As a disclaimer, this game contains images provocative in nature. Parents should be aware, and view the art themselves before deciding whether or not to play with their kids.
Well, I have been trying to decide how to begin this review and I figured I would start with the obvious. Dynamite Nurse has art that is considered to be fan pleasing. This is a common practice in Japanese Anime where the art is more on the risque side? Considering there is a large male audience, artists draw the female characters in a way they figure will attract the male attention. Being a married man, I struggled with whether or not I would review this game. I decided to first read the rules, and then make my decision. After I read the manual, I was so intrigued by the mechanics that I had to play. I played with my wife, she also loved the game, and has since censored our personal copy to make the cards more to our liking. I guess that is just our personal preference.
Dynamite Nurse is a deck builder from Japanime and Arclight games, for 3-5 players. Players take on the role of nurses working in a hospital in a fantasy world. In this fantasy world, all of your patients are adventurers who have been injured or otherwise afflicted during their travels. Of course all of the nurses are scantily dressed women who I would never let care for my loved ones in real life, but I guess considering all of the patients are dressed in a similar fashion, they don’t seem to mind. Also, all of the patients are women too. I guess in this world, the men are at home baking bread and caring for the kids? How progressive!
The game starts as a basic deck builder, where players all start with the same deck of cards, and can purchase cards to build a custom deck they think will help win them the game. This is really the only standard deck building part of the game though. The rest of the game gets really interesting.
Each player has their own hospital with 2 beds. Each turn, a new patient is added to transport, and this symbolizes the patient in route to the hospital. Whoever’s turn it is is able to decided who will eventually have to admit that patient to their hospital by taking that players colored token and placing it on the card. The player to receive the patient can admit them to their hospital on their turn, but is not required to do so. With only 2 beds, it is often a juggling act between patients you are trying to treat in your hospital and patients in route to your hospital. If you leave a patient in transport for too long, or overfill your hospital with more than 2 patients, your patients will deteriorate to critical condition and can eventually die!
On a players turn they can play cards to treat patients, buy new cards, and then transport new patients, decide who will need to admit them, and then admit their own patients if able.
In this fantasy world, with such tiny hospitals, unfortunately the death of patients is inevitable. When a patient in your hospital, or in route to your hospital, dies, you receive a death mark card (which gives negative points at the end of the game) and the “Dynamite Nurse” card. The Dynamite Nurse card acts almost like an old maid card. Whoever has the most death mark cards takes the dynamite nurse card, which gives even more negative points at the end of the game. The Dynamite Nurse card also gives certain advantages during gameplay, so there is some strategic advantage to letting your patients kick the bucket.
“Should I admit this patient and risk my other patients going into critical condition? Or should I leave them to die in transport?” The difficult decisions feel very “Grey’s Anatomy”. Surprisingly though, these hospitals are filled with even more unrealistically attractive people then that show. Never thought that was possible.
The game plays on until too many patients die, or all of the patients are treated. Each treated patient, and some earned cards, give the players Victory Points, and whoever has the most points wins the game.
Lets look at some of the highlights and lowlights of the game
Theme: I love the hospital / nursing theme. I think it makes sense with the mechanics, and the game flow benefits from it.
Transport / Admit mechanic: I absolutely adore this mechanic. I like how the current player is able to determine who will need to admit the newest patient in transport. You better believe we have swamped certain players during some games, and given them all of the in coming patients. Its a great way to get rid of the Dynamite Nurse card! (And a good way to pick on your friends!)
Minimized number of cards: If you have even played a deck builder you know what I mean when I say “Cards for weeks!” Deck builders usually have tons of cards and you only use certain cards during certain games, depending on what kind of a game you want. In Dynamite Nurse, you use all of the cards every game. I think this helps players build strategy ideas as they play the game multiple times.
Fun: I have fun every time I play this game. If you have read my other reviews you know I am not a fan of deck builders. I have given mediocre reviews to others deck builders. I love this game. It is not a traditional deck builders, but uses the best parts of the deck builder mechanic. My friends have requested this game on multiple occasions.
Art: Depending on your particular preference you may enjoy the scandalous art, but as for me, I feel it is a distraction from a great game. I understand trying to appeal to a target audience, but I feel it is best to do so without completely turning away other potential buyers.
Terminology: Although the rule manual, as a whole, is actually fairly well written, some of the terminology is confusing. For example, we as the players are referred to as nurses, but then we are also referred to as doctors? When players use cards they are considered “discarded” but on some cards is tells you to “waste” the card, which also means discard and should just say “discard”.
Lack of 2 player: I wish there was a way to play with 2 players.
I am so impressed with Dynamite Nurse. I have found the game to be easy to explain, easy to play, and a ton of fun. Players are constantly juggling patients and trying to treat as many as they can while sabotaging the other players. Everyone I have played with has enjoyed the game.
I highly recommend this game, and can say that it will be a frequent addition to game nights in my home. This is by far the best deck builder I have ever played and I don’t see another coming close any time soon.
My only reservation in totally recommending this game to all is the controversy with the art. If you feel that risqué art is not appropriate for your home, and you are unwilling to settle for censoring the cards, this game is not for you. If you don’t mind the art, or don’t mind taking a sharpie to your cards (that was our fix), then I highly recommend this game. If you skip it, you are missing out.
Play on boys are girls.