Party Games suggestions for your New Years bash

Here, from the vast collection of Major Fun Award-winning Party Games, a few of the aforementioned that you might find worthy additions to your New Years' silliness:


Sketchy is a drawing and guessing game for 4-8 people from Fundex Games. It is cooperative, competitive, challenging, and laugh-provoking. It makes you feel closer to the people you play with. It can get very intense. And if you win, you not only feel good about your brilliance, but you also realize that it really didn't matter who won. Playing Sketchy was so much fun, that it's all the reward you needed.

The components are simple enough - 8 golf pencils, playing/scoring pads (ample enough for many replays), a deck of cards, a die, and a wonderfully annoying, batteries-included, electronic timer (the kind that ticks faster and faster every 15 seconds).

Each card has a list of six different categories. For example:
  1. Kinds of soup
  2. Sports where individuals compete
  3. Items on a teacher's desk
  4. New England US states
  5. Foods that are eaten on a stick
  6. U-pick
Each page of the drawing/scoring pad gives you room to draw up to seven examples of the randomly chosen (by the roll of a die) category. Imagine that a category has been called, and the timer started. Now imagine everyone furiously drawing what they hope will be vividly clear illustrations of things that fit the category. When the timer runs inexorably out, and the annoying buzzer of finality finally buzzes, you use the column to the right of your drawings to name each of the objects you hopefully illustrated.

When you're finished, you sit with your partner for that round and compare your answers, looking only at each others' drawings (you fold over the column with the verbal descriptions of the objects so that your partner can't see them, and you can't change your mind about what your drawings actually depict). The timer is once more started, and you and your partner pro-tem decide which drawings on the two answer sheets are describing the same item. You can't talk about what the items are. You must make your judgment solely on the drawings. And then you take score - 2 points for each item that appeared on both of your sheets, less one point for each item incorrectly selected. ("That was supposed to be chicken? I thought it was an artichoke!")

You determine your scores. Write them down on a sheet somewhere. Change partners. And begin the next round. So see, even though you only score when you see eye-to-eye, as it were, with your partner, your cumulative score reflects your performance as an individual.

Designed by Brian S. Spence, Garrett J. Donner and Michael S. Steer, Sketchy is, by every measure, Major FUN. It is everything you'd want to see in a party game - absorbing, challenging, creative, intelligent, easy to learn, easy on time (a whole game can be played in 20 minutes), bringing people together, making people laugh.


PitchCar is a puck-flicking, car-racing game of skill and cunning for people as young as six and as old as can still walk around a table. It can get as tense as the Indy 500 without ever getting too serious to laugh about. It can be played as a race against everybody or a race between teams, as a polite game of luck and skill or a cutthroat game of strategic blocking and violent crashing. And there are at least as many ways to build it as there are to play.

The building part is wonderfully easy, though it just as easily can become a studied, exacting, and creative exploration. The tracks fit together with ease, like large jig-saw pieces. Grooves on the sides of the tracks easily accommodate flexible plastic rails. The basic set consists of 16 pieces of track: ten curving and six straight, 16 "safety barriers" - lengths of plastic railing, and eight cars (wooden pucks), each of a different color. There is also a sticker sheet used to decorate the pucks and create the start/finish line. This is enough for you to create ten different "circuits," each a serious twelve-feet long. The "cars" are propelled by any appropriate finger-flick - though some may prefer a finger push or slide.

With a little imagination, and the select incorporation of pieces of cardboard, Popsicle sticks and other household miscellany, many different kinds of tracks can be build. And, if you can find any loose checker pieces or bottle caps, you can significantly expand the fleet. If you need a little more than your collective imagination has to offer, we'd strongly recommend that you consider the additional purchase of, say, PitchCar Extension 1.

Designed by Jean du Poël, PitchCar is what people call an "heirloom game" - a term frequently used to describe a game, the purchase of which approaches a serious investment, and the promise of which is generation-spanning. It is easy enough to build and play to prove of interest to most first-graders, yet it can just as easily be made complex and challenging enough to be taken quite seriously by the mature gamer.

The designer also suggests two variations. One, called "The Pursuit," is played by two players or two teams of players. One team starts ahead, the other tries to catch up. Another variant, "The Trash Variation," players can try to knock each others' cars off the track (in the standard game, you would lose a turn). These two variations hint at another dimension of the game that can be readily explored, namely, the rules. What if we played in teams of two, one player always trying to position their puck to block other players? What if we played in two different teams, started at the starting line, but each team driving in the opposite direction? How about if we each had two moves per turn? What would happen, wondered a few of our Tasters, if we had fashioned special sticks for puck propulsion. Could we become yet even more skilled, our control even that much more precise, the distance covered in a single turn even that much greater?

At a games party, PitchCar offers a welcome balance to the more serious and sedentary strategic entertainments. At the dining room table, it provides a rewarding after dinner, after homework opportunity for the whole family to relax and celebrate each other. Competitive without meaning anything important about anyone. Cooperation without becoming tedious. An invitation to experimentation and creativity. An opportunity for genuine, good-natured fun. Fun of just the right, as it were, pitch. Major FUN, that is.

Truth be Told - "The Laugh out Loud Pretend to Know your Friends Game

Before we delve too deeply into the nature and wonders of Truth be Told," Buffalo Games' newest and perhaps most successful party game since Imaginiff, let me ask you to fill in this particular blank: "The most expensive thing I purchased last month was ____________ " And by "I", I mean "me," majorly speaking, fun himself. Given everything you know about me from all our years of virtual intimacy, what do you really think, honestly, was the most expensive thing I actually bought all last month? Wait, let me put it differently: what do you think I would admit, truthfully speaking, to be the most expensive thing, etc.? Got it? OK, now write it down, using one of the 8, write-on, wipe-off markers on one of those 8, thick, write-onable, wipe-offable cards so thoughtfully provided by those everso clever Buffalo Gamesters. Be sure you write your name on the top of the card in the assigned blank. OK, now put your card face-down and slide it over to me. Note, please, how I'm thoroughly mixing up everyone's cards, including mine.

Now, listen carefully as I read everyone's answers aloud - everyone's, including mine. Here they are, in no particular order:
A coffee pot
A subscription to the New Yorker
A pair of New Balance sneakers
A bag of marbles
A Panasonic TC - P50X1 - 50" plasma panel - 720p flatscreen TV
OK? Want me to read them again?

Now, on your paddle-like, write-on, wipe-offable, nicely thick True Answer Paddle cards, write the answer that you think was the one I gave. Remember, you get one point for everyone who votes for your answer. And one point if you vote for mine. (If you wrote down my answer, I find myself that much closer to you as well, insofar as I get a point too.) And now, one at a time, in sequential order, everyone, except me, of course, reveals their answers. I then, with great flourish and conceptual fanfare, reveal my "true" answer. Scores are recorded on the convenient, also write-on and wipe-offable scorekeeping card. And then, on to the next Truth Teller.

