Monday, July 23, 2012

Review Roundup: Attack of the Wacky Games

"Curses!," by Brian Tinsman, was the first party game I found that uses the "Do a wacky thing when a certain other thing happens" play mechanic.  It was released ten years ago now, back in the halcyon days of 2002.  (I've mentioned Curses! before in this blog, in my piece about the game design process.)  Since that time, a few other companies have created games with a similar laugh vibe.  Since I loved Curses!, I was eager to try them out.  Here are my findings. The overall disclaimer for any game of this type is that it will be fun with the right crowd.  Do your groundwork and read the instructions before party time, serve adult beverages to any uptight friends who partake (and are of age), and approach the game with the right silly attitude and you're well on your way to a laughtastic time.

FURT, by Wiggity Bang Games (creators of QUELF)

Furt is a massive party game, it even comes with its own volcano (though, as the box disclaimer notes, "Not a real volcano.")  The object of Furt is to be the first player to race INTO the volcano.  Absurd, yes, but that's the point.  (And as you well know, party games are not about winning anyway, it's who laughed the most and had the most fun who won.)  Furt combines the following activities, which are activated by a 6-sided color die:

The volcano has spoken.  This one is simple, just move forward or back the specified number of spaces, as dictated by the all powerful (and sometimes bossy) volcano.

Straight-faced. Simple but very fun. This activity consists of looking at each other player in turn, and trying not to laugh (or even smile) as the players each say one or two "funny words" of their own devising.  I assume they can be either real funny words or made-up ones.  We played that you could make funny faces or otherwise act silly if you wanted.  This was really challenging for most people, which is good, it means more laughter.

Guess what?  This is simply getting other players to guess words on slips of paper pulled from the volcano.  The card tells you if you must ACT, DRAW or TALK (ie, like Charades, Pictionary or Password/Taboo.)

Truth or Fiction?  Make up a fact about yourself and other players shout out "Truth!" or "Fiction!".  Then reveal whether it was true or not, and move forward based on how many people you fooled.  Players who were right get to move forward one too.  This is like a quick version of "Two lies and a truth" and other bluffing games.

You Are?  In this challenge, the card gives you a job, like "Talk Show Host" or "TV News Anchor," and you must perform using that personality.

WHAT THE?!  When you roll blue on the die, you must draw a WHAT THE?! card and keep it secret, then play passes to the next player.  Before your turn comes around again, you must do the zany action specified on the card.  If you do it well, people won't know if you're doing what your card says or just being weird.  An interesting side effect of this card is another player can challenge you if he thinks you didn't do your card.  So you could do whatever you wanted (to make players think you did your card when you didn't) or you could be extra subtle (to make players think you didn't do your card when you did.)  In our game we got only a couple blue cards, one of them involved a player going into the kitchen for two packs of hamburger buns and holding them to the sides of another player's head and shouting "Bread earmuffs!"

In addition, there are HOT SPOT cards that are in play during the game.  When your playing piece is on a HOT SPOT, you must do as the hot spot card says (Talk like a pirate, salute players who say your name, etc, as in Curses!).

I had a lot of fun with FURT.  I like the funny box and instructions.  There is a warning at the bottom of the instructions:  "If you do not like to laugh or do not have a sense of humor, we suggest that you do not play FURT and instead go hide in a corner and weep.  (If you do not feel you can safely follow the instructions on any card, you may draw another card to play.)"  This sums up the attitude that anyone should use in approaching FURT, or any party game.  One final note:  There are a couple of Furt videos online that I don't feel really do the game justice.  Try it for yourself!


100 Wacky Things (you have to do while playing this game), by Patch Products

(Pictured: the author after he randomly acquired all four game props)
"100 Wacky Things" fine-tunes the Curses! concept and adds a fun twist - Props!  The game comes with four funny items that add to the fun:  A feather boa (for strutting about like a model), a microphone (for singing along with anyone who sings), a pair of joke glasses with eyeballs on springs, (for making a joke when anyone stands up - stand up comedy, get it?) and an elephant trunk nose (for making animal sounds.)

The game is simple and easy to explain: some of the cards are "Always" cards, which have wacky actions and sayings that you perform at the beginning of your turn.  These actions will trigger other people's "Whenever" actions, which will in turn trigger still more people's "Whenever" actions.  ("Always" cards are somewhat of a misnomer, since you don't follow them always, but rather only on your turn.)

