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Tussie-Mussie Kickstarter Preview

Quick Look:

Designer: Elizabeth Hargrave
Artist: Beth Sobel
Publisher: Button Shy Games
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 1-4
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 30 min

Find more info on Tussie-Mussie on Board Game Geek.

TL;DR: Tussie-Mussie delivers on everything that I look for in a wallet game. It doesn't try to do too much with the wallet game card number limitations, but instead takes a simple card-drafting mechanism, and does it really well. The game uses a slick, secret information "I cut, you choose" play style leading to some tough decisions for both the cutter and the chooser. The play is matched equally by the art that works to bolster the thematic elements of the game. The biggest recommendation I can give any game is a desire to play it after the review is over, and I can say that Tussie-Mussie is going to be a staple in my travel-friendly-games lineup for a long time.


What do you get when you cross the designer of arguably one of the biggest board games currently in the world, an artist that worked on the aforementioned biggest game in the world, and a publisher with over 50 games in their catalogue?

A tough review to write.

No, seriously.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself,

"Let me get this straight--Tussie-Mussie credits include (double checks notes):

Design by Elizabeth Hargrave (Wingspan)
Art by Beth Sobel (Lanterns, Arboretum, Viticulture, and more)
Published by Button Shy Games (Sprawlopolis, Circle The Wagons, Mint Julep, and more)

This game just wrote its own review. 

I'm sold and they will be too. Just tell them that the Kickstarter launches on May 28.

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk."

And if you're thinking that, you're right.

But if you're thinking that, and familiar enough with those names to associate them with their games, you're probably more than a casual board gamer. (And that's awesome. Without you, I wouldn't be a reviewer.) You, the hobbyist, have these data points stored away to help and influence your decision.

And I need to write a review for you.

Buuuuuuut the popularity and wide-spread coverage of Wingspan is bringing non-hobbyists into our fold (and if this is you--welcome; I am sincerely glad you are here) and my thought is that someone will reach this review because of Wingspan--not because they know the designer, or the artist, or the publisher of Tussie-Mussie--but because they Googled Wingspan and it was mentioned alongside Tussie-Mussie on Board Game Geek. Or maybe they saw that Megan Markle carried a tussie mussie at her wedding and wanted to know what a tussie mussie is, Googled it, and landed here. They see that this game is thematically different and something that they might enjoy. They may not quite understand what "card drafting" or a "wallet game" is and wanted to find out more and clicked on this review.

And so I need to write the review for them, too.

Therein lies the rub. I believe that I need to write for two completely different groups that will need two completely different reviews, but I don't want to turn a 18-card wallet game into a 5,000 word review.

So I am going to err on the side of writing more for the new-to-games reader. I will still have the lists that explain the game, but I'll try to better, more thoroughly explain them. In short, no assumptions. I'll be sharing the reason behind the lists.

Hobbyists, thank you for reading this and helping to welcome those just now dipping their toes into our world.

Newcomers, I'm glad you're here.

Let's do this.  


"There is no color, no flower, no weed, no fruit, herb, pebble or feather that has not a verse belonging to it; and you may quarrel, reproach, or send letters of passion, friendship, or even news, without ever inking your fingers.” - Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

I had no idea what a Tussie-Mussie is, so to understand Tussie-Mussie the game, I felt it best to understand tussie mussies, the small flower arrangements. Here's what I learned and thought I would share.

Briefly put, tussie mussies were developed in the middle ages more out of necessity, a way to keep the noxious odors (e.g. horse "exhaust," sweaty bodies) at bay by keeping a sweet-smelling floral bouquet on one's person. But let's fast forward to the Victorian era and to a woman by the name of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.

Montagu was an English aristocrat and wife of the British ambassador to Turkey. In her time in the Ottoman Empire, she studied the culture and would write back to her English friends about cultural curiosities (while challenging societal norms in regards to women, among other topics). In an 1865 letter, she wrote of the local Turkish practice of assigning meanings to various flowers and herbs. This allowed the participants to use items as interpreters of their passions or other feelings, and she wrote that "the introduction of a love-language in flowers and in similar tokens would be a great convenience to London society."