What actual fun! How comfortably unthreatening. How surprisingly well the scoring system works to keep the game light-hearted, fair and, uh, balanced. See, I want you to guess my answer, because it's a point for me, too. So I try to fill in my blank with something that's not only honest, but plausible, and predictable, even. And you really are thinking about me, reviewing everything you know about me, or can guess about me. The game is clearly not about trying to make me look bad, or you stupid, or trying to reveal something secret about me or yourself or anyone else who's playing, or trying to out-strategize anyone. It's not good for me or anybody to try to get you to guess wrong. When it's my turn, the game is all about me. Not about what you think of me. But about what you know of me, what you can guess about me. And then, when it's your turn, it's all about you.

There are a lot of party games that try to accomplish this "getting-to-know-each-other-better" experience. Few succeed like Truth be Told. Honestly.

Oh, by the way, it was a subscription to the New Yorker. Who knew?

Dixit - a party game of subtlety, sensitivity and creativity

Dixit is a surprisingly lovely and subtle party game in which players try to guess which image was selected by the "storyteller." The rules are simple enough to learn in a few minutes. The 84 large cards are beautifully and evocatively illustrated. And the whole game can be played in well under an hour.

The subtlety of the game comes from the scoring system and from a growing understanding of the art of being a successful storyteller - for art is what it is.

The game begins with each player receiving six cards, dealt randomly from the deck. One player is selected storyteller. Once the storyteller has selected a card, she can give any kind of clue she wants. After she has given her clue, the other players try to find a card that will fit the clue well enough to get voted for. The storyteller takes her card and the other players selections, and lays them out, face-up, in random order. Everyone uses their voting chips to select the one card they think belonged to the storyteller. Players get the most points by voting for the storyteller's card. They also gets points for every player who votes for their card. In addition to the cards, the game includes a race track scoring board, voting chips, and 6 wooden bunny-like playing pieces, each of a different color.

What makes the game so intriguingly subtle is the result how the storyteller scores. If her clue is so good that everyone votes for her card, or so vague that no one votes for it, she gets no points. So there's an art here. If you're the storyteller (you don't actually have to tell a story, you can sing a song, utter a poem, act, mime, whatever you think will communicate your choice to almost everyone), it pays not only to be subtle, but also to have a good feel for your audience.

The need for both subtlety and social awareness makes Dixit a true party game. Though children as young as 8 can understand the game, unless they are compassionate and theatrically gifted (like my granddaughter), they will have trouble playing it successfully with anyone other than their peers. Though it may remind you of other games (Balderdash, perhaps? Apples to Apples?), it proves to be impressively unique, and hence a valuable addition to your games collection. Designed by Jean-Louis Roubira, with art by Marie Cardouat, Dixit invites strategic thinking, sensitivity and, most importantly, creativity. And for people who possess all these strengths, Dixit proves to be Major FUN.

(thanks to Marc Gilutin for recommending Dixit so strongly - he was right again)

Curses Again

We last discussed Curses on, to be needlessly precise, October 2, 2002. We, in fact, gave it a Keeper award, no less. The highest ranked, most Major award we have.

Recently, Curses has been "refreshed." Same package, same art, same basic gameplay as in the original Brian Tinsman design. The bell is maybe a little more modern-looking. The cards a little easier to shuffle. And some of the curses and challenges are new, and, of course, funny. But all in all the game isn't any more commercial-looking than it was then. Simple text graphics. Two decks of cards. A bell. And yet, it's as much of a Keeper now as it was then.

Because we're still playing it.

What we learn from all this, is that the Major FUN Awards, and especially the Keeper award, represent games that are unforgettably fun.

The original review is the same review I'd be writing for the game today. It follows:

Curses - a game of geometrically increasing silliness for 3-6 players, age 9 and up.

There are two decks of cards and a very nice hotel-type hit-the-top-and-it-rings bell. One deck of cards is called "Challenges," the other "Curses."

Let's start with the "Curses," which, of course, are the real challenges. A Curse is something silly that you have to do. For example, you might have the Curse of having to talk in a French accent, or having your wrists glued to your head (well, there's no real glue, but you have to pretend there is), or having to bow every time someone applauds. As the game progresses, you get more Curses. From other players, actually. Remembering two Curses is at least twice as difficult as remembering one. By the time you have three Curses you are at a conceptual point likened only to patting your tummy and rubbing your head while singing "Boat your row, row, row." In a French accent.

When you break a Curse, some observant player dutifully rings the bell. If you break enough Curses, you're kind of out. Kind of, because you still get to be a bell-ringer and cause of Curse-breaking.

The Challenges make the Curses evermore Curselike. You might have to ask someone else out to a school prom, or be in a TV commercial explaining why your deodorant is best or demonstrate how you celebrated your what you did when you scored the winning touchdown in the Superbowl. Each challenge takes on a very different light when you have to perform it under multiple Curses.

Curses radiates at least 120 Gigglewatts of pure Guffaw-power. It's can get very, very difficult to play, very quickly, and is challenging enough to occupy the most limber-minded of collegiates, whilst silly enough to keep even us over-the-hillsies laughing and coughing in glee.

The cards on the refreshed version pass the shuffle-test quite nicely. Their graphic design could make it a little easier to distinguish between the two kinds of cards. But that, compared to the sheer hysteria that this game catalyzes, is clearly, at most, a nano-niggle.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Parlour Games for Modern Families - a guide to shared hilarity

Every new book of parlor games is a cause for celebration. If it's clearly written, well organized, and has, among its collection of time-tested invitations to silliness, a few brave new games, yet even more celebration is called for. The publication of Parlour Games for Modern Families is something for your whole family, and everyone your family knows, to party about. Seriously. Well, not too seriously.

Before I continue, I must admit that I am personally implicated in this book. Somewhere in the book (page 7), there's a quote from me. Somewhere else (page 91), there's a whole interview with me. Which, from my perspective, makes the book that much more celebration-worthy. However, don't let me bias you. With surprising objectivity, I can tell you that this book is something you will treasure - a resource that will lead you and everyone you know to whole-hearted, side-splitting family and community fun.

Written by Myfanwy Jones and Spiri Tsintziras, Parlour Games for Modern Families includes a wide enough range and variety of games to bring everyone you know into play, many times over. There are paper-and-pencil games, dramatic games, card games, active games, word games, story games, dice games, marble games, and on, and also on. Since it is most likely that the person who reads the book will be the same one who will be organizing the play party, every game includes an overview detailing the appropriate ages, the recommended number of players, anything you will need to play the game, and about how long the game will take to play. Most of the games include variations and ways to adapt the game to younger and older audiences.

