I woke up in a cold sweat not long ago. The terror was palpable as I realized I had once again forgotten my wedding anniversary. As always, my first call was to Board Game Quest publisher Tony Mastrangeli. Frenzied, I asked him what options I had to rectify the situation.
“I don’t really see how this is my problem,” he said with his usual high-level of compassion.
“Please. I’m desperate.”
“How about you go get some flowers?” Tony replied with a yawn.
“That’s a decent idea, but what if I’m too lazy to leave the house?”
“You’re unbelievable,” growled Tony, “but I have just the thing for you.”
And that why, a mere two days later, I received a review copy of Tussie Mussie, a two-player micro game about designing bouquets of flowers.
It was just what the doctor ordered for the crisis I had found myself in. Thanks, Tony!
Tussie Mussie is designed by Elizabeth Hargrave for 2-4 players and takes about 15 minutes.
Tussie Mussie is an 18-card drafting and mini-tableau building game. The entire deck will shuffled to start play. Each turn, the active player will draw two cards and offer them to their neighbor (left or right depending on the round). One of these cards will be offered face up and the other face down. The recipient will chose one of these cards and add it to the Arrangement of flowers in front of them (keeping its face up/down status the same). Players can always look at face-down cards once it’s in their Arrangement; these cards are their Keepsakes. Cards are always added to the rightmost place in the Arrangement. Play continues this way until all players have four cards, which ends the round.
At the end of the round, players will reveal their Arrangements—being sure to make note of which cards are their Keepsakes because that might matter for some scoring conditions—and trigger the actions on the cards in their Arrangement. These actions can be triggered in any order the player chooses, and can cause a variety of effects like discarding other cards in one’s Arrangement (found on high-scoring cards) or drawing a new card and then replacing one of the Arrangement’s current cards. Players then score for all the hearts in their Arrangement and for any powers present on the cards (things like “one point for each of your other cards without a heart” or one point for each of a certain color type).
After three rounds like this, players tally their scores and whoever has the most points is the winner. (The rule pamphlet doesn’t even attempt to provide any thematic logic for why you’re competing, so let’s just say the winner is the best flowerer.)
My first reaction after two or so rounds of Tussie Mussie was that it bears strong similarities to Hanamikoji’s action selection system. It’s less robust and doesn’t lead to the area control scoring that Hanamikoji has, but in many ways it scratches the same itch. Do I show the card I really want in hopes my neighbor will go fishing for the face-down card? Or should I assume they will want to control the information they have and hide the card I’d ultimately prefer to get by placing it face down? It’s an interesting push and pull that occurs on every turn, and the better path is never obvious.
Ultimately, though, I found that the hide/reveal decision every turn was effectively the only thing players do throughout the game. Once the other players select the card they want, that card gets added to the scoring tableau in a fixed location and the rest of the round is spent pivoting to these cards whether you wanted them or not. And that tableau, while obviously important for scoring purposes, is very difficult to manipulate at that point.
Scoring is fairly straightforward, which means, unfortunately, that it’s also uninteresting. Rounds (and the game as a whole) go by so quickly that there’s very little time to develop any deep scoring strategy or plan nifty combos. They exist, of course, but often it feels like pulling them off is more of a fluke than an impressive manipulation of the face-up or face-down display of the cards you’ve selected.
I’m not sure what I was expecting from Tussie Mussie, but what I ended up feeling after my first play was “well, that was pleasant.” And that’s more or less how I felt after a series of additional plays. There’s just not much going on in this game, which might be a feature of a micro game designed to be a filler or travel item. Earlier in this review, I compared Tussie Mussie to Hanamikoji and I do think both games provide a similar feeling despite their different approaches to scoring. Keeping this in mind, I would almost always prefer the latter, and if I’m looking for a tableau-scoring micro game I’d rather play something like Skulls of Sedlec.
Final score: 3.5 Stars. A pleasant, if mildly uninteresting micro card game that is a good option as a filler but doesn’t offer enough new ideas to make it stand out.
• Not much depth
• Difficult to optimize your scoring tableau for combo-rific scoring
• Not a great wedding anniversary gift