So this led, at least in part, to the practice spreading throughout Victorian England. Flowers were given and received as coded messages, allowing one to express their feelings toward their friends and paramours without having to say it outright. Tulips = love, azalea = temperance, magnolia = dignity, etc. and so on.

And it is from this practice of assigning meaning to flowers and herbs that the game Tussie-Mussie was derived.

*Cue the "The More You Know" shooting star GIF*

Overview of Tussie-Mussie:
Tussie-Mussie is a wallet-style card game (i.e. 18-card game that can easily fit inside a purse or pocket) for 1-4 players.

In Tussie-Mussie, players attempt to score the most points over the course of three rounds. Players score points based on the flower cards they collect. Each flower card has a description of the points it awards (e.g. "This flower is worth 2 points), or a condition for points (e.g. "This flower is worth 1 point for every red-bordered card in hand").

During a round, players will select a total of four flower cards. Once all players have four cards, points are tabulated, and a new round begins. After the third round, players add their scores from all rounds and the player with the highest point total wins.

How to Play:
Start by shuffling the deck of cards, placing them in a face-down stack within reach of all players, and select a starting player.

On a player's turn, they utilize an "I cut, you choose" mechanic--specifically, the player draws two cards from the face-down deck and looks at both cards, places one face up and the other face down, and presents them both to the player (the chooser) on their left where the chooser will then need to select which card to take.

The chooser then must decide to either take the face-up card (part of the bouquet), or the face-down card (part of the keepsakes) and add one to their collection. The chooser may not look at the face-down card prior to their selection. The chooser takes their selection and places it in front of them to the left side (subsequent selections will be placed to the right of previously selected cards). The chooser should keep face-up cards face up, and face-down cards face down, as these cards may be used for conditional scoring at the end of the round, so their differing placements are necessary.

After the chooser has selected their card from the two options, the player that presented the cards takes the remaining card and places it in front of themselves using the same left-to-right orientation as outlined above. Once both cards are placed, the chooser then becomes the first player, selects two cards from the draw-pile, and repeats the process with the player to their left.

Once all players have four flower cards in front of them, the round is over and scoring takes place. Players reveal the face-down cards, sliding the face-down card(s) to a lower placement in the line to designate their place as a keepsake.

Scoring is unique for each card and are mostly conditional of the other flower cards in your set. For example, the Pink Rose card scores 1 point for every other pink card in your collection and Amaryllis scores 1 point for every card in your bouquet. Some cards have no text, but instead show heart iconography. Hearts essentially count as one point each.

Once the points are recorded, players repeat the process for two more rounds. At the completion of the third round, scores from each round are tallied and the player with the highest point total over the three rounds in the winner. In the event of a tie, the player with the flower lowest in alphabetical order is the winner.

Note: A solo variant is listed as a player option, but at the time of writing, the solo rules had not been made available.

Tussie-Mussie is based on the Victorian fad of assigning meanings to various flowers (go back to the Prelude if you skipped it). However, in this game, rather than giving the flower cards to others to secretly convey a feeling, you're trying to collect the best cards for yourself to score the most points.

For an added thematic element, players can read aloud the meaning of the face-up flower as they pass it the other player (e.g. The Camellia means, "You're a flame in my heart").

Card-drafting (selecting a card from a selection of available cards for one's advantage or to meet a game condition) is the primary game mechanism in Tussie-Mussie.

While not a mechanism per se, Tussie-Mussie implements an "I cut, you choose" play style by giving the first player the knowledge of both cards and the ability to present one face up with information present, and the other face down, to the choosing player.

Finally, I do not believe that Tussie-Mussie was designed as a bluffing game (more of a game-type descriptor than game mechanic), but any time a game includes secret information as Tussie-Mussie does with the face-down cards, bluffing and deception can arise (or at least they do in my gaming group).

Artwork and Components: 
If you are unfamiliar with wallet games from Button Shy Games, they are all within the 18-20 card range and come in a billfold style wallet for easy transport. The cards are high-quality and they, along with the wallet, will hold up over numerous travels and plays.

The art for Tussie-Mussie was by an artist by the name of Beth Sobel. Sobel is a board game illustrator with several credits for publishers including AEG, Stonemaier Games, and Foxtrot Games.

