iMAgiNiff

Buffalo Games' iMAgiNiff wins this week's Major FUN Award for giving people a fun way to get personal, and interpersonal. It asks people to reveal what they think about each other in a way that, under other circumstances would border on intimidating, but the spirit and art of the game keeps it safely on this side of genuine hilarity.

There are a couple hundred Question Cards. Each card asks questions like: "If_____had to sing at a karaoke bar, which song would he/she be?" And then goes on to list six choices: "Blue Suede Shoes," "New York, New York," "Stand By Your Man," "Figaro" "I Honestly Love You" or "Stairway to Heaven." Imagine that you are the blank that everyone else is filling in. Now, ask yourself, could you get insulted if everyone thought that you would be any one of those?

In my official role as Defender of the Playful, that was my biggest concern with the whole premise of this game. And I'm glad to report that even the most sensitive among the eight of us found the game to be genuine, full-bodied fun, all the way through. The answers are ambiguous enough so that no one can really take them really personally. The scoring system (you get points if you vote according to the majority) also keeps the game on the happy side of tense. Which person gets to be subject of the each round is determined purely by chance. Finally, the names with which the blanks get filled really don't have to have anything to do with the people playing. They can be names of politicians or neighbors and the game is still as involving, and, psychologically, even safer.

We liked how the designers used a write-on, wipe-off marker to allow players to fill the board with whatever names they wanted to use for the game. It gave us a feeling that we were customizing the board, just for each other. Which added to the sense of ownership and fun. To vote, players pick a numbered card, which they put face down on the table, and then, simultaneously, reveal. This makes the game that much more exciting. Also, since there's always a minority, there's always something to argue about, and, since the arguments are about things that are clearly ridiculous - like why someone is more like Berlin than Mexico City - it all seems to further the fun.

Yes, score is kept. Winning players get to progress along a spiral track. But, as in all Major FUN Award-winning games, winning isn't really the point. Playing is.

For 3-8 players, 12 and up.

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