Friday, August 7, 2015

Holy draw four, play all! It's BATMAN Fluxx!

The venerable Fluxx, the brightest star in Looney Labs' constellation of games, has been around since way back in 1996, at at last count there are over 15 versions and variants out there.  The latest, released today, is Batman Fluxx, adding a new theme featuring one of the icons of the American mythos.

The players I tested out the game with were excited to see it's based on a fondly remembered animated TV show version of the Batman universe, and the game adds some interesting new ideas to the classic chaotic Fluxx mechanism.  For those who haven't played before - it works like this.  Each player starts with a hand of three cards, and the game starts with the Basic Rules: Draw one, play one. Do what the rules say, but over time people play new rules and change the existing rules.  This keeps things interesting and possibly confusing - but you can always just check what the rules cards say, they are on the table for all to see. The object is to play Keepers in front of you when the Goal is favorable to your Keepers. But there are also Creepers in the deck - which will usually prevent you from winning.

Some of the new ideas in the game include:
  • Creepers now prevent anyone from winning, not just the person who they are in front of. Thematically, all players are working together to rid Gotham of crime.
  • a pair of handcuffs that allow you to take one villain out of play
  • Some keepers provide game benefits for the player who played them
  • and more!
It's impressive that Looney Labs has been able to keep the Fluxx concept this fresh and multivaried after all these years.  I encourage you to pick up Batman Fluxx - my friends did!

Learn more and purchase the game at:

Friday, July 24, 2015

It's Party Time - a game of dexterity and daring

Party Time, a game by Chrissy Atherholt, is one of my favorite types of games - a social game where the players bring the funny.  Some games, such as Cards Against Humanity, have all the humor pre-written on the cards and your mission is simply to combine them.  Once you've seen them all, the game is less fun - that's why CAH has more than half a dozen expansions.  You could go bankrupt collecting them all. Party Time, like Say Anything or Truth Be Told, has players provide the content every time - so the game is as funny as you are, and the possibilities are nearly infinite.

The rules and components are simple.  The game is a large box with sixteen compartments and sixteen dry-erase discs, with a few dry-erase markers provided.  Simply write down funny activities, ridiculous rules and such on the discs, place the discs face down in the box (one to a compartment), and you're ready to play.

If in high school or college you ever tried games like beer pong, quarters, or flipcup you know the basic premise of the dexterity aspect of the game.  Bounce the provided table tennis ball into one of the sixteen compartments to get a challenge. (The box has some suggested ideas you can take inspiration from - Draw a moustache on the player to your right, speak a fake language until your next turn, take a shot of BBQ sauce, etc etc).  It's OK to look into the box to see which compartments still have discs in them, so you know what to shoot for.  The object is to have the most discs at the end of the game - but really, the object is to have fun and be silly with friends.  As with any good party game, whoever had the most fun is the real winner, right?

The game is intended as a drinking game, but states up front that drinking is not necessary (but recommended.)  Because I sometimes play games with non-drinkers, I tried it both ways and liked it equally well.  But I am a silly and pretty uninhibited person by nature.  Your mileage may vary.

My players enjoyed the game and were pleased to play again, and though the version I played is a prototype, I thought it was well constructed.  The finished version will no doubt be even nicer.

I like the combination of dexterity and silliness that the game provides... and I love that it's possible to hit one of the discs YOU wrote and have to do the terrible thing you thought up.

Skill levels will vary widely.  In my games, I made a house rule that you could get one re-try if you missed the box altogether.

Party Time is a frolicsome social game that greatly improves on brainless challenges like "Quarters." Highly recommended if you've got the right group for it.  The game is heading to Kickstarter in the fall of 2015 - for updates, follow me on Twitter.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Utter Nonsense

Accents are one of those things that have been intrinsically funny forever.  In doing a funny accent, we are simultaneously poking fun at, and celebrating, the culture of origin. The French are a much-loved target - think of Peter Sellers' character Clouseau, or the French knights in Monthy Python and the Holy Grail.  But almost any accent can be exaggerated and made funny.

Utter Nonsense is a card game in the vein of Cards Against Humanity, combining two disparate elements in a humorous way, and the person whose turn it is judges which combination is most amusing.  Here the two types of cards are 40 Accent Cards and 460 Phrase cards.  Each player gets a hand of seven Phrase cards and gets to choose the one most appropriate (or hilariously inappropriate) for the accent the Judge chose.

For me, Utter Nonsense generates more laughs than CAH because it involves a performance aspect - recalling seminal party game Curses.  The Phrases are edgy and funny but not outright horrible as in some CAH cards.  The fun comes from not only the card but from the incongruous combination of the cards and the person reading.  I find myself laughing hard pretty much the whole game. I like that the edgy humor is more understated than in CAH.  It's all fine and good to play a card that reads "Two midgets shitting into a bucket," but it's much funnier to see someone reading a phrase about sexting - in a Grandma voice.  Utter Nonsense gives everyone a chance to perform every turn, unlike CAH which has one person reading all the cards.  It's much more dynamic and inclusive to have everyone act each turn.

