Monday, April 21, 2008

[Feature] Board Games Are Anything But Boring

My friends and I, we play a lot of board games. Now this may sound sad, but really it's a great, affordable, way to meet up and hang out with friends.
A good party board game will get everyone involved and laughing. Nowadays, board games are not just for kids and rainy days.

Of course, not all games are created equal.
So to help you weave through the crap and find some really fun group board games, here's my list of worst and best party board games....

7. Dirty Minds
This game was seemingly perfect for our group of friends, because, well, we're all pretty crass.
The way it works is you are given three clues that are intentionally misleading and easily seen as perverted, but the clues lead to an answer that is positively tame. The point of the game is to answer the clues correctly and collect cards to win.

Why it's good:
The clues really are hilarious.
Here's a sample:
1. I throb when I'm excited
2. A massage brings me to life
3. Pumping is my business
Answer: a heart.

1. I'm a four letter word
2. I'm a name for a woman
3. I end in u-n-t."
Answer: aunt.

Very funny indeed.

Why it's bad:
The clues come in a booklet that you can easily peruse. This means that after a single game, everyone has pretty much heard or read through most of the clues. There is zero replayibility. It's fun once and only once
Verdict:
If someone unwittingly bought it (sorry Steve :x), play it, but never waste your hard earned money on it.



6. Loaded Questions
This is an ideal ice breaker game because the questions and answers involve the players. The game goes around with a player asking a question ("If you could rid the earth of 3 creatures, which 3 would you dispose of?") and the rest of the players answer the question on a separate sheet of paper. Someone reads all the answers and the player who asked the question has to guess who said which answer. The more you get right, the further you move along the board.

Why it's good:
Like I said, it's a fun ice breaker. You get to learn new, trivial things about your friends. What's more, it's fun to write ridiculous answers or inside-jokes. The fact that the game focuses on the players makes it unique.

Why it's bad:
Some of the questions are lame. Take for example this question: "On a scale of 1-10, how hard of a worker are you?" First of all, that's a pretty boring question. Second of all, it's hard for you to guess which of your friends wrote 6 and which wrote 7. The game is more fun if you just choose a good question (instead of reading the one the game tells you to).

Also, do not try to play with more than 5 people. With more people, it gets harder to guess and the game moves slower.

Verdict:
Fun once in a while, but not really worth the purchase.


5. Cranium
This is a classic party board game. Think real-life Mario Party. You make up to 4 teams, and you play different mini-games, varying from pictionary, to charades, to spelling backwards, to answering trivia questions in attempts to get to the end of the board.

Why it's good:
Cranium is great for big groups. Everyone in the team can participate in the different mini games. The fact that different skills are needed allows everyone to be good at something. And overall, the game is just plain fun.
Why it's bad:
I think the biggest problem with this game is it sometimes is too long. If you try play Cranium to the end, expect to go on for 1 or 2 hours.

Another problem with the game is its "Humdingers" game (humming a song). Unless you're 30+ and white, you're not going to know a lot of the music clues given.

Also, the clay that comes with the game can become pretty useless pretty quickly unless properly maintained.

Verdict:
A good game to have, even if you only break it out once a year.



4. Scattergories
Scattergories is much more of a thinking person's game. You are given a list with 12 categories ("Things you find in a medicine cabinet", "Authors", "Fictional Characters", etc.) and then you roll a die that has letters on it. Whatever letter is rolled, you have to try your best to think of something for each category with that letter. After your allotted time is up, you read your answers. If your answer makes sense you get a point. If someone writes the same answer down, however, neither of you get a point.

Why it's good:
Scattergories lets you use your brain and be creative, which is a nice change of pace since most games focus on chance. The fact that there are 16 different lists and 20 letters means that replayibilty is pretty high. Also, special rules such as using alliteration (for example, Roger Rabbit for fictional characters would give you 2 points) make the game more challenging.

Why it's bad:
The only real problem is that it isn't exactly a high-energy game because you stay quiet for a good portion of the game. It's fun, but it's not something you break out to keep everyone laughing and talking.

Verdict:
A great game overall. Not the most exciting party game, but a fun one none the less. Definitely worth the purchase.



3. Pop 5
Think of it as a quicker, simpler version of Cranium. Pop 5 is made by the same people, but the game focuses on pop culture. A player picks a card and has to choose 1 of 5 different ways to get their team to answer correctly. The twist is that each method is worth different amount of points; so the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward.

Why it's good:
Pop 5 seems to address a lot of problems that I had with Cranium. The game is a lot more fast paced -- no board, just the mini games, and since it focuses on pop culture, the clues are accessible to more people. All of this while keeping the varied gameplay and excitement of Cranium.
Why it's bad:
If you play too much and too often, you can get through the list of clues they give you pretty quickly. So unless you start making your own clues up, you can run into replayability issues in the future.

Verdict:
A fun, quick party game. Very fun and worth buying.



2. Apples to Apples
Apples to Apples epitomizes the idea of "simple party game." Basically, the game is a huge stack of green and red cards with different words on it (anything from "Michael Jordan", to "Dirt", or "The 60's" can be found on a card). A player picks up a green card, read it aloud, and everyone else scrambles to find a red card in their hand that best matches the green one. The first player reads each one and decides who the winner is. The green card player rotates and the point of the game is to get the most points.
Why it's good:
As I mentioned, it is very simple. There is nothing you really need to teach anyone. The sheer card selection and the variations of the game make it very replayable. The best part of the game is trying to convince the judge to choose your card over someone else's.

Why it's bad:
Since players are the judges, sometimes they don't make the best choices. It's part of the game, but if your perfect card gets snuffed, it can cause an uproar.

Verdict:
Simple and fun with big groups. Buy it.



1. Taboo
This is an old school party board game. You have to get your team to name common words written on a card. The catch is you can't say certain words. So if your word is "diamond", you have to figure out how to describe it without saying "baseball", "ring", "carats", "jewel" or "engagement". If you're good, you can go through 5 or more words before your time is up. If you're bad, you can end up with negative points.

Why it's good:
The game is fast-paced and requires a lot of quick thinking. It gets everyone involved because your team wants to guess as fast as possible, while the opposing team is listening carefully in hopes that you mess up. The combination of skill, luck, and teamwork make it, in my opinion, the best party game around.
Why it's bad:
There is a learning curve when it comes to Taboo -- it's not a game you just pick up and can play. Hopefully, everyone you play with has already played before or can pick it up quickly.

Also, since it relies on a word list, you inevitably repeat clues, making it not the most replayable game ever.

Verdict:
Despite its flaws, it's probably the best party game you can play. If you don't already own it, you should go pick it up now.

8 comments:

Mike said...

i love board games! there's a bar around brooklyn that has a bunch of old, beat up board games.

Julia Park said...

Board games are cool! Like us! :D

And how dare you not mention the most sacred board game of all .. SHAME!

We're cool!

Anonymous said...

board games are friggen amazing

Howard said...

As Julia mentioned, you, ahem, missed one.

Anonymous said...

Was the list only from the board games we played? Even so, you missed alot. Risk, Catan, C-Town, Monopoly, Scrabble, . . . . is there more? Unless you were picking more interactive boardgames?

-Sang

Yuri Kim said...

Yes, the focus was on board games you would play with a large group.. Risk doesn't exactly scream out "party", nor does monopoly :x

Anonymous said...

i LOVE Quelf for a party game - think Cranium with out hummng and clay... but way more outrageous!
Also ticket to ride and Catan for strategy games.

Super fun is the original Munchkin if you buy all the expansions - it can work for a really large group!

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