James Ernest


It all started with my normal paper round. Next thing I knew I was 20,000ft in the air.

First published: 1998

Publishers: Cheapass, Paizo, Portal, Titanic

Players: 4-8

Length: 5 minutes

luck takethatshort bargain

“Everyone is falling. And fighting. The object is to hit the ground last. It’s not much of a goal. But it’s all you could think of on the way down.”

Right, so now that you’ve all purchased the game, I’ll talk a bit about what you’ve just bought.

Falling is a card game by James Ernest, best known for Cheapass, a publishing company best known for low budget games, black and white everywhere and for requiring you to find your own dice and counters. They’ve also made a load of their games free to print which is rather nice of them.

Anyway, their biggest strength in my opinion is their approach to theme and game “plots”. Check out “Devil Bunny Needs a Ham” and “Huzzah!” for example. Aside from Devil Bunny, Falling has the best theme. It is also the best Cheapass game I’ve played (whoops, kinda given the review away already. Curses). That being said, it is NOT a game for every one, but surprisingly in the many games I’ve played with different groups of people, feedback and enjoyment has been surprisingly high.


Still, at least you’ll be ruining that little old lady’s day too….

Falling comes in a small, single deck of cards sized box. That’s because all it consists of is 54 cards. They’re not particularly attractive but they are full colour and are of a decent thickness, which is good as the game is all about dealing and moving cards around between players SIMULTANEOUSLY. Yeah, Falling is not played in turns, rather every one is taking their turns at once. Let me explain.

One player is not actually a player, they are the dealer. The dealer needs to have a strong grasp of the rules and has to be able to let the game flow, announce any mistakes and/or ignore little errors for the greater good and fun of the game. The dealer deals a card to each player in turn (people need to be sitting in a circle for this) at whatever pace they feel is best suited to the ability of the players. The dealer keeps dealing around and around the circle. If they get to a player with a card laid in front of them, the dealer carries out the action on the card and then discards the card to the middle of the table, continuing on to the next player.

As the dealer is dealing out cards, the players are reacting to the cards dealt to them. The cards are left in a face up pile in front of them and they can use the top card in a number of ways depending on the card. For example, if the card is a “Hit”, they can play it in front of another player so that they get dealt an extra card next turn. If it is a “Skip”, they can play it so that they (or another player) is skipped on their next turn. If it’s a “Grab”, they can grab a Skip from someone else and a “Push” allows them to push a bad card from in front of them onto someone else. There are other cards but that should give you an idea of play.

The cards at the bottom of the deck are always the ground cards. If a player has been fortunate or smart enough to keep a hold of Skip and Stop cards, they can delay the inevitable for a round or two, but eventually all but one player will be dealt a Ground card (meaning that they’ve splatted into the ground). The last player to be dealt a Ground card is the winner. Bravo.

So, that took you a few minutes to play, follow it up with a celebration from the winner, some laughter, some looks of confusion, someone saying “I don’t get this” and someone else saying “ahhhh, I think I understand now” and repeat 10-15 more times (if your friends are anything like mine). Eventually the people who don’t “get” it will understand and will win a round or two.


Extra hit?! That means two cards for each of my two piles!

Falling is stupid. However it’s also amusing, fun and fast. You WILL make mistakes and the rules will be wilfully and accidentally broken. It’s also very dependant on the luck of the draw, which would be a disaster except that the game takes the same length of time as dealing a deck of cards. Pleasingly, even if things are going badly for you, you can be screwing over your fellow players as there is plenty of scope for “take that” moves, revenge and targeting others who keep winning.

As I mentioned earlier, this game certainly isn’t for everyone. Some people just won’t get it and some won’t see strategy to it. It will annoy others. Some folk also don’t enjoy luck-fests even if they are just a few minutes long. Also, from the many games I’ve presided over as dealer, getting dealt extra cards early on is not a problem and so a winning strategy (as much as there is one) is not as three dimensional as the designer would want you to think. Even so, it’s a fun, quick game and you’ll find yourself playing at least a few hands in a session.



  • Games are extremely short
  • Very portable and good for a big group
  • Fun, entertaining and stupid (in a good way)


  • Gameplay won’t be to everyone’s taste
  • Games depend a lot on the dealer



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