Let’s Get This Party Started!
So. Six of your good friends are about to walk through the door, and all you’ve got is a plate full of Chex mix, five or six stale beers, and a half jar of salsa in the fridge. Pop quiz, hotshot – what do you do? No, they don’t all want to play Descent for 7 hours. Yes, some of them are girls. And, yes, all of them will be hungry and in need of a distraction before tearing your apartment asunder looking for leftover Doritos. Looks like it’s time to break out the party games. Lucky for you, Dice Hate Me has the lowdown on three of the latest to hit the shelves. Now put those skunky beers on ice and prepare to pick up what I’m putting down.
Train of Thought by Tasty Minstrel Games
Let me just get it out of the way: The box and graphic design for Train of Thought are almost worth the price of admission alone. But in the end, if I had to sum up Train of Thought with a single sentence, it would be as follows: Free association is best left to psychiatry.
In Train of Thought, players take turns being The Conductor. The Conductor draws a card from the Station Deck and rolls a die. The value on the die corresponds to one of six words on the first card. This is the Start Word. The Conductor then draws another card and looks at it, secretly, to find the Destination Word, indicated by the die value. Someone flips the timer and the Conductor is then off to the races – they must try to get the other players to guess their Destination Word by offering up 3-word clues; one of the words must include the Start Word. Once all players have offered one word as a clue, the Conductor is allowed to use one of their clues as part of the next 3-word clue. This process continues until the Destination Word has been guessed. The Conductor draws another Station Card, looks at it, and then uses the Destination Word of the last set to start the next 3-word clue set, trying to get players to guess their next Destination Word. This continues until the timer runs out. Both the Conductor and the players who correctly guessed Destination Words during the turn receive points. Play then passed to the next player, who becomes the Conductor. This goes on for 2 rounds, and the player with the highest score wins.
Sounds simple, right? In theory, it is. However, in practice, Train of Thought can easily be derailed by the vaguaries of human thought patterns – and interpretations of the rules. For instance, in the rulebook it states that “stating the required word and an unrelated 2-word clue is against the spirit of the game.” However, many of the players in our games argued that their totally random 2-word clue was totally related to the start word. In most games, I tended to stick closely to what I considered the “intended spirit” of the game; if I had “punch” as my Start Word, and “lyric” as my Destination Word, I would give the clues: Punch Me Baby, hoping that someone might recognize the hidden Brittney somewhere in there. Most players, however, would take the same set and give the clue: Punch, song, words. This did not necessarily lead any of them down the right path, but to me that was breaking the “spirit of the game.”
Instead of arguing on and on about what the spirit actually entailed, we just played and laughed and, generally, had a good time. I say generally because there are some players who just flat out don’t get it, no matter how many rounds go by, or how much practice they have. From our play experience, we came to the conclusion that this is pretty much a party game for those gamers who would rather play Le Havre than Life, and that the average game player may quickly find themselves on the other side of the gaming tracks.
Say Anything: Family Edition by North Star Games
The easiest way to describe Say Anything is to compare it to the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain: It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the scarring that may occur afterward is typically never foreseen. This can always be a good or bad thing, largely depending on whether you’re a runner or a bull.
Say Anything can be a no-holds-barred trip down the rabbit hole into each player’s twisted subconscious. Each round, the Judge draws a Question card and reads one of three questions on the card aloud. The other players – armed with a dry erase board and a pen – secretly write down an answer that they feel best exemplifies the Judge’s question. All answers are revealed and then the players place tokens on the answer they believe the Judge will choose as their favorite. The Judge marks the player with the answer they like most on their trusty SELECT-O-MATIC 6000 spinner board, and then reveals the correct answer. The chosen player scores points, as do the other players who chose that player’s answer in the betting round. Then play continues clockwise until 2 rounds have been played, or the wine runs out.
Here is a sample of questions from the Family Edition:
- What’s the best thing about living in the country?
- What’s the most confusing thing ever?
- I just wrote a book. What’s it called?
- What would be the weirdest secret to hear about my mother?
It’s obvious from the last sample question that this game can be far from family friendly in the right hands. I would definitely say that despite the fact that the box says “Family Edition,” never underestimate the power of six alcohol-infused adults to choose “Beans” as the favorite answer to the question “How does Santa get around so quickly?”
Time’s Up: Title Recall by R&R Games
There are a myriad of games out there that throw familiar concepts or mechanics together, slap a clever title on the box, and call it done. The Time’s Up family of party games from R&R Games doesn’t introduce much new under the sun, but the whole of its familiar parts is far more brilliantly hilarious than most other games’ sum.
The goal, like most other party games of its type, is to get a teammate or other player to guess the most words or phrases of some type within a specified amount of time. In the case of Time’s Up: Title Recall, all of the clues are titles to songs, movies, books or television series. The real trick of Time’s Up, however, is not in getting people to guess the title on the card in each round – the real trick lies in the increasing level of difficulty from round to round.
In the first round, players are able to say and act out just about anything, with other players or teammates able to guess multiple times. The second round, however, requires players to only say a single word, accompanied by gestures, with players or teammates only able to make one guess per clue. The hilariously impossible third round requires the clue-giver to only gesture completely without sound, and the guesser may, again, make only one guess. The good news is that the answers to the clues from the first round are used in the second and third rounds. The bad news is that it often doesn’t matter, because in the heated frenzy of Time’s Up, a totally obvious answer to John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” can easily turn into “Hell Dwarves” through the evolution of rounds.
Time’s Up: Title Recall is a great example of a group of simple game ideas expertly woven together into a tight, fun product. As I mentioned in much of my Origins coverage, the games we played of Time’s Up were hilarious and unforgettable. And any game that can not only stand out amongst the throng of excellent titles at a gaming convention, but also become an integral part of the cherished memories there, deserves special recognition.
A classic round of Time’s Up during Origins 2011 with David MacKenzie, Fred MacKenzie, Shawn Purtell, T.C. Petty III, Marc Specter, myself, and the gracious videographer and game designer, John Moller of Cartrunk Entertainment.
And no review of Time’s Up would be complete without the infamous “Brazil” clue from our last round of Time’s Up at Origins – featuring brothers Fred and David MacKenzie of Clever Mojo Games.
Train of Thought and Say Anything: Family Edition were provided as review copies by their respective publishers.
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