SHUTTER BUG (aka Shutterbug) from CALLIOPE GAMES
2-6 Players Ages 8+ Game Time: 20-60 minutes
Design: Mike Elliott Illustrations: Char Reed Art Director: Andy Hepworth
Set in and around 1932 America this is a game about discovering creatures rumoured to be hiding in the jungle areas and taking photographs of them. Animals in the wild do not pose for photographs, you have to be in the right place at the right time and have your camera ready. You have an assignment, possibly from a magazine (the infamous LOOK HERE) or tabloid (the DAILY NEWS) editor and they will pay top dollar for the right set of quality photographs but be only mildly interested in blurred or silhouette shots. However they will also pay up for good shots off-book (not in the assignment) so you need to be ready at all times.
Being honest, our collective first thoughts on seeing the board and reading the premise were "Oh no, not another run around collecting tiles game" with a couple of the team wanting to put the game aside so they could play something else. Before the end of that first game though, those doubting Thomas's (actually there were no Thomas's at the table and I will spare the blushes of their real names) were clammering to play it again, and sbsequently again at later gaming sessions, so it looks like we may have found a sleeper here.
The basics are quite simple but a lot of fun and the gameplay and banter amongst players holds the interest very well and ensure that although this is a light family game it is also a mildly strategic game which will be welcomed by core gamers who enjoy a little light but thoughtful relief.
After repopulating the board, movement is 1, 2 or 3 spaces with an action available on each, though the action does have to be in a specific order: Trading Tip cards with another player (they are obliged to take what you offer and let you steal a random Tip card from them), Drawing Tip cards (only when you move through or onto a City and finally you get to Take A Photograph (if you can - certain Tip cards are required).
It is the strategic movement and Tip card collecting that creates the atmosphere of the hunt. You may only hold seven Tip cards at the end of your Turn but often you may end up with less. You only draw cards in the second action phase and then only one (passing through a City) or two (stopping in a City) so using cards carefully is essential. Having them randomly stolen is both frustrating and annoying, but as they are "Tips" you can understand that other hunter/photographers could have over heard you receiving the Tip.
We thoroughly enjoy playing ShutterBug but as usual our overworked brain cells have seen ways that could change it, possibly for the better (that is always a matter of opinion). To begin with none of us could understand why the creatures depicted are of the Fantasy genre. With so many animals in the World on the verge of distinction a game about photographing them, real animals, would be much more topical, as much fun, but a little more meaningful without the need to add the word "educational" (which often kills sales before the game has even hit the shops).
The other thought that fleetingly passed by us and then lodged in one or two of our thought processors was, on the same path as using real animals could a real hunter/poacher have been introduced (from 3 player games upwards) so that one of the "photographers" was actually using a rifle not a camera and the other players had to somehow scare the animals away before they could be killed for trophies - haven't worked out any details on this but just throwing it out there in case Mike Elliott decides to do an expansion.
Of course there is no real necessity to tinker with the game as it looks nice, plays well and has a high fun factor. Calliope have done an excellent job on its development and production, Mike Elliott has given us a game to enjoy and Char Reed has created some classic nightmareish creatures to ensure we think twice before taking a path through the local woods, let alone a South American jungle.