Review: Neighbors
Publisher: M&P Distributors
Year: unknown but 1998 is my guess based on a quick trademark search
Tagline: (none)

Neighbors cover

how we met

Neighbors is very much the kind of game I would purchase. It has poor to mediocre cover art, almost no BGG reviews and no information on the box. It is obscure and cumbersome and heavy. And it was $1.99.

how it plays

The cover of Neighbors shows a happy slob with a run-down home and an angry, bitter man with a well-kept home. The game is all about trying to be the best neighbor you can. Each player is given $500 as well as five SLOB cards to start the game – these represent negative traits to the state of your home and the vast majority include a number such as 10, 20, 30 or even as high as 50 or 100.

Angry neighbor and happy neighbor

Wait, which one is winning the game of life?

If a player collects as many as ten SLOB cards, they place them on their house and pick a SLUMRUNNER card which is worth 100 points (points are bad). The player then gets a new hand of five SLOB cards and play continues.

The round ends when one player runs out of all SLOB cards. When this happens, the player with the most SLOB cards adds up those points and pays the winner that dollar amount. Then a new round begins.

The idea of the game is to play multiple rounds until finally one player goes bankrupt. At that point the game ends and the player with the most money wins.

During play, pawns land on different spaces of the board that accomplish different things. Examples include:

1. Landing on their own home, the home of another player or an unoccupied home has different outcomes
2. CLEAN spaces can result in a positive outcome
3. SLOB spaces can result in a negative outcome
4. Lose turn
5. etc

Game board

The game board. Bonus: it’s gigantic

The game also includes a POTLUCK space, which is a cute name since it really is about luck. You may have to pay in, gain money or throw away SLOB cards, among other things.

Potluck space explaining die rolls

The potluck space definitely caused some reversals of fortune

Neighbors also includes some very special rules including NOSEY NEIGHBOR where if you quarterback the game you get five SLOB cards as punishment and ASSAULT CHARGE where if you pick up another pawn by accident you roll the die and pay that player 10x the amount that you rolled from your bankroll.

how it went

I made slight alterations to the rules we played in order to speed up bankruptcy for everyone in the event we played multiple rounds – namely having each player pay the bank their SLOB cards at the end of the round rather than having one player pay the round winner. It doesn’t matter much as we only played one round anyway.

For a roll and move game, the rules of Neighbors are overly complex. This is largely due to the fact that landing on any given square often requires you to roll a die, which then determines what actually happens. For example, if you land on a SLOB space you roll the die and if you roll the number of your own house then one thing happens, roll a different occupied house (another player) and another thing happens or roll an unoccupied house (no player) and still another thing happens. So even if the board seems to only have a handful of different spaces to land on, many of those spaces are multiplied by 3. I do not have the desire or skill to memorize this number of what-if’s so the box lid stayed in front of me for the entire game.

Paper money and pawns on game board

It has paper money so you know it’s a good game

Some of the cards seemed unbalanced, which is nit-picky to point out but was noted by nearly all of us. Presumably the higher the number the worse the offense, since the numbers count against you if you have the card when the round ends. Surely a dangerous broken window would outweigh beer cans thrown in your yard?

Sample SLOB cards

Sample SLOB cards – remember higher numbers are not good unless you can play them on your neighbors

I did enjoy the pawns. Each one is different, and they are just kind of bizarre.

It was very common for houses to be referenced, and you needed to know whether a house was occupied or unoccupied. That sounds simple, but for some reason I struggled with recalling which colors were taken and who was which color. My game group is not the brightest tool in the shed so we do not do things like always play the same color. Sometimes I feel orange, sometimes I feel green.

I think it would have been a nice touch for the designer to give each house a cutesy little name. Normally I am opposed to cutesy but anything to help my poor, dingbat mind remember something about which player I am (and the others are) would be very welcome. Green Gardens or Burgundy Bungalow or Mustard Manor or.. you get the idea.

Close up of pawns

The neighborly pawns

play or pass

Pass / run the other way. This is a Monopoly-esque roll and move complete with the free parking variant to cause you to pay in or get an influx of cash. Except all you own is a house of eye-sores unless you are lucky enough to ditch your cards.

This game was such a chore to play that I actually looked up the designer to try and learn more about his background. I didn’t learn much; all online reference to the game has virtually disappeared and even a few youtube videos where he appeared did not give me much info. Not about the game anyway. But I don’t think he even plays games. I don’t think a person that enjoys board games as a hobby would have ever designed a game this…ungamely.

The game designer did include a short note in the box on the genesis of Neighbors, how it was born out of his constantly having to deal with “sloppy and apathetic neighbors” and how his family suffered “numerous moves” to find a neighborhood more his speed. Yikes! The common denominator in those neighborhoods is clear.

I am going to hang onto the game for awhile yet. It might be a great foundation to make my own cards and house rules and turn it into a game perfect for our group.

FUN FACT: After writing this review I wanted to do a quick sanity check that this is indeed the worst game our group has played together thus far. I texted Keri to check. Initially she said neither her nor John remember playing it at all. Please note, reader, we played this as the first of three games during a long game night. But just last weekend. Then she immediately remembered and said oh yeah, but “it wasn’t even memorable in a bad way.” Then she said, “The way Wicker Man is memorable.” Need we say more?

FUN FACT: The Wicker Man is not a board game, at least not yet. But if you were ready to google it just to be sure then we could probably be friends.