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Classic card games often make people shudder. Before you start thinking of your top five card games, I’m talking about the retro games. Poker, black jack, old maid, rummy… It’s possibly a generation thing, but the same can be said of newer games for those of the 52 Card generation, too. So finding a balancing act that won’t scare away little Tommy or grandma at games night is tricky. However! These two opposites need not despair! Many mechanics in older games appear as the fundamentals for many newer games, and so in wonderful ways! Cows In My Pants is a family friendly, hand management card game for two to six players. It plays in around 20 minutes and works over a series of rounds and scoring points.
How To Play
The game contains cards in three varieties: cows in various suits and styles, wild cards, and action cards. Players are dealt four cards to their hand and four to their corral. They will always have four cards in these locations and may need to draw back up to four should they use or lose one. The deck and discard are referred to as the barn. Then have a causal “Moo Off” to establish who is head cow and deserving of being the first player.
During their turn, players choose to play from their corral, draw a card from the barn (deck or discard), or play an action card from their hard. Players reveal corral cards privately, but play them if they reveal action cards and then restock without looking. If it’s a cow card, this may be swapped with one from their hand to manipulate the corral. When playing from the barn, action cards must be played but cow cards can be swapped for one in hand. Action card rules activate immediately and players must always have four cards in hand at the end of their turn.
To end a round, a player shouts “Cows In My Pants” and scoring commences. Players score based on what is in their corral, and should aim to have sets, pairs, runs (in order) or a flush. These score higher based on the difficulty to acquire, but players lose points for declaring a false claim. Also, if you activate scoring but someone scores higher than you, you only get half points! Ties do not receive penalty. The game ends after so many rounds or is played to a certain score.
How It Handles
Cows In My Pants is unbelievably charming and accessible despite its roots in classic card games. In honesty we were very taken aback by the clear connections that didn’t scare either of us off. One of us enjoys a classic card game, the other despises the idea. This sat wonderfully within both our comfort zones here, and have the feel of a classic with the excitement of a modern game.
The game holds itself with a lovely amount of quirkiness and fun. Lovely illustrations, fun puns and an ease of access mask a deep secret. This game is heavily tactical and requires a plan. Not so much that you’ll have to whip out a pen and paper to get a blueprint together! But enough so that you’ll have to concentrate on what’s going on with you, and your opposers! The options available to players allow them to manipulate their corral and hand, all with an aim to make patterns of cards. Seeing what they’ve discarded, moved and chosen to keep stationary can give a lot away… And getting wrapped up in that may pay off big time, or be detrimental!
Cows In My Pants gave us scope to really test out our perceptive abilities. What were the opposition doing? How close are they? Do I call with a weaker corral to prevent them getting big points? It’s tricky. But it enables a level of tactical thinking we weren’t expecting. What’s more is how quickly this style of thinking was introduced. Within seconds of taking an action, everyone questioned a player’s motives. Were they playing the long game? Or aimlessly moving cards? It genuinely made our brains get tied in knots! And for that reason, we adored it more.
Action cards are referred to as Action Upset cards in the game. Initially we didn’t know why. And then, to our dismay, we did know why. It emphasises a no risk, no reward play style. Turning cards over is a risky business it turns out, as your plans can be undone in an instant! When you play them from your hand, they feel purposeful and actually mean something. You’ll get a feeling of powerfulness knowing you hindered an opponent. Pulling one blindly makes you feel clumsy and, in honesty, is the reason many rounds are lost! But they’re never pulled mid flow without purpose. The only reason you’d need to get one is because you have a plan, and a plan means you have an end goal (which you’d hope would mean big points!). No risk, no reward.
I found myself trying to get a perfect corral of a straight flush. I had three cards perfectly placed and was waiting on a single red six. Easily, I could have gotten any red and called for a flush of matching suits, but greed got me. I turned over some barn cards over a few turns and inevitably got an action card. The worst one possible. Suddenly my corral was gone and my efforts dashed… But that’s what greed got me! Luckily I later on managed the straight flush in a different round, but it was a lesson learned.
Cows In My Pants is not a long game: each round lasts about four minutes and we nailed a full game to 20 points in 20 minutes. We chose a point target over a time limit as we’re awful competitive, and “another five minutes of play” would have turned a 20 minute timer to 50! Reflecting on that made us realise how addictive the game is! No amount of points between us would allow either of us to back down on time. It’s a game we played, and played, and played.
Cows In My Pants’ art style is as inoffensive as you can imagine. Family friendly doesn’t give it credit! But what’s good is that it’s not so soft that it presents as childish, as the card variants hold that subtle adult humour and pop culture references we all enjoy. They’re not essential to the game, and only help differentiate cards, but they are identifiable from one another without issue. What’s more is the gentle flavour text that is riddled with cow puns and references. It’s charming and cute, as any family game should be!
We found the cards very easy to identify in terms of their value and colour. They’re coloured appropriately and also have a clearly coloured pair of “pants” on them (trousers to us on the European side of the pond). We will note that it may be slightly different for those with colour blindness, however we personally cannot comment. The cards also have their value in the corner of the card in an easy to read font. The game’s visual accessibility is spot on in our opinion.
In A Nutshell
Cows In My Pants is two games in one. It’s both an easy access, family friendly games night game, and an acceptable filler choice for a big games session. It’s on the table for as long as it needs to be, and a second/third game is unlikely to be rejected! Set up is quick and easy, and understanding the rules is no struggle either. Scoring may be a bit tricky for much younger players, but adult help can remove that hurdle! It’s definitely a game we’ll be making use of as a filler, and one we’ll be eager to introduce to our less game savvy family.