#29 In Front of the Elevators (2019)
Artist: Takako Takarai
Publisher: Saashi & Saashi
Player Count: 2-4
Time: 20 minutes
Last in the elevator is the first off! Some golden rules that must be obeyed in modern society. Never steal another person’s French fries. Cars in the rightmost highway lane and the on-coming ramp should zipper in an orderly fashion. And never ever cut in line at the elevator. Domination of the department store elevator lines may not be life or death for most families, but it’s everything to the families in Japanese publisher Saashi & Saashi’s newest card game, In Front of the Elevators (IFOTE). Oh, and if you’re wondering why the black bear is holding another black bear and how strange that looks. Take a real long look at what the little girl is carrying on the cover. You’ll get there.
On your turn…
On your turn, you’ll do two things: play a card and draw a card. When you play a card, one of four things may happen.
Place your person card at the end of any one line for an elevator without effect.
Place your person card at the end of any one line for an elevator; however, if your person card can cut in front of someone, they MUST cut in front of the frontmost one.
[There are reminders of who can cut in front of whom at the top of each person card and on your family card—player aid].
Place your person card at the end of any one line for an elevator; however, if you place a lost child (the girl with the doll), the frontmost person card of the same color MUST move and stand behind the lost child card.
Place your person card at the end of any one line for an elevator; however, if you place the 3rd person of one type (the 3rd grandpa), then all 3 cards are removed from the line and placed in front of the you. Each set of 3 cards in front of you is 1 point at the end of the round. A set of lost children is worth 2 points at the end of the round.
After you play one person card, take the top card from any of the (one to three) available draw decks. Play continues clockwise around the table. Players will play cards until there is one unplayed card left in their hand. Points are calculated for the round, the cards are reset, and play continues. After three rounds, the player with the highest score wins In Front of the Elevators!
At the end of the round, only the first 3 or 4 person cards in line will score points according to the elevator card. If a character is in line for the elevator of their choice, then their points are doubled. In the above picture on the bottom elevator, blue scores 3 points, but brown scores 14 points. For the pink elevator: red scores 8 points and green scores 10 points.
Saashi & Saashi gained a lot of buzz last year from their flip-and-write game "Let's Make a Bus Route" (2018). While I enjoyed my time with Let's Make a Bus Route, I enjoy Saashi & Saashi's small box games more. Coffee Blend Lab, Take the "A" Chord, and Wind the Film are solid, simple, 30-minute card games that are perfect for lunchtime, those quiet moments between the heavier games of the night, or those twilight hours as game night comes to a close.
Once again, the art design from Saashi & Saashi is excellent. It reminds me of Herge's beloved Tintin comics, and I do love me some Tintin. The iconography on the family, person, and elevator cards is intuitive, distinct, and consistent. The cards are even colorblind friendly!
The well-chosen theme ties directly into the mechanics, making IFOTE incredibly intuitive. While not everyone may use elevators on a day-to-day basis, everyone knows the dread that is standing in line and the hellfired fury that erupts from within all of us when some @$#% cuts in front.
IFOTE's greatest strength is its ease of play. The teach takes about two minutes; setup usually takes all of one minute, so 3 minutes in and we're already gaming. Play a card. Take a card. No rocket surgery here. That being said, knowing how to play is far easier than knowing how you should play. Similar to other games in the Saashi & Saashi line, this game is filled with interesting and sometimes painful decisions.
IFOTE's greatest weakness is the randomness. Player's can luck into cards that could swing the round. Also, if a player begins the round with most of their family in line, it can be quite brutal. Thankfully, there are three rounds to mitigate this, and the game is quite short. If you were playing an epic two-hour game and lost due to card draw, I could understand how frustrated you might feel; however, IFOTE plays in under 20 minutes. 20 minutes.
Cardboard East Variant: Try dealing out everyone's hands at the beginning of the game. It adds some AP to the game, but it's a fun way to change things up a bit.
It could also be argued that once you've played IFOTE once, you've seen all there is to the game. This is mostly true; however, it's not an epic two-hour or even one-hour heavy strategy game; it's a 20-minute card game meant to be enjoyed and played by everyone in the family. I have crushed far more noobs in this game than lost, and experienced players are usually able to exploit the ebb and flow of the game far better than novices. There are some take-that elements in this game, which might rub some players the wrong way; however, those moments don't come out of nowhere and are telegraphed and foreshadowed early on. My biggest complaint is that I would have liked to have seen more elevator cards to add a bit more variety from game to game.
With all this talk of randomness, it's easy to write off this game as a luck fest. It isn't. While the two-card hand leaves you with a lot of uncertainty and possible luck-of-the-draw, it doesn't mean the game is devoid of strategy. With such a low card count, it's quite easy to count cards and calculate probability. If you need a card, you can hunt for it in the draw pile or deduce who has it in their hand. Deciding which of the three card piles to draw from is quite powerful. Should you choose an NPC person card or your opponent's? Which opponent's card should you choose? Which card might produce the most balanced score? What's the probability of the third lost girl card being played and ruining my setup at this one elevator? These are a few of the countless questions that run through your mind while playing IFOTE, and this is precisely why I think it works.
While IFOTE doesn't reinvent the wheel, it gives players interesting decisions through a unique, relatable, and charming narrative. It's everything I've come to expect from Saashi & Saashi and another excellent lunchtime game that's fun for the whole family. I can't recommend it enough.
EXCELLENT! BGG 9.0
Cardboard East recommends In Front of the Elevators.
Great lunchtime game. Great family game.