Board Game Review

Critters With Kleptomania (Squire for Hire Review)

If this wordy length of text is too much for you, our TL;DR version is available here!Being a renown knight must have been an absolute cakewalk. Sure, you need the training, but so long as the job was done and you survived, you were recognised. You get praised, paid, and some weirdos may write songs about you. Plus, all the free loot you find! Which raises a few questions… how did they carry all those goodies? The answer – they didn’t. It was the unsung, true hero of any quest, the squire! Squire for Hire is a game where you are exactly that, the hero’s hero. Your job is to organise the hero’s loot and rewards to best score points. The game is an inventory management, set collection game for one or two players, and plays up to four with a combination of two decks.

Gameplay

Setting Up

To set up, each player chooses a squire to play as. Each scores slightly different and has bonus scoring mechanics for specific junk items. To begin, players each take one loot card to start their inventory. The remaining cards are then shuffled and placed story side up. Two cards are then drawn and placed either side of the deck. The game is ready to begin!

Taking a Turn

On a player’s turn, they must complete the quest laid before them in one of two ways. They can either have the correct number of items required already, or may cover a specific item type using a loot card. In both instances the player gains loot, but only by having the items to complete the quest already do they get full control of where the loot card is placed. If they choose to use an item to complete the quest, that item must be covered when placing the gained loot card. If you can do neither, the story card is placed onto a loot deck and is then available at the end of the game.

New loot cards are added to a player’s inventory by covering an appropriate amount of tiles, respective of the item being added, and one full item already in the inventory. In example, adding a card to your inventory requires you to place one item entirely on an existing card. Should the item take up three tiles, the card must be placed over at least three tiles and must cover at least one existing item entirely.

Scoring

As soon as all story cards have been used, players take the final loot cards in turn order and begin final scoring. Each item is worth a single point, matching items gain an extra point, and the squire’s unique scoring gives points also. Then, all junk items are deducted from the total score. Whoever has the most points after this is the overall winner and is hired as a squire!

How It Handles

Squire for Hire is a super quick, punchy little card game that we thought was brilliant. It’s not often we go straight in with a judgement, but we thought it worth noting immediately. Keep reading for specifics, of course, but take heed that we’re going to be very positive throughout. It was a hit for us!

Mastering Feng Shui

This game is all about managing an inventory. Placing items in appropriate places and taking note of what’s coming up in the loot options. I was awful at this. There’s something that didn’t click for me. The incentive of gaining extra points through having identical items adjacent felt entirely coincidental and was merely an extra check instead of a goal to aim for. Despite this, many in my gaming group were able to manage this wonderfully, and tie it into their squires unique scoring. But that doesn’t mean they always won! Regardless of my inability to see the beauty of order, my chaotically organised bag allowed me to complete quests without covering valuables. Both tactics were viable and resulted in great scores.

Squire for Hire is a game referred to as a “melding and splaying” game, which is a fancy way of saying putting cards on top of cards. It’s a unique mechanic and works well in this instance. This game relies on your ability to cover the right things at the right time, placing your items accordingly. The cards and their contents felt perfectly sized, spaced and varied to make it so there were never any dud loot cards. Every instance of gaining loot felt worth while and adding it your repertoire of items and knick-knacks only meant more points. Some were more valuable than others contextually, but that was down to timing alone.

Is That Fox Carrying a Knife?

The squires themselves are based on woodland critters (or tundra dwelling animals, dependent on your pack). They’re cute, despite the fact they’re effectively bipedal beasts capable of wielding swords and other weaponry. They fit neatly into the theme and aesthetic of the game. It’s all very charming! The theme is your generic fantasy, but it does it well. It’s in the Middle Ages and there’s a heavy feeling of fantastical happenings: wizards, dragons and princesses. You, of course, are a squire. The hero does his thing (entirely guided by you) and you hold his coat. That tiny twist of you not being the “hero” is what I found captivating. I kept imaging my little critter giving the hero subtle hints, low-key instructions and sighing whilst packing the bag for him. Truly unsung!

I loved the art and aesthetic of Squire for Hire, it’s beautiful. Even the squires’ specific scoring objectives feel appropriate to the animal they’re themed on. Not to say that a fox is more suited to wielding a flail than a raccoon, it just felt more appropriate for the raccoon to have interests in the dark arts. Jokes aside, it never felt out of touch with its own theme, and everything felt connected. Even the text of quests worked well for the imagery it holds!

The Grand Deception!

This is my only negative for Squire for Hire. It’s a tiny one, and more down to my own lack of depth perception and concept of scale. It is not necessarily a small footprint game. The game comes in a pack of around 25 cards, and it all fits neatly in a folding sleeve that contains both the rules, scoring, and a brief overview of what you’ll do. It’s minimal, and exactly what it needed to be. Then you’ll play the game and realise it requires more than you initially anticipate. Your first game will no doubt have you spend at least five minutes moving all your cards away from the edge of the table so you can add a new loot card in an obscure position.

In all honesty, this is no doubt down to my own assumptions about the game’s box size vs play size. You too will be forgiven for thinking this one will fit on an armrest. It needs space. I’d argue it is still a travel game and one to take out and about, but I don’t personally believe it’s one for when you’re literally on the go! You’ll need a decent sized surface is all!

Final Thoughts

As you’ve no doubt guessed, we loved Squire for Hire! It hit all the right notes with us and was just lovely. Aesthetically, mechanically, and the speed it plays too! We did prefer it at four players, but at two it was a really nice head to head as well, making for a lovely game to play over a conversation or between larger games. If you’re a fan of something relatively unique, a game that needs you to have an eye for organisation, or one where you’re the unsung hero, Squire for Hire is for you!