Review: Mow

Posted by James (admin) on January 8th, 2010

 Mow (pronounced Moo as it’s the noise cows make in France) is a simple but active card game with good player interaction as each tries to obstruct the other players. 

The game consists of two decks of cards – one deck is used for 2 to 5 players and the other deck is added for 6 to 10 players.  Each card shows a cartoon cow and has a number on between 0 to 16, plus each has a number of flies on it from 0 to 5.  Flies are bad and the players want to avoid collecting them.

Each player starts with 5 cards.  On their turn, a player plays a card to the centre of the table so that a single row of cards builds up and these will be in numerical order.  When a card is placed, it must be placed at either end of the row of cards and must be higher than the highest card currently in the row, or lower than the lowest card currently in the row.  So, if the cards in the row are currently 5, 8 and 11, a player could place a 4 or lower on the left-hand side of the row or could place a 12 or higher on the right-hand-side of the row.  There are some special cards too which can be inserted into the row, or can be played on top of an existing card.  Special cards which have 5 flies on them allow the player who plays the card to reverse the playing order if they want to too.

If a player can not play a card (or simply does not want to) they must take and keep all the cards that are in the current row and then play a card to start a new row.  After placing a card, the player takes a new card from the draw pile, if there are any remaining, and the next player starts their turn.

A round ends when a player picks up a row and the draw pile has already run out.  At this point, each player scores the total number of flies on all the cards they collected during the round (but any remaining in their hand are not counted).  The game ends when any player’s score reaches, or exceeds, 100 points and the winner is the player with the fewest total points.

Overall, Mow is a really fun filler.  The tactics are quite light but they are there – working out how to make the best of the hand of cards you have, as well as timing the play of your cards to try to ensure someone else picks up the row, are the key decisions.  Playing a card to cut off the next player’s options is funny, and even funnier for the other players if the next player turns the tables, plays a card and reverses the direction of play if you end up picking up the row instead.  Humorous vendettas start to build up during the game and it can be cut-throat in a good way.

I found that there are occasional times that the cards in your hand mean you have few options, i.e. if you’ve been dealt a hand of middle-value cards.  Picking up the row voluntarily can be an effective way to limit the damage; however, having no high or low cards can be a real disadvantage as you have few options and don’t feel you can take part in the round.  This seemed to occur occasionally but it’s random as it depends on what you’re dealt and what you draw during the round so it should even itself out.  I thought that a rule to allow players to change cards in their hand might make a good addition but with a penalty for doing so; for example, players could discard cards from their hand and draw replacements (once per round only) but they would score the flies on the cards they discard as a penalty.

I really enjoyed Mow and liked the light, interactive but fun gameplay.   A good filler or end-of-evening game which can play with lots of players.  The two-player game sounds interesting too as there are 3 rows where players can play cards, but I have yet to play that version.


[Played with 5 players]

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