Written and published in Oztralia, the book talks lovingly and playfully to anyone who can read English and understands the value of sharing silly times. Just like you.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Say Anything

North Star Games is one of those rare companies that places a high premium on quality over quantity. Although the company was founded in 2003, they have only published 3 games. Each of them has been Major FUN, and each production seems to be getting better than the previous one.

Say Anything, their latest creation, is a light-hearted party game that will get you and your friends talking and laughing in no time. Everything about the game reflects years of play testing, and finer and finer tuning. The rules are wonderfully easy to understand - clearly written and presented, every question answered. Everything fits in the box just so. The write-on, wipe-off boards (8 answer boards and a scoreboard) write on easily (golf-pencil-sized wipe-off-able markers included) and wipe off even more easily. The 400 Question Cards are pleasantly thick yet amply bendy. The little, graphic-and-color-coordinated Player Chips are non-bendy enough to be satisfyingly chip-like. And the state of the art SELECT-O-MATIC can barely comment enough about the functionality, portability, and virtually cordless battery-freedom!

Of course, it's the fun that counts - even more than all the well-thought-out-edness of the packaging and game components. Let's start with a Say Anything card. There are 5 questions to choose from which means you’ll always be able to ask something that suits the people you’ve invited to your gathering. The question all have something to do with your right to, well, say, as it were, anything. Some of the questions solicit your pop culture opinions, some are about personal experiences, some are slightly serious, and a handful are seriously ridicules (designed just to make you laugh). If for example, we picked the question "What TV channel would be the hardest to live without?" Really, you could write anything on your Answer Board. I mean, you like what you like. Write anything. Say anything. What's to argue about?

So you write what you write (it can be non-sequitur if you want), and toss your Answer Board face-up on the table. She or He Who Holds the SELECT-O-MATIC 5000 (SoHWHtS-O-M5000) will read all the answers, and pick a favorite response. Any favorite response - for any reason. Because SoHWHtS-O-M5000 can, of course Select Anything.

Now everybody else tries to guess what answer was picked. It turns out that the SoHWHtS-O-M5000 gets a point for everyone who votes for His or Her chosen Answer Board (up to a maximum of 3 points). They guess by using their well-designed, chip-like, color-coordinated Player Chips. They each have two. Which means they can put both chips down on the same Answer Board, or select two Answer Boards to carry their personal Player Chip-ness. Ah, an opportunity to demonstrate something to everyone in attendance - two chips to manifest your personal certainty, or your clever covering of the bases, so to speak.

Finally SoHWHtS-O-M5000 reveals the chosen board, and players gain points accordingly, which the Holder of the Write-On Wipe-Off-able Score Board dutifully records. And in the mean time, much laughter tends to erupt. Much laughter. Because of the unexpected answers people come up with, the unpredictable perspicacity of their votes, the verifiable silliness of the task, and, for some, because of the score they get.

Say Anything is the very kind of game the Major Fun Award was designed for. It takes a few minutes to learn, a good half hour or so to play, and can be played with your basic 3-8 people. Maybe 16 if you play in teams. Probably 24, tops.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Buy GiftTrap - donate $15 to Creative Commons

The creators of the Major Fun Party Award-Winning board game GiftTrap,
yes, that GiftTrap, the game Major Fun called "a kinder kind of Party Game" - the game you can even play on-line - an on-line version that just happened to have also most favorably reviewed by Major Fun, too, even, will apparently donate $15 to Creative Commons, no less, for every "California Edition of GiftTrap" that you buy.

GiftTrap, the very party game that Games Magazine selected party game of the year. Creative Commons. The very people that have figured out a way to legalize free, within limits, sharing. Which is kind of like what GiftTrap is all about - the giving freely within limits kind of giving.


from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Twisted Pairs

Twisted Pairs is a party game, indeed it is. You need at least 4 players. But it is clearly of the more-the-merrier type.

No, it's not charades. I can see why you'd think it's like charades - you're trying to get people to guess something that you know (hopefully). And you're performing, more or less. Except it's not acting. It's spelling. I mean, what you're doing is spelling out a word or several words. Not with words, naturally. But with your bodies. Did I say "bodies"? As in more than one body? Indeed I did. As in two bodies. So, to make, for example, the letter "H," you and your partner might be standing facing each other, holding your arms down at your sides, but bending your elbows and holding hands, like the cross-bar of the "H" - know what I mean?

Which, of course, is the big question for everyone else - that is, do they know what letter you mean. Because as soon as someone does know that letter, or thinks she knows that letter, or thinks she wants everyone else to think she knows that letter, she simply says something like "got it." And then the two letter-makers go on to make the next letter. Got it? And on and on until someone guesses correctly, getting, so to speak, the point. As for those who didn't "get it," well, they're still very much in the game, guessing away at the next and the next letters, hoping to fill in the blanks, in retrospect. And when someone correctly yells out the entire phrase, then there's the race to be first to shout out the bonus answer and get a richly deserved for bonus point. And so can the spellers.

No, of course not, it's definitely not Twister, though you and your partner are twisting around each other's bodies in some bizarre, Twister-like ways. And it clearly has nothing to do with Trivial Pursuit either, unless the spinner happens to land on the Trivia Question. We'll talk about that later. But there's no Pursuit going on. Unless you count the pursuit of laughterness, which is just about what this game is all about.

The stuff of the game includes a box of cards. There are two sets of cards - one for questions relating to Pre-1990, the other, Post- (a thoughtful distinction for the younger player, as well as for those with short attention spans). Each card contains one of 5 different categories, 4 of which result in a word or phrase that the Spellers attempt to convey, bodily, letter-by-letter. The categories ("famous character," "famous quote," "song title," "song lyric") help the rest of the party figure out what the spellers are spelling. The fifth category is the Trivia Question. Here, the spellers are given only the question, and must rely on their collective wit to spell out the correct answer (written on the back of the card). And, should their wit be not well informed, well, at least it was fun watching them try.

All of which to say there are many levels of mental and physical calisthenics, combined with ongoingly merry mayhem resulting in an experience that is clearly Major FUN. Everyone involved, everyone thinking hard, everyone challenged at almost every level, and, surprisingly often, everyone laughing. Do you still need to know why we recommend this game with such enthusiasm? As the designers so pithily inquire: "do we have to spell it out for you?"

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith



What's the name of that movie? The one with a Native American, or maybe a Hawaiian. By a river, I think, or a lake or a stream of some sort? Oh, you know what I mean. Yeah, that's it, Blue Crush. Wait, there's another movie, also with a river or lake or stream, and there was a wheelchair, I think, or was it a crutch, no, a cane. Wait, could that be Cane River?

