Total Rickall Review – Wubba-lubba-dub-dub!
Total Rickall, the card game, is based on the well-known Rick and Morty episode of the same name. The story goes like this – parasites have infested the Smith household, impersonating family members and beloved family friends, creating false memories of time that was spent together. It is up to the Smith household to figure out who is real and who is a parasite.
Total Rickall is a pretty fun and quick game that we will be reviewing over the course of this article. That being said, it is actually a game with two different modes. The first is the standard mode, which can be played with two to five players. The second is a more advanced mode that requires three players to five players.
Due to the Covid 19 outbreak and the various restrictions on social gatherings, we have not been able to play Total Rickall with a group of three or more players since it entered our game collection in November. That being said, we will give an overview of some of the rules in this article so you will get some idea of what it could be like to play. Total Rickall’s standard play though is something I thought was worth writing about in some detail anyway, so let’s get to it.
What is Total Rickall and How Do You Play?
As mentioned previously, Total Rickall is a game that is based on the Rick and Morty episode of the same name. Taking place in the Smith household, you play as family members trying to discern who is real and who is not. Total Rickall is for 2-5 players and is published by Cryptozoic. It is cooperative in the standard game, and teams-based in the advanced version (as players are either a parasite or real, but they do not know who else is on their team and will need to work it out).
Both the standard and advanced versions of the game have their roots in hidden roles. In the standard version, characters are dealt onto the table and each one is assigned a hidden role, either “real” or “parasite”. In the advanced version of the game, all players are also given roles, meaning there is a hidden identity aspect for the players as well as the characters on the table.
The characters in question all feature in that particular episode of the show – ranging from Reverse Giraffe to Cousin Nicky to Pencilvester – giving the game a highly thematic feel reminiscent of one of the most famous episodes in Rick and Morty history. Some have special rules attached, such as Frankenstein’s Monster, who needs to be shot twice, and Pencilvester, who can only be shot by the first player that turn. Out of 25 characters, 9 have special rules.
The goal is simple – shoot and eliminate the parasites, and don’t shoot the real characters. Each round a new character enters the table and is assigned a new hidden identity. The game is either played until all parasites are eliminated and the real players win, or it is played until the fourth real character is shot, at which point the game is lost. Each time you shoot a real character, you must also lose a card (unless special rules dictate otherwise).
The game is played over a series of rounds, starting with each player playing an action card from their hand face down simultaneously, and then drawing back up. You start with a hand of three. The cards are then revealed and played in player order, meaning the first player resolves theirs, then the second and so on (although, as mentioned previously, we have been playing two player, so that is where it stops). The action cards are split into four colours – red, blue, green, and grey. A coloured action card can only affect a character of the same colour (unless special rules dictate otherwise), bar the grey cards which work on anyone or affect the state of the game as a whole.
So, what are the cards? Well, the cards are based on the different members of the Smith household:
- Rick allows you to look at the next identity of identity deck to see what the hidden identity of the next character to come out will be.
- Morty allows you to peek at the hidden identity card of a character with the specified colour either on the table or, in advanced mode, next to one of your fellow players.
- Beth allows you to shoot a character of the specified colour, eliminating them. If a player’s own character is shot in advanced mode, and they are a parasite, they remain real for the rest of the game. If a player’s character is shot and they are real, they add their real card to the failed real characters shot pile (which may end the game if it is the fourth) and draw a new character/hidden identity card.
- Summer lets you look at the identity cards of two characters of the same colour, shuffle them and put them back.
- Jerry allows you to shuffle all the identity cards of characters of the same colour on the table and redistribute them. It then lets someone draw a card.
Where the above cards, in various colours, make up the majority of the deck, there are then a series of cards that allow you to alter the state of play, force other players’ hands, or even copy them. There is also a card that allows you to permanently reveal a character identity card to the table, and that is incredibly helpful. Those are the generic grey cards that are always fun to have in your hand, even if they do force you to shoot a character when you are not ready or give your fellow players cards when you may not want to.
Total Rickall is a cooperative game where players are either all on the same team in standard mode, or split into teams with advanced play. It is up to you, however, how much information you want to share with the other players around the table. In standard mode, I recommend all information, but it is completely up to you.
The Dinner Table
In advanced mode, there is an additional step that isn’t in the standard mode, which is when there are no parasites left in the middle of the table. During this final step, all players discard their action cards, only to have one last stand-off, where each player may choose to shoot another player based on information they gathered during the game. It may be discussed first. If one parasite survives, the game is over and the parasites win. If all parasites are eliminated, the game is over and the real characters win. I can’t comment on how well this works, as we haven’t played it, but you get the idea (kind of) of what it could be like through that description.
What is Total Rickall (standard mode) like to play?
When a game is based on a pre-existing property it tends to fall into one of two distinct categories. Firstly, there are games where the theme is loosely added on top of mechanics that already exist. Quite often the theme can be replaced or switched out without the mechanics changing all that much. There are then the games where the theme is integral to the mechanics of the game, where removing the theme or switching it out would be difficult due to the theme and mechanics being so intertwined with one another. It is safe to say that Total Rickall falls into the latter category. Where the game could exist without the theme, it would not be the same.
