Our first child was born at a Children’s Hospital in Halifax. It’s not what we wanted, or expected, as with the support of the Provincial Midwifery Association, we had prepared for a home birth. However, complications arose, and we had wrapped our heads around the changes to our birth plan. Once at the hospital, my wife requested an epidural to get through the waves of contraction pain, which had ramped up much quicker than we anticipated. Once she was stable, comfortable, and fed, we invited our Midwife to join us in a game of Sushi Go. It was a simple distraction, and somehow, managed to integrate a gaming experience into the journey of our Big Bean entering the world. As such, Sushi Go holds a special place in our game collection, stamped with an intimate experience we will never forget.
Fast forward about four years, and our family was enjoying an outing to our local game cafe, The Board Room, where they happened to be hosting an event focused on the games of Kids Table Board Gaming. On that day, we were all obsessed with Problem Picnic (a game which we’ll cover for a future article), but we were also introduced to Bugs on Rugs, the newest game from this publisher. We read through the rules, and although we didn’t jump into the game on that day, Bugs on Rugs did eventually wind up on our shelves!
Designed by Peter C. Hayward, with artwork from Shawna Tenney, Bugs on Rugs is a game of bug collection by way of card drafting, which can accommodate 2 to 5 players. Inside the box are an assortment of 9 different bugs (Spiders, Mosquitos, Ladybugs, House Flies, Butterflies, Fireflies, Larvae, Ants, and Beetles), for a total of 90 cards, as well as a score pad, start player marker, and the END card. The game is set up a bit differently for each player count, with the END card buried at a different depth for each player count (for instance, in a two player game, the deck is split into three piles, with the end card going under the top pile). Once a start player is randomly determined, each player receives one card for their hand, and another will be set aside for a card row called The Wall, which is one of two locations used in the game.
The other location used in the game is The Floor. Each round, a number of cards are dealt face up to The Floor – two cards per player, plus one extra (as an example, for a three player game, seven cards would be on The Floor). Once The Floor is prepared, gameplay begins, with the start player selecting one card from The Floor, to be captured into their hand, followed by the other players in clockwise order. Players will then select a second card, now starting with the last player (who just selected their first card), and continuing counter-clockwise. Once each player has drafted their two cards, one card will be remaining on The Floor, which then scurries away to The Wall. The escaped card triggers a special game effect, which usually involves tinkering with the cards in each player’s hand. Some effects are simple – the Ladybug, for instance, causes each player to draw one random card from the draw pile into their hand. Others are more interactive – the Beetle demands that all players simultaneously pass one card to the player on their left. Once the Wall power has been resolved, the start player token passes to the left, and a new crop of cards is dealt to The Floor.
When the END card is drawn, players will have one final round of drafting from The Floor, complete with one final Wall power being triggered. Players will then group their hand of cards (now quite sizeable) by the different bug types, which will each be scored by their own special criteria. As a scoring example, the Ladybugs award a player 25 points if they have caught exactly four, but if the number of Ladybugs captured is any number other than four, they score only 1 point per Ladybug. The Ants, on the other hand, is a straight majority count – whoever has gathered the most Ants will score 5 points per Ant, second place will get 3 points per Ant, and all other players will score 1 point per Ant. Spiders score 7 points each, but only if a player is able to feed (aka discard) it a House Fly. As you may gather, each bug scores in a unique way, and it’s near impossible to have the best collection of each kind of bug.
Oh, and I almost forgot about the co-namesake of the game – the RUGS! Each bug card has a colourful patterned rug in the background (except for those nasty Mosquitos, who only have concrete behind them), which only comes into play if a player has collected Fireflies. Each Firefly scores 1 point for each different rug collected, for a max of 7 points per Firefly.
Once all bugs have been scored, the player with the highest total score will be declared the winner! In my various games played, final scores have ranged from the mid 30s to the low 70s.
It became quickly apparent that this wasn’t a game we could introduce to Little Bean or Big Bean (2 and 4 years old) right away, but we did manage to play a very simple drafting game using the cards, where we tried to have the most of each bug after a few rounds. Big Bean enjoyed making up stories about the bugs, and wanted to know why Spiders only wanted to eat House Flies, but had no interest in the Fireflies (my response: “because they didn’t want a glowing tummy, of course!”). After counting our bugs, Big Bean used the cards to make her own spiderweb arrangement, which was a surprising creative outlet to watch unfold!
The box suggests an age of 8+, but I expect that we’ll all be playing Bugs on Rugs with most of its rules by age 6, if not a bit earlier!
All of the components for Bugs on Rugs are stellar – high quality cards, a thick cardboard token for the first player marker, and more than enough sheets in the scorepad to get your money’s worth out of the game, and then some! The artwork is delightful – every bug has a unique expression, that adds to the story of the game’s ecosystem. When asking my fellow players what they enjoyed about the game, the artwork was almost always the first thing mentioned, which is not at all a knock on the gameplay.
The game itself flows extremely well – the turns move along quickly, with the only bookkeeping taking place at the end of the game during scoring. As I was able to play this game with a range of adult players (from experienced weekly gamers, to those who only play tabletop games once in a blue moon), I’m happy to report that it offers an engaging experience for both ends of the spectrum. On the surface, the game looks to be cute and casual, but it has plenty of depth for those looking for strategic opportunities. As such, there are a few elements that are not immediately intuitive, and often took multiple plays for my fellow players to grasp. Most notably, the Wall powers that are triggered at the end of each round – the iconography for a few of these effects required regular rulebook checks, and it took many players most of the game to understand the usefulness of those powers. Some of them can be used to boost the value of your own hand, and others could help bring down the score of an opponent. For my own tastes, the slightly fiddly nature of these powers is a worthwhile barrier on the way to an interactive game with plenty of meaningful choices.
Looping back to our birth story now … Sushi Go is an important part of our family story, and a game that will never leave our collection for sentimental reasons, and we will definitely play it for years to come in certain situations. However, after taking Bugs on Rugs out for a coffee date, we both agreed that this is the drafting game that will wind up on our table more regularly in the weeks and months to come. The variety of interactive opportunities, and the clever options for scoring big points, is an game experience we’re excited to revisit again and again!
Once our Beans are old enough to properly play the game, we’re planning to revisit and update this review. For now, though, this family is giving Bugs on Rugs…
Two Big Thumbs Up!
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