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Dexterity Game Review – Oss

ossThere’s a game I used to play when I was a young boy. It was called Jacks, and to play this game, you bounced a rubber ball and then picked up little metal widgets with your other hand, then caught the ball. There were rules, too, as I remember, but I don’t know what they are because every time I got a set of jacks, it would take five minutes before the ball went under the bed and the widgets wound up in the laundry so that they could destroy the washing machine, except for the ones that were used to block up the beach at Normandy when my toy American soldiers were rushing my toy German soldiers. Jacks was simply not violent enough to hold my attention, and so was quickly forgotten.

Apparently, not everyone has forgotten Jacks. The creators of Oss must have been world champions at Jacks, and decided to make it even harder. For my uncoordinated halfwit younger self, Jacks was hard enough to piss me off without any modifications being required. The guys who made Oss must have been supernaturally gifted.

Oss uses jacks, but instead of being shaped so as to causes the maximum amount of damage to your father’s foot when you leave them in the hallway after playing in the bathroom (for no reason other than you were hiding from your brother), the jacks in Oss are shaped like foam peanut worms. You know, those pink packing nuggets? They kind of look like that, but they are made out of very hard plastic, and they’re different colors. And there’s no ball.

I may have lost some of you. Come back. Don’t wander off. This gets better, because unlike Jacks, where you’re bouncing and catching and doing it again, Oss does a whole bunch more. Instead of just taking turns trying to pick up the most odd-shaped doodads, you have to do tricks. And compete for the easiest tricks. And go head-to-head in tricky contests. And laugh your ass off when your friend tries to balance a stack of these knucklebone jacks on one hand and then chuck them and catch them with the other hand, but can’t manage to do much more than just throw them at everyone else.

We had a blast. We threw jacks over cards. We flicked jacks between goal posts. And to show me why we liked Oss as adults when I was bored by Jacks as a kid, we managed to pelt each other with those heavy plastic finger bones… mostly by accident. We also spent a lot of time crawling around on the floor, going, ‘that damned green one is the exact same shade as this carpet!’

There’s actually some tactical positioning, bluffing and planning that goes into playing Oss, and that also helps it to hold my interest. Every turn, there will be different tricks available. Some will be easy, like just picking up a jack while the other one is in the air. Some will be tricky, like chucking the jacks over your left hand before catching the original jack with your right. And most every turn, one will be a duel. You’ll use your cards to choose the trick you think you can do, but there are a few considerations – the number on your card is your score if you succeed, but you have to do the trick that many times to get a score at all. If someone else wants to keep you from taking the easy one, they can play their card on top of yours, and then the two of you have to have a face-off.

Once you get through the individual tricks, and then the duel where two players compete to steal jacks from each other, you have the challenge, and that will determine who goes first and decides ties for next turn. These challenges are even more wacky than the tricks you have to do, like build towers out of these unevenly shaped pieces of plastic, or play Musical Jacks, or shoot their jacks toward a center card (and probably end up putting it in someone’s eye instead).

So Oss is a weird game. It’s Jacks for grown-ups. I would say it’s for kids, too, but I wouldn’t do that if I were you, because your children have vastly superior hand-eye coordination and will absolutely destroy you. You will have to rely on old age and experience to whip them, and even then, you will probably have to cheat. Also, don’t play Oss in the kitchen or you will lose them under the refrigerator. Crowded bars are also not a good place to play this game.

Oss doesn’t look like a lot of game. I almost turned it down, because I sucked at Jacks when I was a kid and was irritated with it until I repurposed the pieces to be cannonballs and tank traps. But Oss is a hell of a lot of fun, and you don’t have to be good at it to enjoy it. You can enjoy watching your friends – especially the cool ones who have lip rings and insanely well-manicured haircuts – balance jacks on the backs of their hands and look like dorks, then do touchdown dances when they actually catch something.

Summary

Pros:
Bright, colorful, durable pieces
Excellent dexterity game with tons of replay
Actual tactics and strategy in a game about catching things

Cons:
The rules are not translated particularly well

If you want to pick up a copy of Oss, you can get it right from the publisher:

JACK TO THE EYE

2 Responses to “Dexterity Game Review – Oss”

  1. Chris Schenck says:

    Well that sounds fantastic. I’m a sucker for dexterity games, so this one seems like a no-brainer for me. Thanks for the info!

  2. Thanks a lot for this hilarious review :) Just to mention that we posted on BGG a FAQ that should help to understand even easier the simple rules of the game !

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