Review of Happy Birthday, Robot.

I get distracted by looking at this beautiful little book, so if I stop typing for a bit, that's what happened. This game is written by Daniel Solis with illustrations by Rin Aiello and published by Smart Play Games and Evil Hat Productions. I was fortunate enough to get in on the Kickstarter and therefore have a signed copy by the author. I didn't spend the extra to have a custom illustration, just the autograph. Another thing that I thought was cool was that the Kickstarter was fully funded in only a couple of days so Daniel decided that for every three copies he sold, he'd donate one to school. He wrote this with children in mind. I thought this was awesome and almost bought another copy just for that.

It is a 40 page hardcover about 8.5 inches wide and across. It has a full color cover and interior on glossy paper, so it's just as pretty on the inside and the out. It doesn't have an index but has a very thorough Table of Contents. But before you "Index Police" go all ballistic, there is something you should know. The final page where an index would find its home is the complete rules to the game. Yes, that's right people, Daniel made it easier for all of us by just giving us the entire rules on one sheet. The back cover tells you what you need to play the game and time it'll take, etc., very similar to a boardgames now-a-days. It says it's for three to five players. I remember hearing that Daniel likes to make game rules read like a boardgame ruleset as it is easier to follow.

Well, what about the rules? Glad you asked. As with most games of the role-playing bent, you need a sheet of paper. One sheet should do it unless you write really big or have really interesting luck also if you were following along, you'll realize that a pencil/pen would be needed as well. You will also need around 20 coins. And lastly you need a custom set of dice you can only get made from a Tibetan monk. These are beautifully handcrafted and are relatively inexpensive. The only problem is that you need to go to Tibet. I guess you can get away with about fifteen dice of the d6 persuasion. If you are lucky enough (or stupid enough, as my wife says) to own enough of them to sacrifice fifteen to the greater good, there are stickers you can get to replace those passé numbers or dots. I guess you can buy blank dice, but I had a ton and therefore didn't mind the sacrifice. These dice have two BUTs, two ANDs and two BLANKS. Put all this stuff in the middle of the table.

It is implied that the current storyteller is the scribe for his part and passes the paper around, but I like to have one person be a scribe. Once that person is armed with paper and pencil, pick a person to start the story. The youngest player starts the story and can select up to three dice to roll. Any blanks he keeps and he passes the BUTs to his neighbor on his left and the ANDS to the right. He can then roll more dice, up to three or pass. If at anytime either of his neighbor gets four dice, then the player cannot roll again. He writes a sentence where each die is a word. He can use a Robot once for free. Then the neighbor on his right uses his dice on the same sentence with a free AND followed by the person on his left who can use a free BUT. The storyteller player collects coins for each blank dice he used in the sentence, head side up. Then the storyteller role passes to the left. What are the coins for and why do they need to be heads up? You can give them to other players to give them more words to be able to use in the sentence, at which point they are put tails up in front of them. The game ends when a player has ten or more coins and there is the epilogue.

I just described the basic rules. There is plenty of more stuff in the book, including optional rules as well as some great stories written by various people that play-tested the game before its release. It has tips on how to play this with children and how to use in a classroom environment. Did I mention it is a very pretty book? Back to the point, it's a really great little game that isn't quite a role-playing game but fits more to that then a boardgame. Granted as mentioned, the rules are laid out in a fashion very similar to a boardgame. If you have kids that are somewhat interested in our little niche hobby, you owe it to yourself to pick it up. It is available from Indie Press Revolution and you get the PDF if you order it, so that's an added bonus.

By the way, I have played this with kids and adults with everyone having a great time. Granted when it was all adults, Robot turned into a dirty little robot that did things that Robots shouldn't, but that is for another post someday down the road.