Board Game Review

The Curse of Charlie Brown (Endangered Orphans)

Endangered Orphans is a game that you feel bad playing and winning. I thoroughly enjoy playing it, but I know I shouldn’t. It’s a game for bad people. It’s an enjoyable game mind you, but knowing you’ve caused another player’s orphan to get ‘got’ by the boogie man does make you question your life choices. You aren’t making the player lose the game, they lose their little orphan. Their innocent, honest and misunderstood orphan. It’s even worse if they named them, as my partner insisted on doing. RIP Peanut.

Anyway, a run down.

  • You control an orphan you’ve adopted who is running away from the orphanage
  • To win you need to be the last orphan alive.
  • An orphan has ‘options’ in the form of option cards, when you’re out of options, the Boogie man arrives and takes your orphan away.
  • The map is created through the use of Cove Cards which players turn over each turn.
  • Each Cove Card space has a different effect on players and option cards can have a specific impact on players on certain spaces.
  • Players move, may play cards, then draw. You can not discard cards and must play them.
  • Orphans can gain more options by visiting the orphanage, Kiddie Corner, where they can take an Act of Desperation. Some highly beneficial… Some contain the Boogie Man.

I always remember struggling with the rule book for this game, and that could be down to me. As someone who likes to know how easily I could screw someone over, I found myself frustrated not knowing the exact and clear rules. In fairness, Certifiable Studios clearly state they aren’t perfect and that adding your own house rules to plug gaps is acceptable if the FAQs don’t help. ‘Make that **** up!’ Is what I think they said.. and fair play to them. We didn’t have many gaps, but knowing it wasn’t our misunderstanding wasn’t all too bad. It took us a while to get to grips and understand how the house rules we’d needed to decide integrated with the gaps they filled, but eventually we got to a point where we could complete a game without a hitch.

The art style and cards themselves help create an atmosphere. You actually feel like, were you your orphan, you’d be in serious danger. On top of that, the places within the cul-de-sac are those your associate with taking a risk were you to run away. As much as the game doesn’t take itself seriously it creates a pretty sinister atmosphere just through the the visuals and shows that it is a dark game from the off. Hence the being a bad person for enjoying it. The actual gameplay is simple enough, move, possibly use an option, draw two cards. Because you can’t have more than 4 cards at any time, and you can never discard, playing options can be dangerous but necessary. You might always need to use options, even if it hinders you.

The Kickstarter came with the Benny Harris expansion, who we named Charlie Brown as we couldn’t for the life of us remember his name, which was fantastic and enhanced the experience massively as he chases players at intervals and adds a curse to them. There was a massive amount of panic anytime we knew he was going to move, the speed I’ve seen people have their turn so they aren’t the target is indescribable, nor is the look on the next player’s face when they realise they’ve been Charlie Browned. There’s also a massive risk-reward factor when taking a turn; you can play more options, but risk losing them should your discard deck be stolen from by another player, or you can keep your options and miss out on great plays. You’ll quickly get used to stealing options from other players and forcing them to move to Kiddie Corner, although there’s nothing worse than seeing that the Act of Desperation they’ve taken is pretty damn sweet. My partner got very attached to her orphan which she named Peanut. Weirdly attached. I’ve never seen someone understand the mechanics and rules of a game so quickly to ensure her orphan survives – I have to give it to her, she absolutely rinsed us in the first few games! Like a woman possessed, she forced our orphans to take acts of desperation and stole all our options. Which is probably what led to her downfall. We’d all had enough and, as you can expect, game after game we managed to take her out. You could see the moment her heart broke every game when Peanut was taken away from her and given to the Boogie man, to which we then described, in detail, how we believed the Boogie man would dispose of Peanut. RIP Peanut.

Pros

  1. It’s a competitive game where targeting a player is an outright action. No deception.
  2. Players need to manage their cards in both their hand and in their discard deck.
  3. Players who are losing can come back from it quickly, but it’s a risky move.
  4. The expansion’s mechanics add to the game massively and enhance it without making it any heavier.
  5. The game can be adapted to include more comfortable rules to plug gaps.
  6. The map is different every game based on where players choose to place the cove cards, meaning location based tactics won’t always work.
  7. The tension in the game causes players to care about losing more than in other games; it’s your orphan.
  8. There are very few safe spaces, meaning you are always taking a risk.

Cons

  1. The rule book is a mine field of misunderstanding (from my experience).
  2. The game is limited in terms of competition; we found that, when it’s down to 2 players, who ever had the most cards won no matter what.