Side Effects Card Game Review (Pillbox Games)

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Have you ever been trapped in a cycle of pharmaceuticals? Take medication for anxiety, and it causes depression. Take medication for depression, and it causes suicidal thoughts. Take some medication for your suicidal thoughts, and suddenly you're back at anxiety. Side Effects is a casual take that card game with a simple premise: try your best to solve all of your disorders at once, before anyone else does.

Side Effects Card Game Details

Players: 2 to 8

Game Time: 30 Minutes

Age: 14+

Genre: Take That / Set Collection

How Is Side Effects Played?

Every player begins with a number of disorders in front of them -- each player has the same amount of disorders, but it varies depending on the amount of people playing. Players also have a hand full of cards that they can play on those disorders. Players can put medications on the relevant disorders to treat them, but this opens them up to additional disorders.

Side Effects
Art is one of the major selling points of the game.

Once a medication has been played to treat a disorder, another player can place a disorder on you -- as long as you don't already have that disorder in front of you. Your ultimate goal is to treat or get rid of all of the disorders in your set. 

On each turn, a player takes two cards and is able to play two cards. Players must also discard down to four at the end of their turn.

There are only five types of card in the deck:

  • Disorders, which can be played on other players if they have the appropriate side effect.
  • Medications, which can be played on untreated disorders.
  • Episodes, which trigger special abilities against individuals who have untreated disorders.
  • Therapy, which can be used to remove disorders entirely.
  • Misdiagnosis cards, which let you swap one disorder for another.

Side Effects plays quite fast, with players racing to resolve their disorders and cause other disorders. It also sounds hilarious when people are playing it.

A Solid Theme With Simple Mechanics

Side Effects is a very balanced and calculated game: it has to be, because it's incredibly simple. There are eight disorders which are treated with eight medications. Each medication opens an individual up to other disorders. Some disorders can be treated with therapy (depression), others can't (tremors). Some disorders can only be treated by therapy (eating disorder). Everything in this game fits quite well, and it can be fun assembling a sequence of disorders in front of you.

Side Effects
The game is nicely balanced but also fairly simple.

Of course, its simplicity also works against it; the game gets repetitive fast. This is alleviated by the heavy social elements of the game: it's possible to barter with others and make deals throughout the game, and you don't necessarily need to uphold those deals. That also makes it a good casual game, introductory game, or filler game. 

Finally, as an aggressive take that game, it's also a game that has to be played with the right crowd. Players are going to be sabotaging each other left and right, and there's nothing you can do to prevent them from doing so (there aren't any "no" cards that you can use to stop them). All you can do is plot your revenge, which can be frustrating to some; there's no way strategically you can protect yourself.

Side Effects
Few games have this strong of a theme. 

Side Effects Card Game Details
  • PRO: A heavily-themed, attractive game that is heavy on social interaction and works perfectly as filler. 
  • CON: Aggressive take-that elements may not be for every group.