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Squire for hire

A small review of a microgame

Hire my What?

Jon Merchant’s Squire for Hire, published by Letiman Games,  caught my eye on Kickstarter for a couple of reasons. The first, as always, is the artwork. Hard to imagine a game getting traction on KS nowadays that doesn’t look good and Squire for Hire looks adorable. Anthropomorphized forest creatures, dressed up in their finest adventuring gear each with their own backpack crammed full of gear, and snacks.

The second big Kickstarter win for me was the price point. $13 with FREE SHIPPING to Canada. Free Shipping? On a Kickstarter game? That’s almost unheard of. Shipping on KS games is often the thing that kills it for me. When shipping costs the same or more than the game I just slowly back away. Here was this great looking 18 card microgame boasting a low cost and free shipping. I was in. I no longer even cared what the game was.

From the Publisher Letiman Games

Your day has finally come – a famous adventurer has hired YOU to be their Squire! When your hero completes quests, defeats baddies, and takes all the credit, they also earn loot – which you get the great honor of carrying!

Squire for Hire is an 18 card, tile-laying inventory management game for 1-2 players that takes about 15-20 min to play. Players compete to get the highest scoring bag of items for their hero by the end of all the story deck.

Rules Stuff

As it turns out, Squire for Hire also happens to be a pretty fun little spatial puzzle, with a dungeon crawl theme that pushes the puzzle along. One side of each card has a 3×4 grid with various items sprinkled about. The item grid side of the card represents your backpack. In the game, you will be overlapping these cards as you add items into your backpack or when you use items up. The whole time trying to ditch the trash that keeps getting in there.
 
The other side of the cards has a small piece of adventure. Either an encounter, a quest, or a bit of excitement in the dungeon. Each of these will have a cost (some a choice). You will need to “cover” the cost to move on and claim more loot to cram into your bulging backpack. The game is always shifting with the characters and the quests from game to game. So you can get a lot of re-playability from this small set of cards. You may find you are no longer reading the flavor text by your 3rd or 4th play but you are still having a good time.
 
The rules are printed across the inside of the small hook case. Because they are fit to such a small space, the rules suffer a tiny bit. There is not enough room for thorough examples or to go into rich detail. I found this made learning things a bit muddy as you try and get going. I was excited the day the game arrived and pulled it out to play immediately with a friend. Then, just as quickly, I was hung up by the rules. I decided to put it down and wait until I had a bit more time to read them carefully and digest them. Once I sat down and sorted through things it did not take much time to get up and running. I only had to recheck the short rules a few times. Pretty much everything is there and it doesn’t take much to get the hang of things. On the plus side, the KS page has a great rules break down and a playthrough video to help get you going too.

Game Play

My first solo game I just sort of crammed things into my backpack without much thought as I got a feel for things. I did not score high enough to brag let alone get my squire hired. As soon as I finished that first game I thought, “Oh. Right. Now I get it.”
 
Set things up again immediately and did way better. I won. My squire got hired. Naturally, I then thought this game is too easy. Right. I have it now. I have now played with each squire a couple of times and have only won that one time. I have won some 2-player action as well though, so that’s a plus.

Art & Production

The game itself is 18 cards in a hook-box cleverly designed to be a little backpack. The cards shine and the art pops. The whole game is a really nice little package. The fantastic woodland creatures vying to be hired squires are illustrated by Jon Merchant himself. Jon’s artwork does a great job bringing life to this tiny game. The illustrations of loot and garbage strewn about the cards add enough flavor to tie the theme to the game.

Yes, it is an abstract game. Yes, you would never pack your bag this way. For me, theming is about picking your setting and finding a way to tie the elements together. The more you can make the mechanics functional within that theme and setting the more immersive it might get. Me, I am happy when a game finds a way to take even a light abstract puzzle and wrap it in a story and a setting. The story cards that drive the game offer a little more of that theme the way they present each next step of the puzzle.

First Impression

Squire for Hire is a light puzzle game presented through a delightful world of questing animals. I am definitely a fan of microgames. I love how easy they fit in your pocket. You can have 3 or 4 in there before you really start feeling uncomfortable. Which means you can always have a game around when you need one. Squire for Hire has quite quickly earned its place in the small pile of games I will grab for as we head out the door. Out of the (hook) box, it only works with 1-2 players which is a bit too bad since we are a family of 3. But the games are quick enough that everybody can still get a turn before our food arrives. However, this can be patched up by adding a second copy of Squire for Hire to extend play to 4 players. Or, more excitingly, the upcoming Mystic Runes Expansion, which plays as a stand-alone game, can also be combined with Squire for Hire to allow up to 4 players.
 
If you like spatial puzzles, fun art, and games that can travel in your pocket for when you really need them, then I would say Squire for Hire is a fantastic choice. And, since it sells for $9(USD) you really should just pick it up and find out for yourself. If it isn’t your thing, pass it along. Maybe donate it to your local cafe.

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About The Author

Mitch

Mitch is a graphic designer with what could be referred to as a compulsion to design and redesign things that may or may not need it. Truly a jack of all trades and master of none (well maybe the one) he will retrofit your kitchen table or redesign your player mats. He can’t help himself. Mitch sometimes jokes that he was "Raised according to Hoyle" His grandmother instilled a love of games in him early on that has continued to grow year over year.

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