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Taking a Whirl with Dance Card!: A Kickstarter Preview

Dance Card! Box

As this is a prototype copy, the final box art is subject to change.
(All images of Cardboard Console products were taken and edited by KristaG)

It’s time for the Homecoming Dance and the school gym looks great! The decorations are all in place, the refreshments are ready, the students are mingling, and the lights are low. All that remains is trying to score a few dances with a few particular students of interest. In Michael Melkonian’s Dance Card!, players take on the roles of Students trying to make their night a success by dancing with 3 specific dance Partners. It’s not as easy as it sounds, of course, because no matter how much your friends are vying for you, there’s always a chaperone, school rival, or your intended partner’s crush that may interfere with your intentions. This 2-4 player game is not only Melkonian’s debut game but also the first for Cardboard Console! As of the time of this review, Dance Card! is not yet on Kickstarter, but will be launching its campaign on June 25th!

Dance Card! Standees

There is a wide range of Students to choose from. The diverse representation in this game is amazing!

Playing Dance Card! was something that was actually very important to me. As someone who never really fits in for a multitude of reasons, being able to play as a character that I can identify with in one way or another, matters. Whether it is because a said character is female, wears glasses, has quirky character flaws or abilities, or simply wears a particular style of dress, it makes playing the game much more enjoyable and I am not alone in this. In Dance Card!, players can find a full spectrum of unique characters much like the people they would encounter in a modern day high school. The artwork and illustration provided by Jeremy Anninos and Leda Chung achieve this level of representation in a subtle and respectful manner, making it appealing and appropriate for people of all shapes, sizes, age groups, and identities. In addition to the characters themselves, the brilliant use of bright colors and a fun art style are some of the parts that I found appealing when looking at the game illustrations. Chung is also known for her illustration of several children’s books including Aww, Fishticks by Lenora Regel and Skippy the Reindeer by Shelle Hart, but this is her debut as a board game illustrator.  Anninos, also, is debuting as a board game artist with Dance Card!.  The graphic design was provided by Ellie Jang and Steven Tu  Jang also provided the artwork for Churrascaria: A Cutthroat Game of Gluttony and Skyward. Tu is not only an artist (I mostly know of his work on Dice Heist) but also a board and video game designer.

Dance Card! Set Up

An example board set up for Dance Card!
(Please feel free to click on any of the images to enlarge them)

Setting up Dance Card! for the first time may seem a little intimidating. There are over 30 standees, several decks of cards, and a bunch of tiny tokens. However, it’s actually pretty easy once you’ve done it a couple of times. Once the game board is placed in the middle of the play space, the 32 Students are randomly scattered throughout the school gym with 8 Students placed by the Bleachers, 8 Students by the Refreshments, 2 Students in the Bathroom, 2 Students in the Janitor’s Closet, and 3 Students in each of the 4 Dance Floors. The “Smooth Move!” and “Mix it Up!” Cards should be separated into their own respective decks and shuffled. They are then placed face down in their designated areas at the top of the board. The Status Tokens, Chat Tokens, and Dance Dice should all be placed within easy reach of the players near the side(s) of the board. A “Music Rules!” Card is randomly selected and placed face up in its designated space at the top of the board. Each player either chooses a Dance Card or is randomly dealt one and places it face up in their personal play area. After reading their character’s personal ability, the players collect any necessary cards or tokens required for the game (i.e. Felicity who receives Selfie Tokens and the Selfie Reference Card in addition to her Dance Card). Based on the Student ID number located in the top left of the Dance Card, the player with the lowest Student ID is declared the first player and takes possession of the Spin Dial to designate the start of the game. For a more difficult game, there is an optional Challenge Deck that can be used. If playing with the Challenge Cards, 3 of them are dealt from the shuffled deck face up to the designated spaces on the bottom of the board.

Dance Card! End Game

Try as I might, poor Bethany did not get to dance with very many of her Partners before Taylor managed to dance with his!

