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Card Game Review: ‘Mad Quao’

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Wiggity Bang, the makers of Quao, return to the mad bovine dictatoress and kick it up to 11 with Mad Quao, which is shipping to stores beginning this month.


Like Quao and its predecessor Mao, Mad Quao is a shedding-style game where players want to empty the cards out of their hands as quickly as possible. While Quao was largely about acting and player interaction, Mad Quao sticks more closely with the original numbered cards system of Mao, typically played with a normal 52-card deck. Alongside rules-obedience, Mad Quao brings in elements from another classic game, President, also known as “Pinhead,” “Kings,” “Scum,” and a pile of other names. The goal in these games is to establish the pecking order or, as it is called here, the Chain of QUAOmand.

The base mechanics of the game are straightforward. Players draw a hand of five cards. At each player’s turn, he or she plays a card equal to or greater than the number of the card at the top of the Played pile. The player then draws back up to five cards. When the Draw pile runs out, the first player out of cards becomes the Quao for the next round with bonus abilities. The next player out becomes the next highest ranking player, and on down to the Cheata’ at the bottom, who is immune to the madness of the Chain of QUAOmand, but not to the crazy rules.

What separates Mad Quao from a regular game of President is the integration of performance rules. Each round, the Quao plays a new Quao Rule that everyone else must follow. The rules are more precise than Quao and offer fill-in-the-blank commands such as “When Quao ___, you must too,” with suggestions such as “stands up” or “moos.” These are displayed rather than sussed out as in the inductive reasoning game of Mao, but they bring the tradition of hilarity to the game.

Players may also acquire Bully Rules that make life humorously more difficult, such as “You must not use your thumbs for any reason.” Whenever a player does not obey a rule, he or she must draw a card as punishment. Everyone below them on the Chain of QUAOmand does, too, unless they were the one to point out the need to draw, ratting out their fellow farm animals.

As the game continues, there are more and more rules for players to keep in mind. A handy video on Wiggity Bang’s website shows the gameplay and how convoluted it can get. It is more complicated and rules-intensive than Quao, which makes it ideal for players who like rules-layering, punishing others, and generally having a delightfully conniving time. The comical rules are great for those who like a good laugh, and always make for an entertaining round.

Mad Quao is a game for three to eight players aged teen and up. Because the game’s rules are flexible, players could go a single round for a 10-minute game, or they could keep playing until forever.


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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.