Full disclosure: I received a review copy of Squire for Hire from Letiman Games.
What is this game about?
Squire for Hire is a tile-laying microgame in which each player takes on the role of a squire maintaining an adventurer's inventory. This inventory, or "bag," is essentially a set of cards that players overlap strategically throughout the game. Each player gets a starting card for their "bag," and the rest form a deck of story cards, with the top two cards flipped over and placed to either side. (All of the cards are double-sided, with a story event on one side and a grid full of items on the other.) For each story card, players can choose to complete its requirements either by having enough of the right item type (weapon, magic, etc.) or by "paying" an item from their bag, i.e. covering it up with a new card. If they choose to fulfill a story card, the player will then get to choose one of two inventory cards as a reward and add it to their "bag." If a player cannot or doesn't want to meet the requirements of a story card, they are free to skip it, flipping it over into one of the inventory card piles as a potential reward for the following turn.
This simple game structure quickly becomes an enjoyable spatial puzzle as players hoard as many items as possible, keep an eye on their specific scoring bonuses, and attempt to cover up junk items that will subtract points from their final score. Some items grant bonuses when adjacent to each other, but partial overlaps aren't allowed—to place a card, one complete item on that card has to overlap a card that is already in your bag.
How does it play solo?
Solo players can work through the story deck on their own, and only need to meet a scoring threshold.
Squire for Hire is a charming game that is compact, quick to play, and enjoyable. If you're looking for a true microgame, I think that Squire for Hire fits the bill. Its footprint while in the box is so small you could slide it into a shirt pocket, and even on the table it only requires a small amount of space. The amount of time it takes to blaze through a game of Squire for Hire also makes it an ideal lunch break game.
In addition to its portability and speed, Squire for Hire is also an enjoyable game. The adorable animal art is delightful and makes the game more fun to play. And Squire for Hire is legitimately a fun spatial puzzle, with just enough choices to keep you engaged. I liked taking stock of my options each turn, choosing whether to fulfill the requirements of a story card, which reward to take, and what to prioritize when placing new cards in my bag.
However, Squire for Hire is not a perfect game. The ruleset as initially printed is all crammed onto the inside of the box, which on the one hand is brilliant—small footprint! But on the other, it ends up feeling like crucial information has been left out, especially for solo players. (Squire for Hire is being reprinted, and it looks like this issue will be fixed in the new edition.)
There are also some small pacing issues in the game, particularly if you draw too many unfortunate story cards in a row. If you have to keep passing on events that emerge from the deck, you aren't adding to your bag either to score more points or to prepare for story cards to come, a pattern that can leave you feeling a little stuck.
Overall, though, Squire for Hire is a charming microgame. It's not going to unseat Sprawlopolis or Orchard for me, but it's a welcome addition to my repertoire of small, quick games.
Do I recommend it?
If you love microgames, yes. Squire for Hire is quick, fun, and inexpensive—a pledge for the second core set was only $9.
Overall Rating: 3.5 stars
5 stars — I love it!
4 stars — I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's okay.
1 star — Meh..