Is part or all of this conversation at all familiar? Have you now or ever engaged someone in a similar movie-related dialogue? Well, then, Cineplexity is, without doubt, the very game you should be playing at this very moment, verily.

We were actually amazed at how fun this game turned out to be. Sure, it reminded us of the oft-touted, trend-setting, Major FUN-award-winning, Out of the Box Publishing easy-to-learn party game Apples to Apples. As well it might, considering that it is published by the aforementioned themselves. But, you see, it looks so Apples-to-Apples-like with its many cards and simple rules and calling out for 4 to 10 players and stuff, that you'd assume it's pretty much another of those many Apples to Apples variants, only about movies. But you'd be wrong. It's a different game. Completely. Sure, there's a judge (cleverly called the "director"). And the Director doesn't actually play, because s/he has to do the, um, judging. But that's it, Apples-to-Apples-similarity-wise.

In Apples to Apples everything is relative, the actual degree of relativity determined by the judge. In Cineplexity, you have to come up with a "real" answer - a verifiable, actual movie including, beyond doubt, the actual scene or props, or belonging to the specified genre, whose characters have the certifiable characteristics depicted by two, or perhaps three, of 504 the randomly drawn Cineplexity cards. And, amazingly, there seems always to be at least one movie that usually at least one person knows that matches precisely.

Oh, the intensity. And oh, oh, the brain-wracking. And, ah hah hah, the laughter.

Cineplexity. Surprisingly different. Not so surprisingly fun.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Shakedown is a dexterity game of clearly Major FUN proportions. Basically, you're balancing playing-like cards on top of a narrow platform, adding new cards with every turn. But that's only basically.

Let's start at the bottom. The bottom of the "tower" upon which the cards are balanced. The same bottom where all the cards are stored, and from which all the cards are drawn during play. Let's also take a moment to look at the tower itself, how it twists, as if to make it even more challenging to figure out exactly where the actual center of gravity might be. A lovely thing, actually. Colorful. Self-storing enough that you could throw the box away and take the game with you to every party and family gathering within which you find yourself and others. Note, further, that the cards, which are drawn one at a time from the base of the tower, are drawn from the base of the tower. The base. Whereupon the tower stands. Imagine therefore the increasingly precarious conundrum thereby imposed every time you attempt to extricate a card from the aforementioned - having to perhaps lift the tower upon whose top all those other cards are so cunningly balanced so that you can get your card and take your turn.

Let's continue to the deck itself. Some cards have different values. Other cards ask you to perform acts of evermore significant challenge, like "play cards with non-dominant hand" or "hold tower and spin around" or perhaps "previous player - blow once from 5 feet." And now, at last, to the top, considerably smaller than the base, and yet whereupon the cards are to be placed (two corners of each card not touching any other card).

All in all, an elegant, almost self-explanatory, somewhat Jenga-like game, requiring steady-hands, a willingness to fail, and just enough luck to keep you from taking it seriously.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Strange Games - party games, childhood games

Montegue Blister introduces himself as follows: "I am passionate about party and childhood games. Not just boring pass the parcel but unusual, even bizarre games like Snapdragons, Walking Trippy, Mouchard."

Take Lemon Golf, - a most refreshingly Junkyard-like game played with lemons and walking sticks. Lemons! How joysomely unpredictable and party-worthy. Sure, you can use yardsticks instead of walking sticks. Or umbrellas even (collapsed, probably). But what other game can you think of that combines wacky object-whacking with lemonade preparation.

O, yes, there's the oddly Prui-like Mouchard, and, as advertised, Walking Trippy, and, should you wonder, the curiously dangerous children's game of Snapdragons.

This fellow Blister is clearly a fellow in spirit - an advocate and collector of primarily pointless games, played for the fun of it. And hence, a valued resource for us each and all.

And then there's Strange Games - the Videos

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Whoonu? Good game. Good question. As in "who knew." Or, "who knew, out of a choice between goldfish, sand castles, climbing trees and fried chicken, you'd like climbing trees the best. Sure, sure, those people who don't know you from Adam wouldn't know such a thing. But even me, your best friend?"

You get 300 cards (a significant amount, but one can't help wonder if there are even more cards waiting to be expanded thereunto), six stacks of six chips, each stack worth one more point, and a small envelope in case you want to be extra certain that no one can see who thought what about you. So, on this turn, you're the one. Everybody else gets four cards. And sure, given that there are only four out of 300 cards, it's just as likely that there'll be something or nothing that you'll really like amongst the four. You remove the cards from the envelope of secrecy, contemplate them for a bit, and then place them, face-up on the table, in order of what you deem to be least to most favorite. Players then claim their cards, and you reward them with the corresponding chip - the highest scoring chip going to your favorite.

The game is just short enough to keep it light, just long enough to keep it involving. The game mechanic of the chips (when the chips are all used up, the round is over) makes the game that much easier to play.

And that's pretty much that. Simple, elegant, just enough luck to keep you from taking anything seriously, just enough to make you want to know as much about everybody as you can. For sure, you'll be learning a lot about each other. For also sure, you'll be laughing a lot, surprised a lot, feeling somehow closer to each other, having had just enough fun so that you don't really care who actually won - because just getting to play Whoonu together is already very much like winning.

Thanks to Kevin and delightful daughter Kelsey Eikenberry for introducing me to Whoonu. Feel free to thank me for introducing it to you.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Acronymble is most definitely a party game, and most assuredly a game that will make you laugh. Hence, most probably, Major Fun.

MAJOR. As in More Active Jollies Organized Ridiculously, or, perhaps Mighty Attractive Jauntiness Of Ribaldry, or even Mellifluent Acronym Judging Oscillates Randomly.

Players compete (more or less) to create phrases or sentences (you get an additional point of your acronym is a sentence) from a collection of randomly drawn tiles. The number of tiles is determined by the draw of a card from the Length Deck. And what you have to do with them is determined by the draw of a card from the Composition deck. There are four different kinds of cards in the Composition deck: one tells you to also use a nonsense word, another to use only words that start with the same letter, and another to select any word starting with the chosen letter, and make an acronym from it. And the fourth kind of card tells you to do what you would have done anyway without the card.

Everyone but one player (the master of ceremonies for that round, a.k.a. the "NYMWIT") votes for a favorite. Votes are tallied. Players move the corresponding number of spaces on the board, et, obviously, cetera.

