Monday, November 24, 2008

Card Game Review - DHV

Gather round, boys and girls. It's time once again for another incredibly-small-press game review. Today's review will tell you all about DHV, a game from a company so small they can't even afford to print on the back side of the card.

DHV stands for Drinking, History and Violence. If the promise in that title hasn't captured you already, you are most likely a soulless husk of a human being. And once I explain the premise, it just gets better.

In DHV, you're a historical replica working at a wax museum. And once the doors close and the lights are turned off, you're left with nothing to do but drink and fight. You start by tossing back a heavy handful of alcoholic beverages (unless you're an undead pacifist, in which case salt water is actually a stiff drink). Once you're good and loaded, you can pick a fight with the other drunks, and brawl using your own particular talents.

Your particular talents depend mostly on who you are. If you're the once-pacifistic Mahatma Zombie, you have lots of powerful blocks and a few weak punches. If you're the twisted Sinta Claws, you'll have access to more powerful punches and more booze, but not as many good ways to avoid a punch in the eye. Like Mahatma Zombie, Helen Killer specializes in defense, using her seeing-eye dog, walking stick and reinforced sunglasses. The Atomic Emancipator, on the other hand, cares little for defense, believing that the best defense is a good strong stove-pipe punch to the kidney.

The game is played out with four kinds of cards - attack, defend, struggle and booze. Lots of these defense cards will cancel an attack and then come back with a little pain of their own, often requiring your opponent to make some weak block to try to block your block, thereby allowing his original attack to pop you in the eyeball. Struggles are special cards that can work in combos or just be a little more flexible, and booze cards just help you stay drunk. The last thing you want to do in a drunken brawl is sober up, and the more hits you take, the more sober you get, so it's never a bad idea to have a little extra hooch on hand.

All the cards in DHV are funny. Some are more funny than others, and some are so truly tasteless that they are laugh-out-loud hilarious. When Helen Killer blocks Sinta Claws's crucifix punch with her personal sonar, or when the Atomic Emancipator misses a 4-score-and-7-kicks-ago attack because of Mahatma Zombie's slightly violent block, it's the hardened villain who can keep from at least cracking a smile. Of course, if you're not amused by that, you might also be the kind of person who can't see the smallest amount of humor in a bus full of special-needs fifth-graders singing Row, Row, Row Your Boat.

The game ends pretty fast - a hand between two people won't last more than five or ten minutes, and a four-player game will still wrap up in less than twenty minutes (probably a lot less). But for five minutes, you can revel in the complete lack of moral compunction that is required to make a game where Helen Killer's 'Braille for Bitchslap' attack is blocked by Sinta Claws's 'Jolly Old Elf Gas.'

Now, I did mention that this company was small, right? The name of the publisher is Robot Martini, and I wasn't kidding about only printing on one side of the card. The cards are all different colors, so you know that Mahatma Zombie's cards are blue and Helen Killer's cards are pink, but there are absolutely no graphics of any kind on the backs of the cards. The fronts of the cards boast minimalistic black ink. But despite an obviously tight budget, the art on the cards is still clever, amusing, and easy to read. The Robot Martini guys have made lemonade from lemons - and then spiked the lemonade with Everclear and fed it to Santa's reindeer.

The upside to the cheap production values is that each pack of DHV cards comes with two fighters for just four bucks. You can get all four drunken brawlers for eight bucks. And if you like to just throw down now and then and play a quick, hilarious, tasteless fistfight while you wait for the pizza guy, DHV will be eight dollars well spent.


Really easy to learn
Clever and funny and completely tasteless (tasteless might be a 'Con' if you're not me)
Plays incredibly fast
Fits in a shirt pocket with room for a pack of smokes

Wicked cheap production value
Not much depth - just some punching and blocking and laughing at bad jokes

I am glad I have DHV, and I know I'll play it again at some point. It's so portable that I'll probably take it lots of places, because at any given moment, I can break it out and throw down. You can get your own copy here:

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