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Crappy Birthday: An Apples to Apples Clone Without the Creativity

I found this game at Gen Con 2011 and I was intrigued.  We heard the short explanation of the game, and by the last day of the con, we walked out with a copy to take home and try with friends.  What we found was less then thrilling.

Crappy Birthday is an “Apples to Apples” clone, plain and simple, but I had kinda known that going into it.  In the demo we were shown some cards of really bad birthday gifts, you pick one gift and pass it to the judge (the birthday girl or boy) face down and they mix them up and then read them out loud and show them.  They pick which they think would be the worse birthday gift for them and the player who played that card gets a point.  First person to three points wins.

When we got this game home and played a couple of games of it, we realized the fatal flaw:  There isn’t any creative combining of cards in this game,  and so the deck gets really boring really fast.  For example, one of the funny bad gifts was a set of calendar window blinds.  Given that the deck of cards isn’t very big (only 200 cards), in every game I played we saw that card.  And given that you weren’t combining that card with any other cards, the window blinds were always just window blinds.

What do I mean by combining?  In other Apples to Apples type games a player is combining a card in their hand with some other card that has been played out for the group.  For example, a word like “cuddly” might be played out and people could pass cards with other words to the judge.  This interaction of the “cuddly” card with the cards in your hand gives those cards new meaning.  None of that is present in Crappy Birthday.

The other major complaint I got from my players was that the gifts just weren’t awful enough.  Yes, there were some really bad ones, like the calendar window blinds, but there were also several really good ones, like a custom built chopper motorcycle.   While that might not be someone’s preferred gift, it’s hard to believe that would be the worse to anyone.  This led to some player frustration, as their hands filled with cards that were sure to lose them a round.

This game was a fun premise, just not very good follow through.  What would have been a better use of this concept?  Give the players a hand full of different cards and let them combine those cards to create a crappy gift.  For example:  If your hand contained the words “Window Blinds”, “Calendar”, “Wind-up”, “Ceramic”, and “Monkey” you could create really awful gifts such as “a calendar monkey:  flips your calendars for you at work!” , “Wind-up window blinds:  Opens automatically by windup power”, “Window blind monkey’s: create an attractive window covering using real live monkeys!”  Now that could have been a fun game.

This entry was posted by The_Null_Entry on Wednesday, September 7th, 2011 at 7:48 am and is filed under Board Game Reviews, Party Games .
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One Comment

  1. Luke Warren says:

    Luke here from North Star Games. We appreciate your reviewing Crappy Birthday so honestly. One thing I did not really mention to you at GenCon when you picked the game is that it is really designed for someone to pick up at their local game store or Barnes & Noble and take to a party of non-gamers. As such, we wanted to make it inexpensive ($15), easy, non-stressful, and immediately funny. Something that would start up a conversation right away.

    As such, it is not meant to be exceedingly replayable. I know that sounds weird to us gamers, but we really wanted it to be a gift item, something you take to a party instead of a bottle of wine. A bunch of non-gamers drinking at a party do not want anything too complicated, so the card combining you speak of would not have been appropriate for the simplicity needed in this game.

    You are correct that your gamer friends are not going to want to sit around and play this game over and over. But they might buy a copy and take it to a party, open it, start playing immediately, and get everyone laughing and having a good time. Most people would think that is worth $15.

    They do not even need to take it home with them. The game will have done its job.

    As far as the cards, if you play with people with similar tastes, they will often like/dislike the same cards. I found this true at GenCon. No one disliked the Star Wars Collection card. They are gamers, why would they? But my mom? Completely different story. If you play the game with people with divergent tastes and hobbies, you do not have the problem with the cards you mentioned. Game is a lot more fun too.

    I have one suggestion for you. Try playing a few rounds where you give both a gift you think the person will love and one they will hate. Play to 5, not 3 gifts chosen. You would then draw two cards every turn. Let me know what you think about that version.

    Sincerely,
    Luke
    North Star Games.

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