A PDF-formatted card game that can be played as a nice beer and pretzels game or a serious one taking mental concentration, depending on your mood. It'll be a cold day in hell before you find another game this fun for the price. "A Cold Day in Hell" has an interesting premise: it's a cold day in hell and the Devil has misplaced his winter coat, and you the demons, are on a search for the elusive winter coat.
While this is an acceptable game for 2, it was just great for 3 players. I have not tried it with 4 yet. The rules do not specify a number of players that the game best serves. In practice it lasts 10-30 minutes, on the longer end of the spectrum the more players that are at the table.
The game is mostly a card game though current movement position is tracked on a "board" of 9 double-sided tiles. The tile in the center is a placeholder tile that has the same location on both sides and will never be the location of the Devil's winter coat. The other 8 double-sided tiles represent 16 possible locations (one location per side per tile) where the Devil's winter coat might be found. Each location has 2 Items associated with it. While you can freely enter any location without matching items, you can't win the game unless you are at a location where the winter coat is currently Rumored to be at with items that match that location.
For instance, let's say the Devil's winter coat is Rumored to be somewhere in the Evil Doggie Part. To win the game you have to chat up the cute demonesses there out walking their hellhounds, and to do that, you'll need to be carrying an Evil Doggie Treat and a copy of the book "Hell's Worst Pickup Lines".
Aside from the 9 "board" tiles, the rest of the game is played with a deck of cards. There are 4 types of cards in the deck: Rumors, Cheater cards, Items, and Actions.
Rumor cards represent a possible location where the winter coat is. Only one Rumor can be in play at a time. Play a new one and the old one is discarded. There's only one copy of each Rumor, so once a Rumor is discarded, you aren't getting it back.
Cheater cards represent minor changes to the rules (change in maximum hand size, or the number of items you can carry, etc.). Like Rumor cards, only one Cheater card can be in play at a time.
Items I addressed above.
Actions are just that -- extra things that you can do, like flip locations (so that you can move during your move/flip phase and still flip a location), switching pawn locations with someone else on the board, etc.
You have a hand size of 5 cards. You can carry 3 items played to the table in front of you. Each turn you have all 3 of the following phases which you may choose to skip any of, but you can't change the order of the phases.
1) Move one space orthogonally OR flip any one tile on the table
2) Play one card OR discard a card
3) If you have fewer cards than the hand size limit, then you draw cards to bring yourself back up to the hand size limit
In general, the game is an attempt to build up items matching a Rumor card in play or in your hand and to navigate your pawn to the winning location. Now that is easier than it sounds, particularly so when you are playing with more people, because your opponents will do their damndest to steal the shirt right of your back, and banish you to the farthest reaches of the 3 by 3 board on every one of their turns.
We did come up with two unanswered rules questions:
A) When the hand size decreases (due to someone playing a Cheater card) do you have to discard down immediately? We decided not, since all the other cards that make you discard immediately say so on them.
B) Also, what happens if you get to the bottom of the deck without anyone winning? Do you reshuffle the cards? We think so, although I can't remember if the rules actually say.
The card art is whimsical, though appropriate for such a silly concept. The art pictures and the text are large (I am somewhat visually impaired, so I appreciated this).
Being a PDF game I do not downgrade this product for making you supply your own pawns, but I really think that 4 different print-out tri-fold devil tokens would have been appropriate.
The rules are mostly complete and can be learned in 5 minutes.
And I would have liked to see a set of card backs for these cards. 90% of people would just sleeve these and not want card backs, but they would have been nice for those few who want this to look like a "finished" game and who are willing to go through the time and trouble to print the game out on nice stock and laminate it.
Another page in the book on game strategies and alternative forms of play would have been great. For example, we printed out an extra sheet with miniature (fit 4 pages to one page) versions of the locations as a cheat sheet, and we let people look through the discard pile. However, with no cheat sheet and a "closed" discard pile this game would become a very challenging version of concentration almost instantly.
As to strategies -- well, there is only one of every Rumor and two of every item, so memorizing all the combinations of locations + Item cards is important, as is the ability to "count cards" in your head. But the real strategy is to definitely NOT play a Rumor card until the last possible second as people can ditch it just by playing another, and it signifies, if you have matching items, that you are about to win, making you the universal target of all the mayhem everyone else can muster.
It's probably also a good strategy, though I didn't come up with it until just now, to flip over the location you want to win on to its opposite side a few turns before you make your move. When you are headed to the Evil Doggie Park with a dog biscuit and a book, people will see it and know what you are up to. If you flip it over, then it may be out of sight and out of mind, particularly if you aren't playing with a locations cheat sheet. You can always flip it back over when you arrive if you need to. Or, if you convince people that you are visiting the location on the back the Evil Doggie Park, they might try to delay you by, flipping the Evil Doggie Park face up, playing right into your hands.
I would be tempted to score this game down by several points for some of the things that it left out (that I've mentioned above), but for one thing -- the price. For $5.00, this game is a steal. It's fast, it's crazy, and above all, it's fun. So, while it has a few minor flaws, it's certainly worth purchasing some card stock and burning a bit of an ink cartridge for (on that latter score, unlike some games, printing out at "normal" rather than "best" ink coverage works fine given the large size of the art and the text the game uses).
On Style I rate this 5 stars out of 5, and on substance, 4 stars out of 5. Again, I think these scores are slightly inflated objectively (as I can?t really rate a PDF game on component quality the way I can a hardcopy game), but subjectively, taking into account speed of game play, the amount of fun I had, the price of the game, the charm of the game's theme, and the simplicity rules, I think this game deserves the high marks I am giving it.
Game Publisher: Darn Fun Games
Game Design: Paul Starr
Publisher?s Website: http://www.darnfun.com
Purchase Online At: http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=160&
Game Publication Year: 2002
Review by: Lee Valentine
Review Date: September 27, 2005
<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: Almost everything except the few things I mentioned elsewhere in this review.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: A couple of unclear rules. A lack of card backs. A lack of printable devil tokens.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>