Numbskull Games, 2008
Looney Bin is a quirky, weird, easy and fun card/board game for 3-7 players. You are a doctor in the Looney Bin. You have a ward of 4 patients that you attempt to cure. The first person to clear their ward or cure five patients is the winner.
To start the game, you are dealt 4 patient cards. These sit face up in front of you, forming your ward. Each patient receives a face down tile that details the treatment that they need to be cured. These tiles are secret, no one knows what is on them. You are also dealt a hand of 5 action cards. The player with the highest numbered patient goes first. On your turn, you play any number of action cards, either on yourself or others, then make one attempt at finding a cure.
This is where the game is really cool. It has a great mechanic for curing. There are seven “Therapies” in the game: A padded cell, Electroshock, Frontal Lobotomy, Group Therapy (we ended up calling this “needing a hug”), A straightjacket, Medicine, and Hypnosis. You pick a therapy, and the person to your left looks at the tile. If you have guessed a correct therapy, you put the therapy chit on your card face up, and make another therapy attempt. You keep guessing, as long as you keep guessing correctly. If incorrect, you place the chit face down (the “no”) side, draw a card and your turn is over. There are only 3 therapies on each tile, so it takes a couple guesses to get the three you need to cure the patient. Event cards can help you by giving extra guesses, stopping other people from playing cards on you or other numerous effects.
We found this game quite entertaining. We enjoyed the mechanic and the event play. Overall, pretty well balanced. It runs quickly. We are pondering purchasing a larger pill holder and using it as a storage for the therapy chits. We had a lucky guesser at our table who one both games because he was able to continue guessing cures in longer runs, but we were able to slow him down. If you hate games that take some luck, this might not be the game for you. We were getting into the cards and having a really good time with it.
On the negative side. The production quality of this game isn’t the best. The chits are a little flimsy, and the lamination on the cure tiles tends to make them stick together. The artwork is ok, but comes off as a bit amateurish overall. The good game play might be able to overcome this, but the price tag of $30 might cause some to balk because of the production quality. I could see these folks trying a kickstarter to push this game to the next level with better art and better quality pieces and packaging.
Overall fun game. Recommended if a good game is more important to you than a good looking game.