How long you have to think is determined by the throw of a die, which tells you how much time to set on a tension-inducingly noisesome kitchen-type timer.
The rules are written with enough humor and playfulness to keep people from taking the rules too seriously - there are constant invitations to make up your own rules, suggestions like "If a player doesn't finish in time, don't disqualify them (maybe drum your fingers or whistle a bit)." Whistle and drum we did. Laugh a lot we also did. Major FUN was most definitely had.

originally posted in Major Fun

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Catch Phrase, Refreshed

Hasbro's Electronic Catch Phrase is probably one of the best electronic party games ever. A cross between password and hot potato, this exciting, engaging team word game can engage as many people as you want to play with in a good hour of competition and laughter. And now it's getting a second Major Fun award. The first was presented two-and-a-half years ago. Today, we have an improved Electronic Catch Phrase, just released, with new categories and words, making something like 10,000 in total.

This award goes primarily to Hasbro for having the intelligence and integrity that led to improving an already excellent game. This is all too rare an occurrence in the game industry. A successful game tends to get repackaged, and perhaps even rethemed, but rarely if ever fundamentally improved. The new version is simply easier to use. A back-lit LED screen is much easier to read. The digital score readout (replacing the cumbersome electronic voice), and the button size and placement all make for a friendlier, easier-to-control, more pleasant to play with device.

Most of the people at our Tasting who tried the game weren't familiar with Catch Phrase in any of its earlier incarnations - even the original mechanical and paper version released in the 90s. The main obstacle to their understanding the joys that awaited them was their other experiences of password-like games. See, that part, the guess-what-word-I'm-trying-to-make-you-say part, is so easy to understand that the other part, the hot potato part, completely escaped most people. Until we finally got to play the game. People kept on thinking that they should get a point when their team guessed the word. But that's not it at all. When your team guesses your word, you get to pass the device to a player on the other team. And points are kind of negative - awarded to your team when the timer goes off (hot potato-like) in the other team's hands. Despite the brevity and succinctness of the rules, this was the one real source of confusion that nothing short of a reworking of the rules (perhaps as a comic book) could have avoided.

On the other hand, as it were, once this rather inconsequential hurdle was cleared, delight was immediate and continuous. It really is one of the best electronic party games out there. And Catch Phrase, refreshed, is even better than its predecessor. At less than $25 retail, it's well-worth the purchase, even if you have the older version.

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Wordigo really took us by surprise. We see a word-board game and we think: "maybe fun for the guy playing, but agony for the people who are waiting their turns." So we conclude "Word-board game = not really Major FUN material." Then we notice the different boards and four complete sets of tiles. This leads us to conclude that maybe all four of us can play simultaneously. No turn-waiting. Immediate gratification, verbally-playfully speaking. Except that there are six of us. So we play in three teams.

And the game just takes off. Sure, we are confused a little by the different boards in the set, and the funny arrows on the tiles, but we start anyway, racing against each other and the timer, using and drawing tiles and discarding, trying to fill our boards up with words. And then, when the time is reluctantly up, we figure out the scoring, which really gets interesting, strategic-implication-wise. The next round (we hardly ever play more than one round during a "game tasting," but this game was just too darn delicious), we are much more score-conscious so we get strategic and discover we really don't have enough time anyway. We also decide to start with the second board, only to discover that it is actually more challenging than the first.

The game comes with four sets of letter tiles with pouches, four sets of four different game boards (two boards with a different design on each side), the first and probably only seven-minute sand timer in the world, and a score pad. The tiles look remarkably similar to those letter-with-number tiles you see in scoring letter games, but they have arrows on the vowels. The boards are similar to kids' crossword puzzles, but without the clues.

The game can be played simultaneously with up to four players or with teams, which we think is even more fun. And you can even invite the kids to play or compensate for those with different verbal skills. The boards are of varying levels of difficulty. Those who want to can use the easier boards or start with more tiles or maybe recycle their discarded tiles.

Wordigo is the only word game I know of that allows you to use a dictionary while you're playing. Of course, looking something up in a dictionary while the sand is inexorably streaming your time away is perhaps not such a useful option. Unless you're playing in pairs. Which we just happened to be. And even then, we were all too wrapped in the rapture of it all to use anything other than our rapidly muddling minds.

For those of us who enjoyextended moments of time-free deliberation, the game is still entertaining without timers. Players just continue until all the boards have been filled.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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It's a word game. It's a board game. It's the first word/board game I've found that makes the best of both. It's called, "BLURT!."

As a word game, it's simple enough. You read a definition. The first player to, um, Blurt! it out, so to speak, wins. This is fun, because the fact that you know what a word means often has little to do with the speed of your Blurt!

As a board game, it's a race, where you throw the die and move your pawn - a pawn that has the power to send others back. There's just enough chance to keep everyone guessing.

There's the "Showdown," or, as we called it, "Blurt-Off," when you land on somebody else and have to compete head to head for first correct Blurt! Failure sends you back - depending on the roll of the die.

And then there's the "Takeover." Land on a square that is the same color as your pawn and jump on anybody else, no matter how far down the track they are. Then comes the Blurt-Off, and the risk of being sent all the way back to the Takeover square.

The board game balances the challenge of the word game beautifully, creating an exciting social dynamic where everyone is involved and anyone can win, up until the very last play.

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Three for All

Here's yet another variation of Tribond - you know, the game where they tell you three words and you have to guess the word that connects them. The one we just gave a Major FUN Award. Well, Three for All is yet another TriBond-based game, and it's not just a repackaging, or an extension, it's a different, and surprisingly fun game using some really ingenious and innovative gamish technology.

You can think of it as TriBond meets Taboo (or Password or Catchphrase or Paired Up). Instead of someone simply reading you the three words, you have to guess the three words from the cleverly contrived clues as contrived cleverly by the clue-giver. This extra layer of guessing significantly adds to the challenge and excitement of basic TriBonding, because the temptation to guess the Bond, before the Tri is completed, is often dangerously irresistible. Dangerously, because if you're wrong, you can lose your marbles.

Which brings me to the gamish technology for which we fell so completely. There's this electronic timer - very cool, because it not only times the round (one minute), but also times the guess (you get three seconds). The timer sits on top of a hollow base. There's an eight-sided (octahedral) die which is placed inside the hollow timer base. Then, when you swish the base in a circle, the die swishes with it. Because of its octahedrousity, the die actually tumbles around, kinda magically. The number the die shows is the number of marbles you get to put in your cool triangular tray if you or your team guesses correctly.

And yes, you can play with two players, or two teams (even if you don't have an even number of people, even). And the rules are fun and funny (though a tad complex). And the whole thing, in Game Tasting lingo, is just plain delicious.

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When I first learned it, I was told it was called "Redondo." One player starts the game by drawing someting on the top part of a piece of paper, then folding the paper so that only the very bottom of the drawing shows, and passing it to the next player, who continues the drawing, folds it so that only the very bottom of the continuation shows, and then passes it to the next player. The result: deep whimsy.

