SNAP Review – Mada
Ring-tailed lemurs are really cute. They live in Madagascar. (You are quickly running out of facts that I know about lemurs!) It turns out that one of their favorite foods is prickly pear cactus – even though it’s not native to the island of Madagascar! (But it’s there? Yeah.)
But that’s not important right now. This is a SNAP about Mada – a game about lemurs and prickly pears.
2-5 players, ages 7 and up, can play in about 20 minutes.
And there’s a lemur on the box!
So let’s talk about that art.
As you might guess from the box, the cards are much narrower than normal playing cards. But they don’t need to hold much information, so that’s fine.
These cards, illustrated by Clara San Millán, have a limited color palette: mostly bright yellow, pink, and dark green. The numerals and the prickly pears are both important, so they both stand out in a bright pink. And the special cards – lemurs, double lemurs, and the scorpions – are very obviously different from the cactus cards.
Let’s talk about the mechanics in this game. You already mentioned the numbers and the prickly pears are important.
So the goal of Mada is to have the most prickly pears in your winnings pile at the end of the game.
So how do you get them? Well, by not being the person to lose a round. [Wait, what?]
Let’s back up.
Every player starts the game with 3 cards in their hand – and you’re never allowed to have more than 3.
On your turn, you choose whether to play a card, draw a card, or try your luck.
If you play a card, it goes into the pile in front of you. You can only play a card if it has a number equal or higher than the number on the card it covers.
You could instead draw a card – if you currently have fewer than 3 in your hand.
If you can’t play a card that meets those restrictions (or don’t want to), you can try your luck instead! Announce to the table that you’re trying your luck (not drawing), then flip a card directly from the draw pile onto your own stack. If it meets the restrictions to play? Great, you’re safe, and the round continues.
But if the flipped card is lower than the card on top of your stack… sorry, you lose! Every other player takes the top card from their stack and stashes it in a winnings pile. The one benefit to losing is that you can choose to discard cards from your hand and draw replacements.
But what about those special cards?
The lemur, when played on your stack, “drags” the top card down to the bottom of the stack. This can be a handy way to expose a lower-number card so you can continue to play some lower numbers from your hand.
The double lemur lets you swap your current stack with another player – and they’re not allowed to refuse! After the swap, put the double lemur in the discard pile.
There’s one other card that ends up in the discard pile – the scorpion. As soon as you draw a scorpion, you must discard it – along with another card from your hand.
The three special cards definitely keep things interesting!
Once a player has amassed five cards in their winnings, the game ends. Now we no longer care about the numbers on the cards – instead, we are counting those pink prickly pears present on the winnings cards. Whoever has the most prickly pears, wins the game!
What did we expect from this little box game?
[Anitra] I love finding new very-small games. This tiny box from Helvetiq reminds me of my favorite games from publishers like Oink and Button Shy. But all I knew from the back of the box was that the game is about collecting prickly pears.
[Andrew] I didn’t know what to expect from this game. I do think games like this that make obvious stylistic decisions – look at the box, there’s clear stylistic decisions being made – they often have some kind of an interesting hook, so I was expecting something, I just didn’t know what it was.
So what surprised us about Mada?
We first played it with just the two of us. But with two players, it’s kind of obvious to see when your opponent is going to do, and when they’re going to be forced to go out – or not. So honestly, after one play, we didn’t like it much.
Three players was a little better, but we had the most fun playing Mada with five people. The more piles there are around the table, the harder it is to predict what’s going to happen!
[Andrew] And that was my surprise. Anyone who knows me knows I have, uh, issues, taking things too seriously sometimes. This is definitely a game where you just need to lighten up and not over-analyze what’s going on.
Mada rewards pushing your luck and looking at the odds around the table, in a way that’s really best for four or five players. But not too much, because weird stuff might happen.
This is better for light play with a little bit of silliness while having a conversation, or maybe having a beverage. It makes a great family game, maybe right after dinner.
What are we going to rate Mada?
Just like those lemurs, I think we’re going to rate it three prickly pears out of five.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Mada from Helvetiq for this review.
This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
SNAP review music is Avalanche, provided courtesy of You Bred Raptors?
Mada, the prickly-pear game
Age Range: 7+ (no reading)
Number of Players: 2-5 (we recommend 4-5)
Playtime: 20 minutes