Party games. What makes them enjoyable? What makes them flops? This is a style of game that seems to be more art and less science, as the formula for success is a wibbly wobbly kind of thing. However, one ingredient that seems to always be present with such a success is laughter. “Who’s Got Game” certainly had rounds of laughter, but not every one was a gut buster. This intermittent view of the game, is one that permeated most aspects of our opinions.
“Who’s Got Game” was created by Neil Strauss. With a lot of gamers, that name might not ring a bell, but he is the author of several popular books about dating. I asked my players, before we got going, if they were familiar with the designer and all of them gave me vacant stares. It wasn’t until I started listing his books that there was a hint of recognition. However, even then, it was only a hint. This gives me the impression that with most hobby gamers, Mr. Strauss might be fighting an up hill battle.
Given that this game was created by a man who writes books on how to pick up women, you can probably extrapulate the nature of the game… or can you? We expected a dating game full of provacative questions and tantalizing answers. What we got instead was a “Get to know your neighbor” sort of game.
In this game you pick a partner. Each player is playing for their own points, but many of the games mechanics refer to your partner. This is really equivalent of saying “the player on your left”, but I guess they decided partner was an easier way to phrase it. Although, while easier, this also caused a small amount of confusion as the players had the misconception that if their partner did well that they would always do well too. This is not the case in this game. Your partner is often there to simply fulfill small tasks, such as read questions.
Once your partner is chosen, it’s time to start playing. On your turn you draw a card out of the box. This deck of cards is actually several different kinds of cards all mixed together in one box. These cards have players doing a variety of tasks: handwriting analysis, answer matching, answer recognition, acting, etc. Now that you have your card in hand, read the instructions to the group and follow what it says.
While not all of these tasks were funny, we did have some funny moments. For example one the cards told the players that the “Leader” (person who’s turn it is) had to guess who wrote down each answer to the following question:
If you were to meet God, and could ask him only one question, what would that question be?
… The group of us playing that night were all pretty well read geeks, and proud of it to boot. So when we all passed in our answers, there was a lot of giggling. None of us knew what the others were writing, but it didn’t matter, because great minds think a like.
So the leader was stuck trying to guess who would ask God…
1.) What is the f-ing question!?
2.) What is the question to the answer is 42?
3.) If the answer is 42, what is the question?
… and now, if you have read the Hitchhiker’s Guid to the Galaxy, you are likely snorting with laughter right now too. It was so unexpected and so absurd, you simply could not help but laugh.
Another moment of laughter came with a challenge card that required your partner to put makeup somewhere on your face. If you left it there the whole game you received ten points at the end of the game. This left one of the boys to put makeup on his female partner, and since the card only said “on their face” and did not specify exactly where and how, some lewd things were drawn on her face using some teal eye shadow. It was special, to say the least, and we all got a good giggle.
So at this point you might be wondering, how do you win? Each time you play a card their are points associated with a given action, such as correctly answering a card or getting someone to guess an answer. The game goes for 12 rounds, each round being the length of one card. At the end of those rounds, points are tallied and the person with the most points win. We found that the game has really good pacing. It was long enough that we felt satisfied in our experience, but not so long as to want to revolt. I think the designer did a good job at picking what originally sounded like a very arbitrary number.
But given this bit of brilliance in design, there were some other choices that were made that were less than impressive, specifically, in regards to components. Firstly, this game comes in a rather large box. When packing the game away, all of the components fit in less than half of the box, and that leaves things to roll around, and the game takes up a lot of room on the shelf. Secondly, the game comes with wooden pencils and paper pads. In one game we went through half of the paper pads that came with the game, which was a fair amount of paper. Dry erase boards, or some other variety of reusable boards, would have made for a much better option. Also the score pad was made of a slick paper, and the pencil really was nearly impossible to use on it. However, even with those negatives there are good things to say here too: the cards are full color and of a good quality stock, and the box is very heavy duty.
Leave it to an author to write good rules as well. This game came with a full rules sheet as well as a quick start guide. The quick start was all we needed for the vast majority of the game, and the cards described the rest. The one thing that I must dock the quick start rules for is that it never mentions to read the back side of the card prior to flipping it over, which does make an effect in the game and was easily overlooked. A simple mention to that would have saved us some grief on our first game.
So, overall, how did we feel about this game? Meh. It was ok. The game had some funny moments that we appreciated, but we weren’t rolling with laughter like we are with some of our other favorite party games. The mixture of actions in the game was nice, but we saw a few very similar cards and that sucks away some of the fun of it, especially when they were back to back. The overall theme of the game was ok, but it didn’t make a strong impression either way, and it certainly didn’t fit the preconcieved notions that the cover art and the author’s reputation conveyed. However, it wasn’t a bad game, and it was an amusing way to pass the time and get to know some of my players a little better.