Yes, I know, it's hard to believe that a game with a name like "Redondo" could trace its roots to something called "Exquisite Corpse." And it's even harder to believe that Exquisite Corpse could prove to be worthy of our pristinely playful purport. Fear not. Despite its macabre name, Exquisite Corpse is an invitation to silliness and creativity of the highest order - a game you've probably already played in several many versions.

There's even a text-only version of this game, which, according to this source, is an old parlor game that evolved into one of the "Surrealist techniques exploiting the mystique of accident." There's a website that is designed so that you can not only taste the literary wonders of such collective silliness, but add your personal own.

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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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Neighborhood Games Night

Every New Year's Eve, for the last five years, our little neighborhood (usually around five families from one side of the block and a couple from the other) hosts a progressive dinner. We, being the most progressive and least dinner-worthy (we're vegetarians), host the pre-appetizer-warm-up games. For this year-end's games: I definitely plan to play Panther-Person-Porcupine, probably as a first game. It gets people together and focused. Safely silly. Physically, but not strenuously engaged, competitive, but, ultimately, not.

Usually there's only time for three games. For the middle game, I'll probably follow up with that famous Victorian Parlor game of Crambo, perhaps even a quietly hilarious game of Fifteen - both relatively quiet, but equally pointless sitting-in-a-circle game, or, should the spirit so lean, a rollicking game of Bunny or beyond. Given the actual time, we can always play two.

For a festive, and somewhat frabjous finale, I thought I'd try a modified Sound and Fury game in which, instead of taking turns saying and doing basically any old thing, we go around the circle, twice, maybe, each and collectively manifesting new "Happy New Year"'s greetings in as many ways as we can think of.

In case you're not around, may you have the chance to play something like these silly games with your own neighbors, in celebration of peace, love, and safety.



Remember "Geography" - the game you probably played in the car or waiting at the restaurant with your family? You know the one. Someone says the name of a geographical location. Texas. Then the next player has to name another geographical location, starting with the last letter of the previous. Saskatchewan. Then the next: Nebraska. Et, basically, cetera. Remember how surprisingly long that game could last? And how genuinely challenging it could get? And how much fun it could be? Well, that should answer any questions you have about why Respond is so much fun. Because, basically, Respond begins where Geography leaves off.

First, there's the deck of category cards. We're not just talking Geography anymore. We're talking Vegetables, and Boys Names, and Bugs; Colors and Flowers, and Musical Instruments. Which might remind you of that game Categories. Remember? "Gonna Get (clap, clap) names of (clap clap) Candy..." Except you play with the Geography rule. And the categories change every turn. So now you have to be prepared to switch from context to context while figuring out what word starts with the last letter of the word before. Baseball. Larry. Umm. What bug starts with a "Y"? Oh. Yellowjacket.

Speaking of yellow, there are also these yellow-bordered "Lightning" category cards. When you play one, anybody, regardless of whose turn it is, can go next, if they answer correctly. Which adds a remarkably deep strategic pinch, because if you're not fast enough, you get skipped over. And if you are very fast, you can play a second card from your own hand before the timer runs out.

Speaking of which, there's a 20-second electronic timer that quietly blinks at you until you there are only five seconds left. And sedately beeps at you until you run out of time. And then blares a most conclusive siren in your personal face. Hitting it resets it. Not answering before the timer goes off means you have to draw an additional card. Which is not good, seeing as the goal of the game is to be the first player to run out of cards.

Respond is deliciously challenging. It can be played by kids old enough to read. It can be played by almost any number of people. Being based on games that almost everyone knows makes it that much easier to learn.

Everything works elegantly. The cards keep the game exciting. There's no need to keep score. It's easy to learn. Quick to play. If you lose the rules, you can find them online. Even batteries are included.

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Qwitch, the "Quick Switch" game, is a card game where speed is just about everything. The task seems simple enough. All you have to do is be the first person to get rid of your cards. And to do that, all you need is the card that is, depending on the roll of a die, either the same, or one greater, or one lesser in rank than the card just played.

The challenge lies in the design of the cards. Each card has both a letter (A-G) and a number (1-8). You can use either letter or number to determine which card to play. The effect of having this choice is similar to that of a mental Indian Burn (forgive the politically incorrect metaphor - an Indian Burn is what we used to give each other on our way out of boyhood by holding an arm with two hands and twisting in the opposite directions). Since there are no turns, and everybody races to be the next to slap down an appropriate card, you frequently find yourself with less than a split second to make your split decision about which of your cards has the right which, letter or number.

The special die that is used to determine whether to go up or down in sequence, or just to match the letter or number of the previous card, is an ingenious bit of game designery. Since the set is finite, beginning with the A-1 and ending with the H-8 cards, the die can be the only thing that can keep the game going. Rolling it gives you just long enough to catch your mental breath and reorient yourself to the new rule. And it's quite a delight to discover that matching can be just as consuming a challenge as continuing the sequence.

Qwitch is not a game for the contemplative or easily frustrated. Since there's no time for compassion, it's all too easy for the deliberative player to be, as they say, left holding the cards. The designers do suggest a version for the younger or fainter of mind in which, rather than playing simultaneously, players politely take turns. Needless to say, that variation was ruled out by us adult-types after about five seconds of play. If you find one or several of your playpals to be of the more deliberative type, you might consider a "level the playingfield" strategy, allowing each player to determine how many cards he or she will start with - the faster players taking more to "win with honor."

Though simple, the rules are a bit difficult to follow. Perhaps because of the layout of the rule sheet (which, as in all Out-of-the-Box games, is printed on much-appreciated card stock). Perhaps because a lot of very simple games prove remarkably difficult to describe. It's a minor obstacle, and the game is well-worth whatever slight efforts are needed to get started.

Qwitch is a fascinating, fast-paced game, similar to the Major FUN Award-winning, Out-of-the-Box game Blink. For 3-5 players, ages 7-adult, Qwitch is an energizing, and deliciously challenging card game that can be played in less than five very intense minutes.

Spit (a.k.a. Speed) is probably the closest of the traditional card games to match the speed and excrutiating joy of Qwitch. It's basically a double solitaire in which two players compete to play cards onto the same "tableaux" piles. The Qwitch-like aspect of the game is that no turns are taken, both players playing simultaneously. This causes endless opportunities for agony as one player beats the other to the piles. Since only two players are involved, it's a little less chaotic. But then again, Spit is for kids.

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If you've ever played Pictionary, you know how strangely cryptic, and yet amazingly effective drawings can become. As you get more familiar with the game and with each other, you reach a point where you can communicate remarkably abstract concepts with just a few lines.

