Game Review: Perpetual Commotion

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In my continuing quest to get caught up on games long since published and experienced by others, I recently came across and gamed Seth Blaine’s Perpetual Commotion. Premiering way back in 2003, my decade later exposure to the fast-paced multi-player solitaire-like game ultimately proved to be an interesting addition to my continuously expanding Gaming repertoire.

On it’s face Perpetual Commotion is similar in style to what appears to be a common theme of sorts with other games I have experienced over the past few months. It’s a fast paced, real-time card game, a combination of Spit! and Solitaire, and in that respect it belongs in the same vein as another game I came across at an Unpublished Playtest a few weeks back (which I blogged about here).

The setup for Perpetual Commotion is quite simple- players, ranging from two to six are given a deck of fifty-two cards comprised of four sets of numbers ranged 2-12 and four cards labeled START and STOP, with the set of numbers 2-12 coming in four different color varieties. Each player shuffles their deck of cards, then extends their hand holding the deck to the player to their left and one player says GO! at which point each player takes the offered deck shuffled by one of their opponents and deals out 5 face up cards and a face down deck of 13 cards.

The remaining cards from a players deck are held in their hands throughout the round and shuffled thru three cards at a time with each third card being revealed, like in solitaire. Players build stacks of cards in front of them beginning with a START card followed by the numbers 2 thru 12 and can complete a pile with a STOP card. Players can play cards to any one of these stack from the five slot areas in front of them or from the left-over deck they hold in their hand, and players can play on any stack on the board including an opponents stack assuming the number played matches the color of the cards on the stack- blue for blue and so on.

The first player who depletes the deck of 13 face down cards in a round says OUT! and cards from all stacks are then totaled with points awarded per card to each player based on their individual decks (which are also colored) and negated by any cards left in the face-down deck. First to get to 150 points wins. An added twist is the eight-sided die roll at the end of a round that affects point totals and how much each card is worth or gives bonuses or minuses to a players point count.

Essentially the game is a fast version of solitaire with color coded sets. Other reviewers of the game have pointed to its similarity to Dutch Blitz, a fact which I can only gauge by reading reviews as I myself have not played that game. And to be perfectly honest the game could be simulated using multiple sets of playing cards with differing backs, using the suites as color differentiations.

However from my experience with Perpetual Commotion I will say that it is a fun game that relies on speed and dexterity along with a bit of manipulation concerning card play. Deciding where to place the START cards, in front of yourself and far away from you opponent for instance, gives the game a bit of strategy, rudimentary at best, but the game basically comes down to the luck of the shuffle, both yours and your opponents, along with a players reflexes.

Overall its a fun game, though playing with only two players can increase the ‘strategy’ aspect, where you and your opponent can refuse to play cards to  effectively block one another and bog the game down. Another downside I found about the game is the less than stellar quality of the cards, which after only a few games tend to bend quickly and stick to the table, making picking them up a bit difficult, a sore point given the game relies on speed.

The main thing I like about Perpetual Commotion, along with Spit! and the game I got a preview for at the play-testing event was the fact that it actually required skill. I am all for games that require strategy and well-thought out gameplay but games like Perpetual Commotion do in fact rely on the abilities of the players to use a skillset that is geared much more towards what video gamers are more familiar with, namely dexterity and rapid cognitive abilities. It’s real-time make-or-break pace is a thoroughly enjoyable experience that is suitable for players of any age and its a game that draws on the intersection of mental and physical abilities in an engaging enough way to satisfy someone such as myself who play’s their fair share of World of Warcraft.

While it may not be the most intellectual of strategy games on the market, it definitely gives a chance for different types of players to shine at the table, a fact which thoroughly gives it an inclusive feel. So if you are looking for a simple pick-up game, suitable for players of all ages, head out and pick up a copy of Perpetual Commotion and

Game Forth!


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