Grand Slam Review
So, you want to play Tennis but don’t want to get sweaty or tired because of running back and forth the court to return services or even smashing? Someone told you to do some sports but you’re too lazy? This one is a solution for you, Tennis for lazy people some say. Grand Slam is a small card game about Tennis from Korea Board Games and designed by Ariel Seoane (the artist behind Ground Floor). It’s published recently (2014) and managed to hit Essen 2014. I managed to get a copy from Essen through my friend that was attending the event. It’s a pocket-sized game with mainly cards and tokens. The game, of course, is about tennis (obviously), which the game’s original title was “Love Means Nothing”, yeah I know, what a weird name for a Tennis game. So what’s about the title? Love means nothing derived from the word “love”, a term that commonly used in Tennis scoring to show blank score or zero or none. Now the phrase really shows the real meaning “Love means nothing”. If you only have love, you don’t score which is not good for you. Once you score, than your score is no longer “love”. Something like that.
The game comes in a pocket-sized box, easy to carry for travel purpose. It contains 4 decks of cards, 2 parts of court cards, 8 ball tokens and bi-lingual rulebook (English and Korean). The game can be played with 2 or 4 players. With 2 players, you have single game of Tennis, while with 4, you have double match, thus it’s a tag team game, 2 vs 2. Before the first game the ball tokens need to be punched from the cardboard, but I recommend not to throw the punched board, for it can be used to placed the ball tokens again for storage purpose. With the current box it’s impossible to sleeve the cards, the cards wouldn’t fit back into the box.
How To Play
Players will get a symmetrical deck of cards that they can play from their hands. First set up the court cards so it resembles a tennis court. Players sit on face to face where the court is and shuffle their own deck. While playing singles, draw 6 cards to form a player’s hand. Set aside the ball tokens to the side of the court. The first player will have to serve to start the game, draw a top card from his draw pile and place a ball token in the corresponding space of the opponent’s court. Now the opponent must receive the serve with cards from his hand by placing receiving and direction cards. The receiving card have to cover the space where the ball is. The direction card determines where the ball will be returned.
Players can also use Smashing when returning the ball, to do this, the player needs to play another direction card that has the same direction from the first direction card. When this happened, flip the ball to it’s back side (you can see the red-flaming ball, instead of the normal ball). To receive smashing, a player need to receive with two of the same receiving cards, and if he wants to return that smashing with smashing, he needs to play two of the same direction cards. In total, he play 4 cards in a single turn. After taking a turn, players will end their turn and draw cards into his hand up to a total of 6 cards.
If a player only has one card to receive an opponent’s smashing, he can play it but this will make him off-balance. While off-balance, the player cannot draw cards back to six at the end of his turn. Players also can make a diving receive if they don’t have a matching card to receive, they must discard a card from their hands and play the top card of the draw pile. If that card is matched with the ball, then the diving receive is a success. Players cannot draw more cards and cannot play smashing to return the ball (this rule is not available when playing double matches).
If a player cannot return the ball, then the opponent scores. Place a ball token to one of the slots as a score. The round is reset (players shuffle back their deck and start again with 6 cards) and player who receive the service in previous round make a service.
The first side who gains 4 points, win the game.
The double match has similar rules with few differences, in double match, players take turn to receive the ball and there is a deuce when the score is 3-3. Players cannot use diving receive move but can help their teammates to return the ball out of their turn. To do this, the active player must discard one card and the teammate can cover up as he’s the one to return the ball. The catch is, he doesn’t refill his hand back to 6 cards, but the active player does.
This way, when the next turn the teammate has to return the ball, his options are more limited than normal.
It’s a simple fun and quick card game, has a unique theme (not many games with tennis theme). It’s pretty much a straight forward take-that card game, players luck is heavily depends on what the cards they draw. But how you manage your cards as resources can have a bit of impact on your performance. Smashing is a good move, but if with smashing you limit your options to receive the ball next turn, it’s not wise to return the ball with smashing. Hand management also plays important role, along with memory. You need to know what cards have been out from your deck and what not. Playing with a fun group can make the game shines, but if you play seriously the game just wouldn’t work.
Playing double matches are hilariously fun and interesting, since the players interaction would also emerges among the teammates or even opponents.
The game does not have high replay value, since each game would likely be the same game over and over again, but considering this as a small pocket game, having this one in your pocket while traveling or waiting someone would be very handy.
*some images are credit to BGG users.