Squint, from the consistently innovative and well-made games of Out of the Box Publishing is today's Major FUN Award-award winner.

Instead of drawing, you use any combination of Shape Cards to construct your clue.

Since it's so Pictionaryish, it's really easy to understand how to play. Until, that is, you actually try. And then it seems impossible. Until you keep trying. And, oddly enough, it is quite possible. Challenging, you bet. But surprisingly possible. As the game goes on, and people become more familiar with the shapes and what you can do with them (you can even "animate" them by sliding sections back and forth), it gets more and more intriguing. It definitely requires ingenuity, creativity and good imagination. Which makes the experience all that much more compelling.

There are three different words or phrases to try to guess on each of the 168 Squint cards (well, six if you count both sides). The role of a die determines which of the three you must use. (We decided not to use the die, and leave the choice up to the clue-giver. The challenge is deep enough at first, and, even though the three different choices are assigned different levels of difficulty - and point value - what may be difficult for one person to communicate can prove easier for the next.) The scoring is exceptionally compassionate. Both the guesser and guessee get points for a correct response.

Rounds are timed, so gameplay is fast and tense. The longer you play, the more adept you become at giving and interpreting clues. Eventually, you astonish each other with your collective brilliance.

We learned to use a ruler to indicate the bottom of the construct. We also seriously contemplated looking for a white surface upon which to arrange the cards. But, as the manufacturers so eponymously explain, squinting really helps.

Squint is a unique, brilliantly challenging guessing game that makes people feel good about their individual and collective genius. For 3-6 players, ages 12 and up.

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Man Bites Dog

Man Bites Dog wins the Major FUN Award for its humor, its playability, its invitation to creativity, its quickness, and, most of all, it's fun.

It's a card game the object of which is to create high-scoring headlines. Each card contains a word or a phrase and a score value. Headlines can have such bizarre grammatical structures that players can, with a modicum of creativity, compose a headline out of almost any cluster of words. The key word here is "almost." Sometimes it's impossible. Sometimes you have to stretch your concept of linguistic clarity beyond the breaking point. Take, for example, the following hand: CONVICT, SUSPECT, UROLOGIST, BLONDE, DUMPS. Luckily, DUMPS is one of those words that can be a noun or a verb. Otherwise, you'd be lost (you can replace up to three cards). So, how about BLONDE UROLOGIST DUMPS CONVICT? That'd work. So would BLONDE UROLOGIST DUMPS SUSPECT. Well, more or less. But you'd get another 5 points if you could use CONVICT. You can't have a SUSPECT CONVICT, though. How about CONVICT UROLOGIST DUMPS BLONDE SUSPECT?

Well, you get the point. But to actually get the points, everyone else must agree that your headline actually makes sense. This keeps the game from getting too competitive, because ultimately everyone is working together to keep the game going.

The game play is fast - a hand takes maybe five minutes to play. Since the average hand scores from 50-150 points, and the game is over as soon as someone reaches 500, the whole game rarely takes more than a fun, comfortable 20 minutes. It feels a little poker-like (you get five cards and can exchange up to three), which invites the creation of a minor infinity of non-gambling poker-like variations.

Man Bites Dog is recommended for 2 to 6 players, ages 8 and up. And a very good recommendation it is.

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An Intergenerational Games Night

I haven't been able to stop thinking about the magnitude of family fun described in Jan Nickerson's response to my open query about intergenerational games. Yesterday's Drawing Quotes game was part of it. Today, I decided that I had to blog the rest of it.

Jan writes (Bernie laboriously adds links where appropriate):

Our ages range from 10 to 17 for kids, 40's and 50's for adults, and 75-85 for grandparents. We especially like to play family games on New Year's Eve - fun for all!

There's never time to play ALL the games we're prepared to play - we just self-organize around whichever ones people want to play. By having the round robin, people can choose. Those who want to play Magic, for example, can for one 30 minute round, and still be available to play other games during the night with people who don't play Magic. If you've ever been to an Open Space Conference, that's basically how we organize it. Half hour time slots are rows of the matrix, Rooms with game selections are columns of the matrix. Kids get to choose who they'll play what against in each time slot, making sure that they play at least 1 game with each person there (works for 8 people). After the kids have chosen, which includes committing adults in different time slots and games, then the adults fill in the empty slots. Don't worry if a game takes less than 30 minutes - time to play another quick version, or refill a drink. This variety and mixing gets our kids asking for game nights with the family and friends.

Computer games we love to play include:

Zoombini, and all of the Dr. Brain's (e.g. see how many puzzles you can do in 20 - 30 minutes)
Jigsaw (Bernie notes: this online Jigsaw puzzle site allows you - if you join, for free - to upload your own photos and make puzzles out of them. All puzzles on this site can be made more or less difficult, changing the size and number of pieces. Very cool.)

Board games we love include:
Apples to Apples (great for all ages 11 and up) (there are sets allowing you to extend the age range downward to 7)
Loaded Questions (GREAT fun, especially for friends and family you don't necessarily see often - perfect for holidays)
Cranium (fun to see who becomes the resident actor, singer, artist, or factoid expert!)
Elferraus (German game by Ravensburger, building up and down sequence with 4 suits)
Hot Seat (like loaded questions, esp good for teenagers)
Jenga Truth or Dare (like Jenga tower of wooden sticks, but each one has a truth or dare challenge - good for teenagers)

Old Standby Favorites:
Card games/activities:
Crazy Uno (see instructions in the Deep Fun weblog - or just google search for them)
Sequence (my husband and I have played this at least once a day, for 2 years now!) - see below for rules variations
House of Cards (see how many cards you can add to the house of cards in 5 minutes, without making it fall)
Fluxx (rules change every hand!)
Bali (like double solitaire, but with letters building up words)
Magic (for those who know how to play)

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Today's Major FUN Award goes to Hoopla, a guessing game that combines Pictionary ("Cloodle"), Charades ("Soundstage") with two original guessing game formats to create a challenging, collaborative, and high-gigglewatts experience of party-perfect fun - even for a party of two.

The two original guessing games are Tongue-Tied, where you have to use clues starting with the same letter, and Tweener, where your clues must be in the format: "It's bigger than....but smaller than...." Each is fun in itself. Each more effective depending on what you're trying to get everyone else to guess.

The things that you're trying to get each other to guess are determined by the cards drawn from a deck of 285 cards, each illustrated with a color photo. The category (an essential clue) is written on the back of each card. The game you play is decided by the toss of a novel ten-sided die. The fifth choice is called "Wild Hoopla" where you determine which of the four guessing formats you're going to use. Contrary to expectations, this choice can burn many delightfully agonizing seconds while you figure out which format is most appropriate to, say, "Microbrew" or "Elton John" or "PEZ."

