Albert Einstein once said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” Except…he didn’t. It’s an attribution given to him and you often see it in businesses where someone is trying to convince you that saving pennies by scrutinizing every…minor…detail will lead to untold riches. But once you get past the misinformation and corporate profiteering you can see the quote for what it is: a praise on elegance. If an added feature to some product is superfluous and doesn’t really enrich the user’s experience, scrap it! Okey Dokey (available on Amazon for less than $15) by Tasty Minstrel Games doesn’t deliver a lot of extra distractions. It’s a minimalist card game with a lot of depth that you’ll find challenging whether you’re playing it with a table full of children or hiding from them alone in a dimly lit room.
Okey Dokey is a cooperative hand management game where you and up to four others are trying to create a harmonic existence among 50 cards of varying colors and numbers. The blue percussion and yellow low brass instruments lay down a bottom end while the red strings and purple pianos provide the melody. Then the red vocalists add the final layer to complete the harmony.
Okey Dokey by Tasty Minstrel Games
Designer: Hisashi Hayashi
Artist(s): Ryo Nyamo
Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games
Prominent Mechanic(s): Hand Management/Cooperation
I’ve been playing Okey Dokey, off and on, for a few years now. My copy came with the cards and a cute meeple of Dargon, the TMG mascot, and the rules. Unlike most other Tasty Minstrel Games titles, there isn’t much in the box. But just like their other games, the box is no bigger than it needs to be. Even without Dargon I don’t think the box could be any smaller. This is a company that doesn’t have to rely on a box’s display to sell copies.
The object of the game is play 50 cards in an arrangement of five rows by ten columns. You have to play the cards in ascending order from left to right (from 1 to 8). However there is a caveat to that requirement. The game comes with ten reset cards (numbered 0 [zero]) and you setup the game with two resets at the beginning of each row. A reset starts the count over and you play it, usually, when you have no other option. So a row in process could be 1, 2, 4, 0, 3. There is another catch to the game. You have to have exactly one reset per column (more than one and you lose).
Additionally, each row is specific to one color. If you cannot play a legal move, you lose.
I have played this game solo and I have played it with five players and I have also played it at every player count in between. The more players you have, the longer a game takes because you have to coordinate your moves in this game or you won’t last long. So, I guess it’s also fair to say that if you aren’t cooperating that well, playing with more players leads to much faster games! You can do just about any coordinating short of saying (or implying) what number card you have for a given color. Otherwise, communicate!
It’s a good filler game but you’ll want to make sure you have a solid understanding of the rules. We played it several times after a few months off and forgot that you must have one reset per column. No more, no less. We kept thinking, “wow, this game is really easy!” And while it’s not exactly hard, it is challenging when you play correctly. There are three wild cards and you can play with anywhere from zero to three wilds. It just depends on what kind of challenge you want. Just make sure you understand the rules for these too. Otherwise, you’ll be scratching your head wondering why you have extra cards and whether or not you won.
Okey Dokey as an Allegory…
I’m going out on a limb here. I know that most symbolism in literature is not necessarily intentional and I think there are not a few allegorical works that are also coincidental. I want to make the case that perhaps, intentional or not, Okey Dokey is an allegorical social commentary. You see, there are the strings and the brass and the pianos and the drums and while these instrument do need to stay within their own groups for the purposes of this game, they work together to create…harmony. Each card is a specific animal playing a specific instrument. They each know who they are and what they’re capable of and they use one another’s strengths to elevate themselves. A melody and a rhythm combine to create a song. An orchestra.
None of us are perfect. That explains why we have both a couple of reset cards (to bounce back from hardships or mistakes) and wild cards. What family or group of friends doesn’t have at least one eccentric member that while maybe hard to put into a well-defined category, is one of us nonetheless?
Okey Dokey’s strength is its cooperative nature. This reinforces my central philosophy of tabletop gaming—especially when gaming with my kids—that good board games build character. This can be done by demonstrating sportsmanship, how to be a good winner/loser, or how to effectively cooperate with others to accomplish a goal. Okey Dokey brings all of these components together in a fun, compact game that will resonate with kids of all ages.
- the box isn’t over-sized
- sturdy, durable cards
- great (mandatory) player interaction
- the rules could stand better organization
- it doesn’t have the best replayability