Unlike many of the other games I’ve played recently, Dance Card! isn’t played with any specified number of rounds, which was somewhat refreshing for my group. However, each player does get an individual turn, which is made up of 2 phases: the Spin Phase and the Action Phase. As mentioned above, the first player is chosen based upon the Student ID of the character shown on their Dance Card. During the Spin Phase, the active player shifts the Spin Dial to the next icon and resolves its effects (the first player simply places the Spin Dial on the “Start” icon for their first turn). During the Action Phase, each player gets to choose 2 of the available actions they would like to perform: Move, Chat, Dance, or Nerve. These actions can be performed in any order and be repeated if desired. Players can also perform any number of free actions when applicable by playing or ditching “Smooth Move!” Cards. These cards typically affect dice rolls, but can also add additional Move actions, meddle with another player by spreading Rumors about them to their partners, or give a player a chance to earn extra actions. The Move action is fairly self-explanatory except a player doesn’t have to move only their Student. Instead, a player may move any Student to an adjacent location as long as they are not moving one of their Partners into the same space as their Student. Now, just because a Partner cannot come to a player on their turn, does not mean the player can not move to the Partner to try and score a dance! Other factors may also move a Partner into a Student’s location such as another player or a “Mix it Up!” card. The Chat action is akin to trying to schmooze with your crush’s best friends to either get information or to win their favor (in this case a Chat Token). As long as a Student is in either the Bleachers or the Refreshments area and it happens to be the same location as on their Partners’ Contacts, they are able to Chat with them. Chatting will add extra dice to a player’s dice pool (after dispensing with the Chat Token) when attempting a Dance Roll and can sometimes be a necessary strategy for success with more difficult Partners. Once a player is confident in attempting to Dance with one of their 3 Partners, they can perform the Dance action. To do this they must first collect their Dance Dice as well as any bonus Dance Dice awarded from nearby Friends and Chat Tokens. Be careful, however, if the crush of a Student’s intended Partner is in the room, they add a Black Dance Die to the roll and those can subtract points from the Dance Roll total! Once rolled, the Dance Dice are totaled up to see if the attempt was successful. If the total meets or exceeds the values and any needed symbols required by the Partner, the player earns a Success Token to place on that Partner’s picture and any designated Smooth Moves! Cards. If a Dance roll fails, the player is instead awarded a Failure token, which can not be removed until they perform a Nerve Action. Nerve actions are exactly what they sound like: slinking off to the Bathrooms (or the Janitor’s Closet) and giving yourself a pep talk to boost your confidence and regain your nerve to try again with your desired Partner. Play proceeds to the left and the game continues in this fashion until a player manages to successfully dance with all 3 of their Partners.

If you’re anything like me, your high school years weren’t exactly your favorite when it comes to your education – especially freshman year. There I was at a brand new school at the tail end of the chubby middle school phase, a bit socially awkward and shy, more into art and the martial arts than makeup or boys, and still pretty lost on who I was and who I wanted to become. Needless to say, I didn’t really fit in much and I definitely didn’t go to dances until later on as an upperclassman. However, when I did eventually go to dances, it was never as a stereotypical binary couple, which caused a bit of a stir with some of our classmates. With this being said, being offered to review Melkonian’s Dance Card! both piqued my interest and made me hesitant. Though it would just be a simulation of a high school dance, would it be a theme I would be willing to play when my own experiences hadn’t been so great? At the same time, would the theme really shine through or would it be like so many other games where it is simply pasted on top of some nice mechanics? I decided to give it a shot and I am incredibly glad I did! The theme flows perfectly from trying to garner support from both your friends and those of your intended partner(s) to potentially dodging meddling chaperones to having to go talk yourself up in the bathroom to regain your nerve before trying again to dance with someone you have an interest in. As I mentioned above, the amount of diversity represented by the multitude of characters not only makes it more symbolic of an actual high school but also practically ensures that any player will find a character that they can identify with in some way. Though some gamers may be put off by the inclusion of non-binary couples and individuals, I personally applaud the effort and am excited to see that Cardboard Console is mindful enough to bring this level of diversity to the table. I feel the mechanics are simple enough that the game can be played with children even as young as 10 or so and there are enough Dance Cards and Spin Dials available to offer tons of replayability without dashing the possibility of future expansions. Dance Card! launches on Kickstarter in less than a week and I can not wait to get my groove on and be a day 1 backer!

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