Charades, as a concept, has been around for a couple hundred years or so and has gone through many changes. In 18th-century France, Charades was played as a literary riddle game, acting out each syllable of a phrase. It's easy to see why the concept has had such longevity.. it's just plain fun to watch your friends or family find clever ways to pantomime words - the more ridiculous they look, the better!

Speechless is a charades party game from Arcane Wonders that has been granted the coveted "Dice Tower Essential" status. Players in Speechless take turns being the “presenter”. The Presenter has 90 seconds to act out 6 words, (or an average of 15 seconds per word) trying to get the other players to correctly guess what word they are presenting. So far, sounds like garden variety Charades, right? But here's the kicker - the other players don't shout out their guesses - they, too, must remain silent. You'll see why in a minute.

After the Presenter’s time is up, he or she will ask the players what their guesses were for each word. The other players, one at a time going clockwise around the table, reveal their guesses. After all guesses have been revealed for that word, the presenter then reveals the actual word. There's a nice drama to all this, not only because of the anticipation of hearing the guesses unfold, but also because you will sometimes guess the same word as another player guessed, which is a good feeling.

Players score 2 points for guessing the correct word. However… If a player did not guess the correct word, but at least one other player made the same incorrect guess, all players with the same guess score 1 point! And that is the interesting twist and the reason that guessers are silent - you can score points even if you're "wrong".

Speechless was an insta-add to my collection because I love Charades games and this one approaches the concept in a unique and interesting way. It's only right that players should be rewarded for connecting among themselves, even if they didn't necessarily pick up what the Presenter was putting down. Obviously something about what was presented was interpreted in a particular way. As with any Charades game, there are plenty of opportunities for clever or humorous wordplay or pantomime. One player mimed picking something off a tree, then held her hands in front of her chest, to give a clue for the word "Coconuts."

Some might be curious as to how Speechless measures up to the reigning heavyweight champ of Charades party games, "Time's Up" (a monetized version of the home brew charades game "Celebrity".) While Time's Up is worthy of its classic status, I found that Speechless had a few areas in which it topped Time's Up. For one thing, the cards in Speechless are categorized by difficulty - green cards are easiest, yellow cards more challenging, and red the most difficult of all. This makes it possible to adjust the difficulty level as you wish, for example, if you're playing with kids. Also, I have found that Time's Up often creates intense competition among some players, which may or may not be something you enjoy. Personally I find that party games are best when they provide relaxing fun, and Speechless fits that bill.

Speechless is a Charades game that manages to add some new twists even after centuries of fiddling with the idea of guessing at mimed words. At the heart of the game, it's Charades, so it's automatically familiar and fun. But the additions make it a worthwhile addition to your party game collection. I am putting it in the rotation for all the party game events I organize.

Learn more and purchase the game at Arcane Wonders.