Players might be concerned that they "aren't good at accents" or can't do a particular accent. There's no need to worry - if you need a reminder about how a certain accent sounds, just let someone else go first.  As the game rolls along and people get warmed up, you'll find even more most reserved friends get into it if they let themselves.  The judge is supposed to award a point each time, but for my players the score didn't matter.  You might find it very hard to choose a best performance if you're in a group of very talented people.  As a variation, try giving multiple points out, or you could not bother with score at all. We also mixed things up by varying which direction the turns went in (clockwise or counter-clockwise from the judge).

Taking our turn as Nonsense Judge, we loved giving people an accent to do so much we let each judge choose from the accent deck.  One other variant could be to give each player three Accent cards at random and then on their turn let them choose which one to give everyone.

Utter Nonsense is a game that will not appeal to everyone, but it is exactly my kind of game.  I love the subtle pun in the title, I love how well-written the Phrases are, I love to see my friends doing hilarious accents.  If you like this kind of game, please pick it up. This is a game that deserves to be played by as many people as possible.

As a final note, I like how the accents in the game are regional or cultural, not racial.  They're all fun to do (some are challenging, some easy) and it's all in good fun.

You can find the game on or learn more at:

Friday, April 3, 2015


Wordariffic, by Gorilla Games, plays like "Speed Quiddler" with a dash of Snake Oil - players make words under time pressure, then "pitch" them to a different "Judge" each turn. (The pitching is not necessary if it's clear how your word relates to the theme of the turn. And the rules don't mention pitching, but to me it follows naturally, a la "Apples to Apples".) 

Each player gets 11 cards in their hand.  Before the timer starts, a die roll and a randomly drawn card determine what the "theme" for that turn will be. Each card has a letter on it and also a list of words starting with that letter - so the roll of a 10-sided die indicates which of the 10 words will be used.  As an example, one card with an "E" has the words 
  1. Error
  2. Escape
  3. Either
  4. Etch
  5. Euphemism
  6. Ever
  7. Equator
  8. Elevator
  9. Endow
  10. Envelope
One "O" card features:
  1. Once
  2. Occupy
  3. Ogre
  4. OK
  5. Oath
  6. Oops
  7. Owe
  8. Or
  9. Object
  10. Oblong
The speed and the theme word make the game unique and separate from games like Scrabble and Quiddler which give you lots of time to make a long word.  Here the real goal is to make a relevant word, so it fires up different parts of your brain.  One area of your brain is just stringing letters together, another is trying to tie those strings of letters to "oblong."

There's a modicum of strategy in this word game.  You need to play to your strengths - are you good at making really long words (regardless of the theme) or are you good at coming up with words that are so cleverly tied to the theme, that the Judge will find them irresistible?  Play to your Judge (it pays to know who you're making a word for.) You score 1 point for longest word and 3 points for getting chosen as "best" - most thematic/preferred by the Judge.  If you're REALLY good, create the longest word AND make it thematic, and you'll clean up with four points!  Players are awarded points in the form of small plastic chips.

I liked how the cards cleverly combine the letters (for building words) and the theme words (for determining what the theme will be each turn.)  The design is elegant.  I also like how up to eight people can play. This is good for the larger game nights.

Wordariffic is a fast and fun game of words, and will be enjoyed by players who like making words - and making their case!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Bad Decisions

Bad Decisions is a new game on Kickstarter (ending soon!), created by a mother and sons team called Diamond Dust Dreams.  This is their second game, the first being a game called "Kitsune: of Foxes & Fools."

The idea behind Bad Decisions is, each turn a judge (called the "Bard") draws a card which provides a framework for a story, then the other players choose cards from their hand to fill in the blanks, and the Bard picks the story he or she likes best.  It plays very much like a mashup of a PG-13 version of Cards Against Humanity combined with Mad Libs.  Here's an example of a Story card:

Today we find (fool) involved in (crisis)  Find out who (bad decision) and why, after the break.

Each player has five of each of the three other card types in hand.  How would you play  this one if you had these cards?:

fool cards:
a bickering, opinionated lawmaker
that raging comic book nerd
your least favorite person
a playboy Arab prince
an enraged naked woman

crisis cards:
not getting the best seat at the movies
a burglar attempting to sell stolen items back to her victims
the return of Halley's comet
hearing a dissenting opinion
pet feces on a child's grave

bad decision cards:
leapt into the tiger pit
promised to lead a military coup
spanked a bear
confiscated a doll's miniature toy gun
literally chased an ambulance

You might present the following:

Today we find (an enraged naked woman) involved in (not getting the best seat at the movies)  Find out who (spanked a bear) and why, after the break.

