In 2013, Cards Against Humanity launched Tabletop Deathmatch, a board game design contest with a reality-style YouTube show.
Robert Dijkman Dulkes and Matt Golec won the contest (along with the creators of the game Discount Salmon) with Penny Press, a two- to five-player board game where players send reporters to get stories, then lay them out in an increasingly difficult puzzle.
Asmadi Games published the game, which is now available and has a suggested price of $50, though it can be found online for as little as $32.50. It plays in 45 to 60 minutes, and it’s recommended for ages 13 and up.
But is the game worthy of its top spot in the contest?
How it works:
At the beginning of the game, each player draws a card that adds a bonus to one of five news beats — war, crime, politics, New York City, and human interest. The card also adds two or three stories of varying sizes to a column of those beats. Those stories have stars, which will be used to calculate bonus points at the end of the game.
Players have five reporters they can place on the stories. When a beat has multiple stories with reporters on it, a story from that beat will give more points.
The player with the most reporters on a story can claim it and go to press. The player then takes all the stories they have control of and places them on their newspaper grid. Not being able to place stories or leaving spaces blank will take points away from their score.
After a player goes to press, he draws another card, adding a bonus and more stories to the beats. Play continues until one player goes to press three or four times, depending on the number of players. Then each player has one more chance to go to press.
Bonuses are added based on the number of stars players have collected in a particular beat. The player with the most points wins the game.
The game also contains an expansion with a newsboy strike. When the strike comes, the player misses a turn.
Why you might buy Penny Press:
This is an original game with a little bit of Tetris thrown in. Finding the right stories to fit your paper can be difficult, and you have to balance whether it’s worth it to lose a couple of points to beat another player to press.
Fighting other players for valuable stories (or just stories of the right shape for your paper) can be tense, and that tension builds as the game progresses. Stories become more scarce, and an advertisement added to your paper works its way up the grid, making the grid harder to fill each round.
The theme is fun, and it fits the gameplay. Trying to lay out your paper so that the most important stories are at the top is challenging. The cards feature real newspaper stories from the period, so you get a bit of history while you’re playing.
Every choice in the game matters, and the bonuses make the game more interesting.
The game is easy to learn and teach. That said, it holds enough interest for people who play more complex games.
Why you might not buy Penny Press:
You can play with two people, but the game isn’t as interesting. There aren’t as many stories available, and players take two turns in a row, which makes it easier for them to go to press. The more players, the better the gameplay.
If you’re not interested in the theme, this game might not hold your attention.
If you want to build a complex puzzle, Penny Press might disappoint. The puzzle building is just one aspect of the game.
There is luck involved, and sometimes you’re pushing your luck. So this isn’t a pure strategy game.
I’ve been looking forward to Penny Press since I watched the final episode of Tabletop Deathmatch, and it didn’t disappoint.
I love the theme and the way it’s implemented.
This is a game I can easily teach to friends, but it still has a rich gameplay experience.
I love the way the bonuses in the game creep up on you. In my first game, I thought I was crushing my opponent. And I was, until we added up those bonuses. He beat me.
But the best thing about Penny Press is that it’s fun. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. You can play it relatively quickly. You’ll be yelling at your opponents when they occupy a story you really needed, and then you’ll be laughing at them when a better story comes up, giving you a bonus and the exact story you needed.
Full disclosure: I received a review copy of Penny Press from Asmadi Games. I wasn’t required to write a positive review. These are my honest opinions.