One of my business partners saw this game being played at Origins and really loved the look of it, so after talking with the designer, she scored us a copy for the purpose of a review. She was excited to get a game going, but upon describing it as being similar to spoons, we had a few wary people in our group.
You must understand that spoons is a game that has turned violent in my household before. In one very memorable game of spoons, there was four of us playing. I went for a spoon first and in the process slid all the other spoons into the lap of one player, a somewhat petite woman. The other two people playing with us were full sized men. We are all good friends, so neither one even hesitated when the spoons started flying, to dive head first across the table straight into her lap, and on the floor they all went. It’s funny in retrospect, but she now bows out of all games even remotely spoon-like.
When I did get a game of Donkey assembled, only two of the five of us had ever played spoons. I read the directions allowed to everyone, which were thankfully short, and actually pretty darn funny. We played a quick “basic” hand, without kicker cards, to get the non-spoon players into the swing of things, and then we were off.
The kicker cards are what make the game of “Donkey” different from the game of “Spoons” (that and it’s actually played with disks instead of spoons). Each turn a card is flipped over and read out loud. These cards contain a challenge or rule variation. For that round you will be playing under the modified rules stated on that card. What are some of the cards like? Well, the one that sticks out best in my mind caused everyone at the table to need to stand up and “do the twist” while playing their cards. Super silly. However, some of them had more legitimate in game repercussions. Such as the player who starts grabbing the discs should grab as many as possible, and everyone left standing without a disc loses that round.
The other stand out rule in Donkey is that no one is ever truly eliminated. In a normal game of Spoons, you would be out if you lost enough rounds to spell out S-P-O-O-N-S. In this game, if you spell out D-O-N-K-E-Y, you become the donkey and no one is allowed to talk to you, but you otherwise keep playing. If someone does slip up and speak to you, they become a donkey as well. You can stop being a donkey by having letters removed from your score through various means.
Overall, we had a lot of fun, however, the people that had played spoons before seemed a lot less impressed. We even had a couple people pull up chairs and watch, and their consensus also was, “Isn’t this just spoons?”. It’s not a new concept, so Donkey certainly doesn’t get points on originality. The kicker cards and donkey rules made this version a lot more fun then a traditional game of spoons. If you are a spoon lover, this might be a nice change of pace, but it’s still just spoons at it’s heart. If you have never played spoons, then maybe this game is worth a try, if you don’t mind being silly and possibly ending up with men in your lap.
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