Snake Oil – It is what it’s name implies

These are the reviews I hate to write: a good company, who I have a good working relationship with, puts out a lousy game.  Out of the Box puts out a lot of stellar games that I can highly recommend, such as Word on the Street.  However, Snake Oil does not deserve to be in this reputable brands lineup.

Game Information
Snake Oil
DesignerJeff Ochs
ArtistJohn Kovalic
PublisherOut of the Box Publishing, Snake Oil, LLC, AMIGO, Hasbro
Year Published2010
# of Players3 - 10
Playing Time30
Mfg Suggested Ages10 and up
CategoryCard Game, Humor, Party Game
MechanicActing, Hand Management, Storytelling
FamilyMensa Select, Snake Oil
Alternate NamesSnake Oil: Das Wundermittel gegen Schlangeweile

Info courtesy of More Info.

Snake oil is a game that promises to “Really get you Laughing” and that it is “The Perfect Dose of Laughter”, but that was far from my play testers experience.  One tester went so far as to say, “It seemed very lacking in a lot of ways and bored me by the forth turn.”.  Not exactly a stunning review.

When I originally opened up the box for the game, I was somewhat bewildered, as the first thing I do is reach for the instructions, but there was no instructions to be found.  I looked under the plastic card tray… nothing.  I started riffling through cards… nothing.  I checked the back of the box… nothing.  It was then that I noticed a small paragraph on the side of the interior portion of the box that proclaimed “Rules”.  I read the very short rules, and immediately thought: Oh!  This is Apples to Apples blended with The Big Idea.  While that initial thought wasn’t a terrible analysis, this game fell short of both of those.

Review of
'Snake Oil'
Price ($19.99):   
Overall Rating:    

So in Snake Oil, you take turns being a “Client” looking to purchase a good.  What kind of client you are is dictated by a deck of two sided cards.  These cards have client types such as “High School Dropout”, “Pirate”, and “Castaway”.  Each person then uses two word cards out of their hand to create a product that you would like to purchase and attempts to pitch that product to you.  After you have heard the pitches, you pick the pitch that you like the best, and that person keeps the Client card as a trophy.  The person with the most trophies at the end of the game wins.

What I didn’t think about when I first heard the premise was that this game can not be played competitively.  Because you know who submitted each item (unlike Apples to Apples), if you are a competitive player, you are compelled to pick the person with the fewest number of trophies.  This will always end in a tie, and a very unsatisfying game.  Ok, fine, so this is a game for uncompetitive people who just want a laugh… no problem.  But it fell short there as well, the cards just weren’t very funny.  And while the quick set of rules was great to get people playing in a hurry, they fell short.  My players asked things like “Can I discard cards?” and I simply had to say “I don’t know… the rules don’t mention that”.   So there was no hope of getting better cards that might actually instigate some of the laughter that the box promised.

In the end, this was not the right kind of game for me and my crowd.  Who might this work well for?  People who enjoy hamming it up and being the class clown.  If making people snort with laughter is your strong suit, you could probably pitch some hilarious products and would love this game because of the creative outlet it gave you.  However, for the average gamer, this one just doesn’t make the cut.  The promise of a box full of laughter was merely snake oil.


This entry was posted by The_Null_Entry on Thursday, July 11th, 2013 at 2:47 pm and is filed under Board Game Reviews . Editing for this post was performed by JoshRotella . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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