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Numbsters Review

Review of: Numbsters
Board Game Review by: :
Michelle Ridge

Reviewed by:
On Sep 6, 2023
Last modified:Sep 6, 2023


We review Numbsters, a wallet sized game published by Button Shy games. Numbsters is a solo hand management game that will be sure to be a brain burner for those that like thinky games.

NumbstersWith the growing size of board game boxes and limited space I’m always on the lookout for the next intriguing wallet game to add to my collection. Scheduling time with other gamers can also get complicated and sometimes you just want to play something on your own. Both of these needs are addressed in 2023 by designer Milan Zivkovic.

Numbsters is a hand-management game for one player that takes about 10 minutes to play.

Gameplay Overview:

To start, the Mouth card (marked with 8), is set aside while the remaining 17 Numbster cards are shuffled to form a deck. The player will draw 6 Numbster Cards and shuffle them in with the Mouth card to form a hand of 7 cards called “the stack.” The stack cannot be reordered from here until gameplay begins.

Numbsters Setup
In the initial setup of the game, the terrifying Mouth card is set aside to shuffle the rest of the deck and is incorporated into the Stack later.

The game takes place over a variable number of turns, where the player will Draw, Move, and then Eat. One card is drawn and placed at the top of the stack, then the player can move one card to another position in the stack or swap two cards in the stack, or even choose to not move any cards. A single Numbster now must “eat” another according to the eating rules.

The eating rules are where this game shines and where hand management is key. The basic eating rule is if two sequential (i.e., differing by one) Numbster cards surround the Mouth card, the smaller eats the bigger, and the bigger Numbster card is discarded. Numbster cards also have a special eating rule, and the Stack’s top-card rule can be used instead of the basic rule if the player finds that to be the better option. If they do use the special eating rule, the top card is moved to the bottom of the Stack.

After the Eat step, if the stack contains just one Numbster on top of the Mouth card, the player wins. However, the player loses if 1) the Stack has more than two cards and nothing can be eaten or 2) if the Mouth card is on top of the Stack at the end of the turn.

Numbsters Gameplay
One way to “eat” cards is to position the Mouth in between sequential Numbsters, and in this case 11 eats 12.

Game Experience:

I have never been so delighted by frustration as I have been with this game. The short rulebook is deceiving about how complex the hand management decisions can become to actually win. It’s easy enough to play the game, but winning is the hard part. I’ve consistently been able to wipe the deck but the final hand is where the game actually shines and is the most difficult to master.

Numbsters Discard
With each eaten Numbster the deck is depleted to refill the Stack, bringing the player closer to defeat or victory.

Determined to win—which I haven’t yet—I spent the longest time on the final hand of cards trying to figure out the correct order of play, but what I realized later is that a deep understanding of all 18 cards is crucial. Focusing on the final hand relies too much on lucky decisions for previous cards, and focusing on only sequential eating rules rather than special eating rules limits your options. If you get to the point where you get your first win, the back of the rulebook comes with a checklist to try and increase the challenge by requiring a win with specific Numbsters.

An unfortunate aspect of this game is that it could depend on your starting hand and the position of the Mouth card, which makes me wish there was a set position in the hand where the Mouth would go. The instructions state to shuffle them in with the Mouth card without reordering them. Since one of the loss conditions is the Mouth card being on top of the Stack, you could spend the first few decisions of your game simply buying yourself more time and not necessarily making good long-term decisions.

Numbsters Wallet
Rules and 18 cards of brain-burning gameplay fit in this slim wallet.

Even if you have the ideal Mouth card placement in your hand, some of the individual Numbster cards in my playthroughs seemed easier and more practical to use than others. To me, this translates to some balancing issues which are not necessarily game-breaking but it does become a bit of an obstacle to navigate if you have weaker special eating rules in your hand.

Final Thoughts:

Numbsters is for stubborn solo gamers looking for an opportunity to burn their brain from their wallet. If you can handle a little card imbalance and mitigate any issues with a difficult starting hand, the end result is a satisfying 18-card puzzle with win condition challenges for replay value. However, if you tend to give up easily on puzzles or have limited experience with hand-management games, the complexities of understanding the deck of cards may keep you from winning.

Final Score: 4 Stars – Manage your hand of Numbsters and their powers in this wallet game of brain-burning solo play.

4 StarsHits:
• Satisfying puzzle for solo play
• Game checklist provides replayability
• Special rules provide depth

• Not for the faint of heart
• Difficult to win without meticulous planning
• Some balancing issues

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