I’m lucky with a game like Total Rickall. Being a Rick and Morty fan, it resonates well with me, and since both myself and my partner enjoy watching the interdimensional adventures of Rick and Morty, we both really enjoy the game. That being said, I’m not 100% sure how solidly the theme would hold up if you’re not a fan of the show.
The good news is, whether you are a fan of Rick and Morty or not, the gameplay is simple yet solid. There is a level of strategy to playing Total Rickall, trying to figure out who is who. This aspect of the game can really amp up the difficulty in the advanced version of the rules where hidden identities are involved. Instead, in a two-player game, the challenge doesn’t so much come from trying to figure out who is who, but rather trying to synchronise with your partner enough that you don’t accidentally end up having to shoot a character who is real. It may sound basic, but it actually becomes a real challenge when you either both play the same card at the same time or one plays a card that can force the hand of the other.
The characters themselves are colourful and recognisable from the show. Whether you are a fan of Rick and Morty, or whether you are just a fan of whimsy in general, it is easy to find something to like in the character cards. As mentioned before, 9/25 characters also have special rules that add a really nice additional element, ranging from the ridiculous and meta (Cousin Nicky has you walk around the table before shooting him) to characters that add an additional level of challenge (Frankenstein’s Monster needs to be shot twice).
The action cards being named after each one of the Smith family is a nice aspect. Once again, this is where theme and gameplay kind of sit hand-in-hand with each other. You really get a feel for the Smith family through their cards and, where it would be nice to sometimes see more variety (especially when you have a hand of Beth cards like both myself and my partner had at the same time in our last game), they offer a solid foundation for the gameplay.
Okay, so that is giving a small breakdown of some of the core components, but what is Total Rickall like to play? Well, I wrote this review in two halves – both halves coming immediately off the back of the game – and you know what? I really enjoy it. It is simple and fun. As two players, it isn’t going to be the main event of a gaming evening, but it is fun to break out for a 25-30 minute foray into whimsy. It is a mildly challenging game, a laugh, and something we have come to enjoy as a cooperative two player game whilst we’ve been in social solitude.
As a gamer, and someone who has written over half a million words about games over the past four years, I enjoy what this game has presented as a light deduction game. As someone living through 2020 and 2021 I have come to enjoy it as a much-needed laugh at the end of an evening.
And yes, although this review has only been of the two player version and not the full game (for obvious reasons) it is something that we look forward to playing with friends. It should be great fun to play with the social deduction/advanced rules.
TL;DR: The Good, The Bad, and The Ghost In A Jar
Okay, so it has been a while since we have done this, but let’s take a look at good, bad, and neutral aspects to do with Total Rickall the card game.
- Total Rickall is fast and furious. Gameplay flows steadily, and it offers a nice and quirky little strategy element that makes it intriguing to pick up.
- This is a great game for Rick and Morty fans. The theme is strong and it flows with the mechanics rather than just feeling bolted on.
- The characterisation of the different cards is enjoyable in Total Rickall. Additional challenges on the cards offer another dimension that helps elevate the gameplay to the next level.
- Total Rickall is often a funny game to play – if not in the cards then around the table.
- A massive plus in recent months – the two player game, although sometimes a bit easy when you start getting on the same level, is solid.
- The individual character cards are good, but more could be done with them. There could be more variation of character cards in order to add a bit more flavour and personality to the characters.
- Again, I cannot strongly express this enough, we have not played the advanced version of the game due to player limits. We cannot comment on what the social deduction aspect is actually like to play, only speculate based on the rules and our own experience.
- I’m not sure how well this game will hold up to non-fans of Rick and Morty. The gameplay is solid, but the theme is the icing on the cake. It is integral to the game, and so I don’t know what your enjoyment will be if you don’t like Rick and Morty.
- Interestingly, a couple of people in our gaming group aren’t fans of Rick and Morty – so after we have managed to play with them, I’ll re-review to include the advanced rules.
Conclusion: Reviewing Rick and Morty’s Total Rickall (Two Player)
Those who regularly read this blog will have noticed that I haven’t been around much recently. One of the main reasons I love board gaming as a hobby is the social aspect – sitting around a table and really getting into the nitty gritty of a game. One of the many side effects of recent circumstances, and I am sure I don’t need to tell you this, is that going around to friends to play games has become a bit of a no-go. As such, my partner and I have played a lot of games two player, and we’ve played a few games online, but this blog hasn’t been updated half as much.
Well, let me tell you this – as a gamer – Total Rickall has been a real joy over the past few months. As Rick and Morty fans it has given us a glimpse of whimsy (there is that word again) whilst also being quick and fun. It doesn’t require the commitment of an entire evening, and we have valued it. Is it perfect? No. But it is fast, it is fun, and it makes us smile.
Again, I will review the full version of the game in due course, so please take this review with a pinch of salt for the time being. You can look out for that in the future.
Sooooo…with all that in mind, what are your thoughts? Do you like Rick and Morty? Do you enjoy Total Rickall? What do you think of the idea of the game? Let me know in the comments below.