One problem that Curses! has, that 100 Wacky Things solves, is player elimination.  In Curses!, players who break three curses are out and can no longer play.  This is a bummer, so in marathon Curses! games of days past, sometimes players' breaking of curses was overlooked, and the game went on until everyone was exhausted (this can be either good or bad, depending on how much you like the game.)  100 Wacky Things simply plays for a set number of rounds (decided at the start of the game by the players), then you add up the points on your cards in hand to see who won (of course, who won is largely immaterial.)  There is something innately funny about someone saying something that causes someone else to stand up and do something, that then starts someone singing (and the person who is holding the microphone starts singing along with them.)  This cascade effect is the heart of what is so fun and chaotic about Curses! and games like it.  I also like that the props move to another player once a player has been affected by them.  The game does a good job of keeping everyone involved, and it's possible to play successfully with a pretty large group of players, which is rare for a party game (we played with 11 people recently and had fun.)  One suggestion for the standup comedy prop (the player with the funny glasses must tell a joke when another player stands up) is to ask players to use quick, silly puns or knock-knock jokes (kid-style jokes), For example, "What kind of animal should you never play a card game with?  A CHEETAH!! ha ha haa!"    A joke with a long setup and story is going to slow down the game.

This game is good for families, because kids love to see adults acting silly.  It's recommended for players age 7 and up, but will create fun memories for both kids and kids at heart.  My players have requested repeat plays of 100 Wacky Things, which is always the best test of a game.

Chaos, by TDC Games

Chaos is a card game whose box states "A Simple Game That's Gone Insane!", which is apropos.  The heart of the game is Crazy 8's/Uno, and players must match the number or color of the last card played (the one on the top of the pile.)  The twist is that there are Rule Cards in play, one public one that everyone can see face up on the table, and one in each player's hand as well.  What makes this difficult is if a player has no experience with the game, he often won't know what to do when a rule is enforced and he gets a penalty card added to his hand.  For example, one rule states that all players must speak in the third person.  The Enforcement rule is to award the violating player a card from the deck while stating, if your name is Carl, "Carl says you're not speaking in the third person."  That gives enough information to let the players know what they need to do to avoid future infractions of that rule.  However, another rule states that any time a player plays a 2, he or she must say "Two Turtle Doves."  The Enforcement for this rule is "Lack of expression, draw a card."  This is not enough information for the other players who haven't seen this card before.

Chaos is at its heart a simple and fun game, but can be hard for players to grasp and frustrating for players who get screwed by the rules and don't get enough information to understand what happened.  It is definitely a memorable game and some of my fellow players still salute and say "Two Turtle Doves!" when it is mentioned in conversation.  Chaos is a winner on price too - it can be had for under seven dollars.

QUAO, by Wiggity Bang Games

Another offering by Wiggity Bang, QUAO (which, as the box states, is meant to be pronounced as COW) is a "dictatorship" card game with cards decorated with black and white line drawings of animal characters, in which the object is to get rid of all the cards in your hand.  Each round, one player is Quao, the bovine dictator who keeps the secret rules.  While you are Quao you rule with an iron hoof, enforcing the secret rules and awarding penalty cards when rules are broken.  A new secret rule gets added every round, and the old ones are in play as well.   BullyQ cards are public rules similar to Curses! you can play on other players, except the Quao.) Put them in front of the player face up and they stay in effect for the rest of the round.  JaQuas cards let you simply say something about yourself.  Cheetah cards help you get a little closer to winning.  JoQuer cards let you avoid the punishments of the Quao. And Quak cards let you do or say something funny, talented or ridiculous.

Like all games of this type, the reception of QUAO will depend heavily on the players.  I had a group try and play it and just give up, and I later hosted a game of it in which one player was giddy with anticipation while I was describing the rules - before we'd even started.  I've had several successful games and people have asked for it repeatedly.  Aside from the players, the limiting factor is the number of cards, and Wiggity Bang released a version with more cards last year, which is now the standard version.  Quao is simple and quick enough to be a filler game between more strategic and longer games, and with light-hearted players it's sure to get a good laugh.

Which of these games you purchase will depend on which flavor of wackiness you prefer - but with a receptive group of friends or family, you can't go wrong.  Learn more at their respective web sites:

Furt

100 Wacky Things

Chaos

Quao

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