You and your buddies are trying to think of a way to make some extra scratch. This is 1997 and you believe too many people are delving into the latest fad, this thing called ‘the internet’ and that’s not for you. Scanning the newspapers you see the headlines are filled with worries over mad cow disease and how millions of dollars of cows will have to be wasted. You figure there’s got to be something you can do with them… Cow pie Bingo? Nope, the profit margins on bingo are too thin. Super Well Done Mad Cow Burgers? Nah, you’ll bet that “Where’s the Beef!” lady couldn’t even sell those.
Finally, the caption of a picture of a French farmer catches your eye. He is posing in his field near an unexploded bomb from the Great War. The caption ends, “… and the city will pay several hundred francs to ensure disposal of the devices.” Your mind races as you call your friends, “I’ve got it, we will march herds of diseased cows through the fields of France where they can clear fields by blowing up the bombs and we collect the disposal fees!”
Takes: 30 minutes
Ages: 8 and up
Over the course of the game players build herds of cows to march around the French countryside in hopes of exploding forgotten ordinance and earning that herds controller some money.
Many of the cows have different special abilities. Some can steal a bomb from another cow in the same herd so that cow blows up instead of the initial finder. This is useful if a negative value cow, yes one that you actually have to pay money to the city when they blow up finds the bomb, explodes. Why would you put a negative value cow into your herd? You wouldn’t, but a devious competitor would. This is a game after all. There is another cow called mad bombers. They pass bombs to cows on both sides of themselves when they find one. The bomber cow makes for a spectacular payday for the herds owner.
There are not just cow cards to contend with, but also event cards. Some are benign like look through the discards and find a cow you like and place it directly into your herd, and some are game changers like ‘all herds get passed to the left’.
At the end of each players turn there is a bomb roll. Roll a d6 and starting with their rightmost cow count out to see which cow explodes. Only have 2 cows in your herd and roll a 3 on the bomb die? That’s good news for the next player that has a cow, that means their first cow blows up and they collect money for it. If you’re unlucky enough to roll a 6, that means no cows blow up and you pass the die to the left and that player gets to roll.
There is a city deck that is used to time out the game. At the beginning of a turn if there is no city card face up, turn one over. If during your turn the bomb roll indicates your cow is exploded, you earn the city card and the benefit on that card. The game enters sudden death at the end of the round where the last city card is taken. Sudden death consists of alternating bomb rolls till all the money that is left over in the pot is won, or all the cows are dead. Count up to see who has the most money and declare a winner.
I really enjoyed playing this game. The overall theme is wacky. The artwork is fun and helps you buy in to the game. After one quick read through of the rules it was easy to pick up and start playing. Any cards that had special abilities or were odd in any way had everything explained fully on the card.
It is a light game, but there is still room for a degree of strategy. Things like placement of ‘bad cows’ in opponents herds and smartly played event cards can really give you a leg up. That said there still are cards in the deck that totally turn the game on it’s ear like the previously mentioned pass all herds to the left, so don’t bother taking too much time on your turn.
The only (extremely mild) headscratcher in the game is the use of the city cards. Although the city cards have point valued associated with them that is only to determine who goes first in sudden death. It has nothing to do with overall game victory. Granted you do get the benefit of getting first crack at the remnants of the pot at the end of the game, but if there is only 100 francs left in there, it’s not much of a benefit. Players just have to remember that to win the game you have to have the most money at the end.
Wondering if Unexploded Cow is good for you and your group? Feel free to ask us questions about the game below and we’ll be sure to try and help you out.
Played Unexploded Cow before? Let us and the other readers know what you think about the game in the comments!