Time: ~35 minutes per round
Times Played: 4
Let’s just say what we’re all thinking: The Fittest is Survivor the card game. Players will take on a persona to complete challenges that test one or more of their six skills. Skills consist of strength, plotting, speed, survival, creativity, and knowledge. Each persona is skilled differently and has a special ability unique to themselves.
The theme, while cliched, is easy to jump into and I can’t say that I’ve played many other reality show based games. The theme definitely helps create the aura that the game tries The components (which is just 54 cards) are of a nice quality and the artwork and text is easy to read. The font can be a little small so it might have to be read out-loud or passed around to players if there are any questions.
Each round, a card is revealed from the deck and placed in front of the leader. The leader than tries to find other contestants (aka players) that will help them complete the challenge(s) by offering their skills.
For example, a challenge may require 10 creativity to succeed. If the Bouncer and the Ranger work together, they will complete the challenge as their creativity combined equals 10.
Some challenges can be completed by individuals and if a challenge cannot be met, there will be a boost to help and try them reach the goal. If a challenge can still not be met, it is failed and leadership passes to the next player.
If a challenge is completed though, cards are pulled from the deck equal to the number of contestants that participated in the challenge and the leader distributes them. Points are located in the top left corner of each card and if the symbol matches the contestants highest rated skill, two bonus points are awarded.
Once the challenge deck is depleted for a second time, the game ends and players will add up their scores. The contestant with the most points is labeled The Fittest.
There are some additional rules regarding special abilities of contestants and cards that are situational that will also impact the gameplay previously described.
The game is only worthwhile at four-players. The negotiation is tighter and while there can be some kingmaking as players decide who to work with, the abilities of each player helps hinder that. At four, it feels more like a game as players try to offer their expertise in exchange for reward and counter negotiations occur.
It can totally be played at five and six counts but the challenges don’t scale and become less about negotiating and more about speed of completion. Players will have zero problem finding one or two other players that give them what they need to complete the challenge and some players will be completely removed from the challenge as they have nothing to offer. As the challenges don’t scale, they will be completed by the group and that takes the pressure off of negotiations. There’s no reason for player one to not offer their services because if they don’t, player three can offer just as good of a deal.
The game also has an issue with the leader cards. Players could be completely passed over for being the leader the entire game if other players use their leader cards. This isn’t absolutely deal breaking but as this is a social game, if that player doesn’t put themselves out there or try to include themselves in deals, they might sit out most of the game providing nothing and having a bad time. This can be argued that it’s the players fault and games like this are group dependent (which they are), but the game places too much emphasis on a players personality as opposed to the mechanics of the actual game.
The leader cards might be too powerful as there’s absolutely no reason to hold onto them. Becoming the leader is the best way to control the points being scored.
Besides the player count, the biggest issue with the game is the math. The skills, points, boosts, trials, and challenges are a constant mixture of changing and transforming number. Being the leader can be a little intimidating with the amount of information that you’re being showered with from other players. And it’s not like their queuing up and politely offering their numbers to you either. Loud talking and gesturing to grab your attention is common and it can be incredibly overwhelming to your senses and that’s before players have to deal with player and card special abilities. None of the math is hard enough that players can’t do it in their head or even on their fingers but some people perform better under pressure than others.
The playtime can run a little long depending on how in-depth player negotiations run. If I could guarantee that this game lasted between twenty and thirty minutes, it would probably hit the table a lot more (especially if it was closer to twenty). With five and more players, the game goes one of two ways: either incredibly fast as little negotiation happens as players just choose their partners or incredibly time consuming as players try to eek out the best deal possible.
The first play of the game will probably take the longest as players try to decipher what cards and abilities are worth playing where. The game does get better with repeat plays as players become more comfortable with the turn structure, special abilities, and math.
For only having 54 cards, there’s a decent little game in the box for four-players. I actually kind of like this game. The game is entirely group dependent however as it requires social players that have no problem speaking up for themselves as well as players that can handle quick arithmetic. The game features all the hallmarks of a good social game with the negotiation, temporary alliances, and eventual backstabbing.