Now, I am in no way an art critic, and have no art training sans one humanities class in my undergrad, so there are probably better "artsy" ways of describing her work, but I find myself drawn (no pun intended) to the wide-breadth of her capabilities as an artist. She can do this fantastical realism and faces, and also incredibly detailed landscapes. She draws people, plants, animals, underwater, over water, vibrant colors, muted shades, and on and on. I cannot look at a game and say that's Beth Sobel, because of her diversity as an artist. But when I am attracted to a game's art and find out that it's her work, I think, Of course it is--is there anything that she cant draw?

Tussie-Mussie is no exception. Again, Sobel delivers with some stunning artwork and design of flowers that look like they fell out of a 19th century printing. The color and shading of the flowers really reflect the Victorian theme and adds to the gameplay experience.

The Good:
I have played several Button Shy titles, and I am always impressed by the creative uses for the cards--I've seen them turned and flipped, and thrown, and hidden, and used as scoring markers, and laid as tiles, and pushed and pulled, and a dozen other unique uses.

Tussie-Mussie doesn't do anything especially unique with the cards or how they are used, and the good part is, it didn't have to. Rather than trying to do too much, Tussie-Mussie took one thing and did it really well. It took a simple card-drafting mechanism, overlayed with an "I cut, you choose" play style, to create a game a that results in thoughtful decisions on almost every turn for both the cutter and the chooser.

The time frame for the game is spot-on (15 min for two players, 30 min for four). I have recently got more into "I cut, you choose" style games (Duelosaur Island, Swordcrafters), and Tussie-Mussie scratches the itch for this type of game, but without the setup and tear down. I can just get it out, shuffle the cards, and have a two-player game knocked out in 15 minutes.

As stated above, the art is fantastic and adds to the thematic elements of the game.

Finally, Tussie-Mussie has a unique theme and is simple to teach and learn. Because of this, it is likely to introduce a lot of new people to the world of wallet games. 

The Bad:
Nothing. That's not to say that this game is perfect, or the best game ever made, but thematically, mechanically, and artistically, it left nothing to be desired.

The Other: 
If you are the person described above that got into board gaming because of Wingspan and found this review because of it, that's great and I am glad that game sparked your interest in the hobby. That being said, it's important to note that this is not like Wingspan. Same designer, same artist, but in terms of gameplay--and game time, and components, and mechanisms, and theme, and several other factors--they are completely different. And that's ok, because as Wingspan may have sparked your interest in modern board games, Tussie-Mussie can spark your interest in this board game sub-genre. 

Final Thoughts:
It is rare for me to find a game that hits on mechanics, theme, and art. Tussie-Mussie did.

Tussie-Mussie creates more thoughtful decisions with its "I cut, you choose" style and 18 cards than some full-blown tabletop games with five-square-foot player boards and 108 miniatures. It does one thing (card drafting) but does it in a way that creates a light, enjoyable stress for both the cutter and chooser. It is a very good game mechanically.

Tussie-Mussie is a really good-looking game. The art exudes this Victorian feel that enhances the thematically elements of the game. It is a very good game artistically and thematically.

The biggest recommendation I can give any game is a desire to play it after the review is over, and I can say that Tussie-Mussie is going to be a staple in my travel-friendly-games lineup for a long time.

Players Who Like: Button Shy Games, Arboretum, Herbaceous, Animals On Board.

Check out Tussie-Mussie on:
https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/257614/tussie-mussie   https://buttonshygames.com/   https://www.facebook.com/buttonshygames/   https://twitter.com/buttonshy     https://www.instagram.com/buttonshy/?hl=en   https://www.youtube.com/user/jtatooine

On KICKSTARTER now. Campaign ends June 8, 2019

Nick Shipley - Reviewer

Nick is a compliance consultant by day, a board gamer at night, and a husband and father always. When he is not bringing a game to the table, he is running (most often to or from his kids) or watching the New York Yankees. Nick lives in Oklahoma.

See Nick's reviews HERE.
Tussie-Mussie Kickstarter Preview Tussie-Mussie Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by Nick Shipley on May 29, 2019 Rating: 5

1 comment

  1. Thank you for this great review, and for the entertaining background on what a Tussie-Mussie is! It's refreshing to read a post that's accessible for both new and experienced gamers alike. I ordered the game on Kickstarter and am looking forward to playing even more now that I know the background of the game! :)



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