A sprinkling of the magical and memorable are two good reasons to name a game Parade. They’re also about as near as we’ll get to reasons for borrowing a theme from Alice in Wonderland.
While Parade does its utmost to weave its Wonderland theme into the fabric of its game, most links are thin – it’s a stretched skin.
But if borrowing some of Alice’s wonder can help this show on its road, that’s something to be cheered more than chided.
Parade’s theme adds charm and whimsy: enough to make your mouth curl at the corners, even if you’re not grinning full Cheshire Cat. It lends colour and character. Personality which might otherwise have been missing.
While there might be some contrivances here, they add pretext and context to an otherwise straightforward card game, elevating its humble pleasures.
The rulebook here deserves special mention – not something I’ve ever been moved to speak about the quality of before, but here there’s something noteworthy.
It’s an art object. Tastefully designed and lovingly printed. A storybook intro which settles you in and seats you comfortably; delicious scene-setting quite literally ‘out of the box’. It’s a guide you weren’t expecting – not merely an instruction manual, but one which welcomes, delighted to take you on a tour.
It’s a pretty bow to tie it all together with (and Parade IS pretty – from the striking silvers, yellow and purrr-ples of the box, to its character cast – Wonderlanders wandering on linen-finished cards) but if the theming here ever feels off, it manages to exude warmth rather than cynicism.
Through the looking glass lies a simple but solid card game, taking steps towards something superior.
Can I Join?
Of course! Not just you, your friends too.
Parade has room for up to six people and feels pacey, even at higher player counts.
It’s usually fast enough to comfortably beat the time on its box, feeling more like a 20–30-minute game than a 45-minute one. You could even say it marches along…
Parade works well at 3-6 players (tested several times across several groups, even prompting a few impromptu purchases) and tweaks some of the final scoring rules for a two-player game.
So, how do you join the parade?
Strutting Your Stuff
The titular Parade takes place, centre stage, at your very own table.
Players are dealt five cards each, keeping this many in their hand throughout the game.
Six cards are drawn to commence the parade, forming an orderly line beside the deck.
The cards are from six coloured suits, each numbered 0-10 (giving 66 in total) and forming a Wonderland conga. Play continues until either the full deck is drawn, or one player has cards of all six colours in front of them.
Players take turns to add a card to the end of the parade, which may trigger other cards to leave and be placed in front of them. Any cards in front will score at the end of the game. Players draw another card from the deck, so they always hold five cards.
Once a card joins the end of the parade (eg a green three), you count forward that many cards, ignoring them. Cards beyond that point might consider leaving the parade. Cards leave the parade if their number is less than (or equal to) the card played, or if they’re the same colour. Any cards which leave the parade gather in front of the current player.
‘Wonderland, being a little topsy-turvy, the winner is the player with the lowest score.’
Cards score their face value, so you’d think you’d want to avoid collecting them at all… However, if you must collect cards from the parade, it’s worth bearing in mind that the player who has the most cards of each colour at the game’s end (or players, if it’s a tie), gets to flip all cards of that colour over – only scoring a single point for each, rather than their usual face value.
It’s simple and it works very well.
Another interesting wrinkle to scoring comes once the game end is triggered (either an empty deck, or one player having all six suits). Each player takes one final turn as normal, without drawing – leaving four cards in hand.
As a final decision, two of these cards are discarded from the game. The other two are played (simultaneously, by all players) into the display in front of them. It’s a last chance to influence the scoring, and another thing to think ahead for during the game.
In the two-player game (not tested – too many people kept wanting to play) you’ll need to have at least two cards more than your opponent to flip your cards before final scoring.
Card On The Table
Parade feels an easy game to get to the table.
It’s charming, it’s simple and while it might not do much, it doesn’t need to do anything more.
It steps along briskly, marching a simple and satisfying gameplay loop. By not overstaying its welcome, it’s easy to invite back.
There’s little more to say, just watch it fade away leaving a smile.