Meet The Game
I'll be honest, I never had considered Tacocat Spelled Backwards as one to get when I first saw the box in my FLGS. It wasn't on my radar as something I'd especially enjoy because it wasn't a forward-thinking strategy game like Tokaido, or a co-operative like Flash Point Fire Rescue. It looked like a simple card game from the makers of Exploding Kittens, and with none of the adult antics of the NSFW version. So when I opened a mystery box and this game fell out, I wondered when I would play it.
This past weekend was the hottest of the year and frankly, my partner and I didn't feel like doing anything that required a huge amount of brainwork. My eye fell on the small box which is also the board waiting to be tidied away with a cute little cat who is also a taco on the front. So I suggested we play Tacocat Spelled Backwards, a two player micro-game which involves trick taking, luck, strategy and a lot of palindromes.
How To Play
The aim of the game is to get the Tacocat standee to your side of the board, either YAY or WOW, from the centre. Deal the cards to each player equal to the number on the space Tacocat is standing on (7 in round one.) Then the player who the arrow on the space points to can choose to discard as many or as few cards as they want from their hands and draw back up. The opponent can then discard up to the number discarded, but no more. The only exception is the starting place, where the arrow points at both players.
Now it's time to decide who goes first - with a duel… TO THE DEATH!! … (-whispers in my ear- What do you mean it's not to the death?) Each player chooses a card from their hand and places it facedown. Then both players flip their card over together and whomever has the highest card goes first. If there's a tie, you duel again until there is a winner.
Play time - the starting player places their highest card in their hand in front of them, making an attack. The opponent then can either:
- Defend, by playing a card of equal or higher value. Ties go to the defender and they get to attack next.
- Sacrifice, by discarding the lowest card in their hand face up. The attacking player gets to attack again.
Play continues until both players have only one card left. They reveal at the same time. The player with the lowest card wins the round. If there is a tie, the tie goes to the player the arrow Tacocat is sat on points to. Tacocat then moves closer to the player who won and a small red tile is played in the space Tacocat has come from. Tacocat can no longer go on that space so when they move in the over direction, they hop over the covered spaces. Once Tacocat has moved, shuffle all cards together and deal a new hand. The game ends when Tacocat is in either players goal space.
I wasn't expecting to enjoy Tacocat Spelled Backwards as much as I did. There were some lovely elements within the game that appealed to my inner tactician and some other nice touches which made me smile.
First of all, when you unfold the sheet of paper with the rules on it, large letters yell at you to not read the rules but instead go to an instructional video. It's an element of the game designers which I really enjoy, the subtle humour which gives you a nice giggle when you play. We kept referencing that the day we played it was "Too hot to hoot" whenever it was played.
I love the mechanic of the tiles blocking spaces Tacocat has left behind. This means that regardless of how many hands each player wins consecutively, their opponent is not at a disadvantage. It is entirely possible to have lost the first three hands and then win four in a row to win, which I think is great. It's very easy to get disenchanted with a game if you aren't able to make up ground on your opponent and this mitigates that feeling greatly.
There are some strategic moves you can make as the game goes on. Optional rules let you play either two or more of the same card or three or more sequential cards to make a Jumbo Attack. This means your opponent has to defend all cards in order or start losing cards in their hand very quickly. Also choosing when to play first is a tactical move. If you have a 12 in your hand (the highest card), you don't want to go first because you have to play your highest card. If your opponent also has a 12, they will defend against it and leave you on the back foot.
There is a frustration when you draw up for a round and you find yourself with nothing lower than a 6, but at least you're able to mitigate that by discarding cards. Unless your opponent is discarding first and chooses to not throw anything away. Sometimes you do have to take a loss on the chin and shrug as you shuffle the cards back together.
For a lazy Sunday, Tacocat Spelled Backwards is purrfect. It doesn't require you to engage too much in terms of forward planning, it's quick, it's simple, and it's good fun. You get the satisfaction from a win without the disappointment of a loss because you're usually going to play this as a starter game before you move onto a bigger box game, or just as something to pass the time. The palindromes are very effective too, and they are contagious. Why, if you go back and look, this entire article is a one big palindrome. Thanks Tacocat!
(No, not really. But you should've seen your face when you thought it was true.)