Then there's a really well-designed mechanical timer that ticks the time away quietly, but thunderously enough to keep the pace, and players, well-nigh unto frantic. You start and stop the timer by hitting it - which, depending on the difficulty of the card, can prove a most satisfying vehicle for self-expression.

Given my bias towards cooperation, I was especially happy to discover that Hoopla is, in fact, a "Pointless" game. No scores are kept. The objective is for everyone to get everyone else to guess all the cards drawn in the alloted time - which is just short enough to make victory most definitely sweet.

All in all, from design and manufacture to playing the game, Hoopla proves itself a most Major Fun-worthy game.

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Today's Major FUN Award goes to Curses - a game of geometrically increasing silliness for 3-6 players, age 12 and up.

There are two decks of cards and a very nice hotel-type hit-the-top-and-it-rings bell. One deck of cards is called "Challenges," the other "Curses."

Let's start with the "Curses," which, of course, are the real challenges. A Curse is something silly that you have to do. For example, you might have the Curse of having to talk in a French accent, or having your wrists glued to your head (well, there's no real glue, but you have to pretend there is), or having to bow every time someone applauds. As the game progresses, you get more Curses. From other players, actually. Remembering two Curses is at least twice as difficult as remembering one. By the time you have three Curses you are at a conceptual point likened only to patting your tummy and rubbing your head while singing "Boat your row, row, row." In a French accent.

When you break a Curse, some observant player dutifully rings the bell. If you break enough Curses, you're kind of out. Kind of, because you still get to be a bell-ringer and cause of Curse-breaking.

The Challenges make the Curses evermore Curselike. You might have to ask someone else out to a school prom, or be in a TV commercial explaining why your deodorant is best or demonstrate how you celebrated your what you did when you scored the winning touchdown in the Superbowl. Each challenge takes on a very different light when you have to perform it under multiple Curses.

Curses radiates at least 120 Gigglewatts of pure Guffaw-power. It's can get very, very difficult to play, very quickly, and is challenging enough to occupy the most limber-minded of collegiates, whilst silly enough to keep even us over-the-hillsies laughing and coughing in glee.

The only niggle I have is with the quality of the cards. They don't pass the shuffle test very easily. But that, compared to the sheer hysteria that this game catalyzes, is clearly, at most, a nano-niggle.

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The Official Crazy Uno Rules

In addition to Jan's description of Crazy UNO comes this "Official" version from a correspondent of hers:

1). “Slap” If you have the exact same card that was last played, you may play it at any time, regardless of whose turn it is.

2). If a seven (7) is played, the player must trade their hand with an opponent of his/her choice with only one exception…

3). If a seven (7) is slapped, the player who slapped has three choices:
a). Trade his/her hand with an opponent of choice.
b). Have two opponents trade their hands.
c). Do nothing.

4). If a zero (0) is played, players must pass their hand in the direction of play.

5). “Nullification” If a reverse is slapped, it nullifies the original reverse thus preserving the direction of play.

6). If a one (1) is played, you must pass one card to an opponent of your choice.

7). Dealing: The youngest player deals the first hand. Seven cards to each player dealt one at a time starting with the player to the dealer’s left with the fourth card being dealt face up. The dealer then flips the top card to begin play. This card is the “flipped card.”

8). Player names: Each player must pick their game name (other than their real name) before play begins. During play, all players must refer to all other players by their game name. Failure to do so will result in one penalty card being drawn from the stockpile.

9). “Slap out da gate bonus” If the “flipped card is slapped by any player other than the player whose turn it is, the hand is over. The player who slapped receives the –20 points for going out and all other players add up their hands as usual.

10). “Draw four out the gate” If a player legally plays a draw four on the flipped card, that player receives a bonus of –50 at the end of the hand.

11). “Rule 10 exception” If the flipped card IS a draw four, there is no bonus awarded, only the “slap out da gate bonus.” (See rule 9).

12). If a player leaves a game for any reason, they receive a DNF (did not finish) for their score and are not allowed to re-enter the game.

13). No substitutions permitted under any circumstances.

14). If a player wishes to join a game in progress, their score begins at one (1) plus the current last place player’s score.

15). If a player slaps his/her own card, it remains that player’s turn.

16). If you cannot play when it is your turn you pick one card from the stockpile and either pass or play. NOTE: you may choose to pass at any time regardless of whether or not you can play.

17). The current dealer has the right to move the game to an alternate location before he/she deals.

18). Scoring:

Card Point Value
Seven (7) -7
Zero (0) 100
Face cards (Skip, Reverse, Draw Two) 20
Numbered Cards (1-6,8-9) Face Value
Black Cards (Wild and Draw Four) 50
Going Out -20
Draw Four Out Da Gate -50

19). Marathon Hand: Players must predetermine when the marathon is to be played by marking a star several lines below the start of the game; OR when a players score reaches 500 points. The marathon hand ends the game. Point values are doubled. There is NO trading of player’s hands. The dealer deals 3 cards to every player, then 2 cards excluding the player with the highest score, then 3 cards excluding the player with the 2nd highest score, then 2 cards…until the player with the lowest (winning) score receives 2 or 3 cards to end the deal.

courtesy of Jason


Crazy UNO

this, from Jan Nickerson

Crazy UNO Rules

1. Someone else gives you a crazy uno name before you start playing. Generally people choose names that are amusing in some way. My family chooses insulting names such as Cat Litter since they find this amusing.

2. Once you all have been given your Uno name, noone may call you by your real name. If they do they have to pick up 2 cards. This includes between games and on breaks.

3. If someone starts to use a real name like yours, but catches themselves before the whole name is said, there is no penalty. i.e., Ja...,(Jan) Da... (Dad), Jam...(Jamie), Jen...(Jenna) and Mar...(Mary Jane). This includes not using any pet names you have for them or achronyms you commonly use like I use MJ for Mary Jane. Jenna says Dad not John.

4. You CAN jump in at any time when you have a card that exactly matches the card facing up being played. This means you can jump in when it is someone elses turn and play a Green 8, a Reverse Red, or a Wild Card Draw 4, etc. anytime you have a match regardless if it is your turn. If this happen when someone plays a matching Wild Card Draw 4, the person after them draws 8 cards unless they have another Wild Card Draw 4. Then they play that (out of turn) and the person next to them draws 12 cards. It gets Crazy when people keep playing matching Skips and Reverses thus changing whose turn it is a lot.

5. You may NOT play a Wild Card Draw 4 if it is your turn unless you are out of the color suit you are supposed to play. THE exception to this is that you can match a Wild Card Draw 4 and put another one on top it anytime you please.

Warning: This game is not for people who always play nice.

I could only find one mention of Crazy Uno on the Web: this from a discussion board.