As you can see, the cards range from the innocuous to the inane to the outrageous to the disturbing.  You can make the cards go together well or go for random crazy combinations.  In the example above, the woman is enraged because she didn't get a good seat, and the nudity becomes a bizarre side note.  

The standard game calls for the Bard to collect all the combos and read each one, but I liked the variant in which each player performs (reads out loud) the story they created, acting like a TV news personality.  If necessary, perhaps one could tweak the language just a bit to make it flow better.  I'd read mine like this:

Tonight on News 5!  An enraged naked woman left out in the cold! She didn't get the best seat at  the movies.  Find out who spanked a bear - and why - after the break!

For added fun, add a random set of cards and see what happens, as in the CAH variant.

Bad Decisions is a worthy successor in the line of "everybody submits cards and the judge chooses" games.  I advise you to check it out on Kickstarter.  Film at eleven!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Go Hunt: A children's game for playful adults

Take the childhood card game "Go Fish" and infuse it with a good amount of double-entendre silliness, and you have Go Hunt, a naughty little number that will have you giggling.

The game play is familiar - each player is dealt a hand of cards and must ask other players for cards of a certain type, in attempt to make pairs or four-sets (players decide ahead of time whether to play for sets of two or four.)  Memory will play an important role as the play passes around the circle and it's your turn to ask for cards.  Here's the kicker: instead of asking for "sevens" or "aces", you are asking for various types of animals, such as a deer with a magnificent set of antlers ("Claudia, would you show me your 'Nice Rack'?) or a rotund dachshund (Bob, do you have a 'Fat Weiner'?) I know it sounds ridiculously immature, but you have to experience this if you have a play group with adults with a relaxed or puckish sense of humor.  My friends who haven't played it yet will pick it up and start laughing just looking through the cards.

A couple of minor quibbles - as with any humor-based card game, once you've seen all the cards, the surprise aspect of the humor will be gone,  And some of the slang is a bit different from what I am familiar with, though it's easy to get the gist.  But with the right crowd, this game will shine.  It's ideal for any sort of singles or get-to-know you event with fun, easy-going folks.  As the images are of real animals (sometimes with cartoonish touches) and there's nothing R-rated in the imagery, it could, theoretically, be played by children, but it really shouldn't be.

The deck doubles as a standard deck of cards, so you can play any standard card game with it. You can learn more and purchase the game at

If I may make a request, I'd love to see some friends from the world of birds in the next printing - perhaps from the Sulidae family ("boobies") or the Paridae family ("tits").  Or perhaps some crustaceans ("Do you have Crabs?")  You get the picture.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Film Review: The Next Great American Game

The Next Great American Game is a new documentary film released last month by Douglas Morse (previously interviewed on this blog.)  The film tells the tale of Randall Hoyt, an aspiring game designer who has hit the game convention circuit with the dream of getting his game published.

The game, Turnpike, is a beautifully produced (Hoyt is a graphic designer by trade) effort that looks like a finished product, not a rough prototype.  But the mechanism is too random for gamer geeks and the theme is troublesome for some of the publishers he meets.  We all spend too much of our time in traffic already, they say - why would we want to spend our free time simulating that situation?

The film documents Hoyt's trial by fire as he plunges in without preparation - if he'd read the books about game design, he'd know it's a cardinal sin to present your game as the "Next" anything, or to say your friends and family all love it, etc.  These statements simply mark you as a newbie.  Yet Hoyt refers to his game as "The Next Great American Game" repeatedly, almost like a mantra.  Well-meaning - and sometimes blunt - game industry folks quickly set him straight.

The middle act of the film shows Hoyt first resisting, then taking some of the advice he's received.  He reveals his re-themed version of the game to Frank DiLorenzo, president of R&R games - the new version has a fantasy theme, where drivers are wizards wielding arcane magics to influence the cars on the road.  "Is THIS something your company would publish?" he asks. DiLorenzo is understandably noncommittal.  "We want to publish it if it's a 'Game You Want to Play'," he says, citing his company's tagline. In other words - the proof is in the playing.

Still, the change seems like one in the right direction, and shows Hoyt is on a development path.  Sticking to your original vision is fine, but as another industry expert Mike Gray notes, could mean you end up with a basement full of unsold games.

As one who's followed the industry for some time, and has worked on games as a hobby, I was fascinated by The Next Great American Game.  I found it to be more tightly plotted than Going Cardboard, the other documentary about the board game industry that came out a couple of years ago - here, the industry is more of a setting than a subject, and the film is tightly edited to focus on the one character.

I invite anyone who's interested in the process of designing and licensing board games to give this film a viewing.  It's the next great American boardgame documentary.  Learn more at

image provided by Douglas Morse
The intense Mr. Hoyt and his creation