I love the notion that I can collect cards and place them into a coherent ski run. It’s a multi-layered optimization puzzle. Not only are you incentivized to place your cards in just the right order, you’re limited in your selection process by the cards which you can reach. That means the cards you really want remain tantalizingly out of your grasp.
Unfortunately that has led to what I’d consider to be a major flaw in Super Slopes. There have been several games where the only card which was accessible was the 1st or 2nd card in the column. This is because several cards in the deck have closed loops, which means that a leg starts and ends on the same card. And if that card happens to be the top card in the stack, you don’t have a choice which one you take (unless you happen to have a special ability). But even then with the “wrong” arrangement of cards in the draw column you’ll always be forced to take sub-optimal cards because you don’t have any choice; and that’s not a good feeling.
The upside is that when things go right, you can rake in the points. Because you’re always reacting to available cards, you can change your plans on the fly…oh you thought you wanted the orange point icons? Well it turns out that now pink is a much better option. Taking a look at the final run above, you choose the purple diamond icon, and decide to start on the far right; you immediately earn 2 energy, and a bonus for going from card 13 to card 12. You loop through cards 15 and 7, back to 12 (earning another bonus for crossing over your previous leg), but spending 1 of your energy to avoid the yeti. Then you pick up 5 purple icons in a row on cards 4, 2, and 15, before finishing in the woods on card 6. Now too shabby, earning a total of 21 points.
Super Slopes is simple to play, easy to teach, and gives an acceptable card game simulacrum of a downhill ski slope. Just don’t expect it to replace your yearly trip to Vail anytime soon.