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Sketchy

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.

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PitchCar

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.

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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?

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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)

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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.

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Word on the Street

Take all your consonants except for the ridiculous ones like Q, X and Z. Put them on your satisfyingly hefty bakelite tiles. Now, make a long game board, like a 4-lane highway with a divider strip just wide enough and long enough to accommodate all of your happily hefty letter tiles. Next, get together a deck of 216, often surprisingly laugh-provoking, double-sided category cards, like: "The Brand of Clothing Worn by One of the Players," and "Something that is Wasted," and "Something Used by Scuba Divers," and "A Word that Describes a Car Crash," "A Title Used for Males but not for Females." Add a cardholder and sand timer. And those are all the ingredients needed for a new and notably Major FUN word game called "Word on the Street" from those frequently Major FUN game publishers, Out of the Box.

Everything, of course, except for the rules. And there in lies the tickle.

Designed by Jack Degnan to give a couple or a couple of teams of word-lovers ample opportunity to demonstrate their brilliance and/or befudlement, the game is a contest to see who, in 30 seconds, can think of a word that 1) fits the category, and 2) has as many as possible of the letters still in play, many of which are doubled - as in MISSISSIPPI which would allow us to move the M one lane closer to us, the P two lanes closer, and the S clear off the board, which would put us one letter ahead. Only 7 more to go and we win!

Though Mississippi would in deed be a coup, it would not be considered a valid response to the category "A Brand of Clothing Worn by One of the Players." To which the best I could do at this time is probably MAIDENFORM (getting to move M twice as well as a D, N, F and R once). Or would MASSIMO with its two M's and two S's be better?

As the game progresses, different letters, and hence different words become more desirable, offensively or defensively, so the challenge keeps on changing. The best word might not have the most double letters in it if some letters only one space away from us, or more enticing yet, one space away from the opponent's goal. The 30-second timer keeps the game moving apace. The cards keep the game surprising and funny. The tiles are large enough for all to read. The board works perfectly in directing player's attention to the strategically most valuable letters. All this makes the game absorbing and delightfully tense, from the moment the first card is read until one team finally manages to capture the eighth letter.

Recommended for 2 to 12 players old enough to appreciate each other's verbal mastery.

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Funny Business - funny in deed

The people at Gamewright call their Funny Business game "The Hilarious Game of Mismatched Mergers." And by golly, they're right!

Funny Business is a family game that engaged our particular family, ranging in age from just 12 to significantly 67, in verifiable moments of hilarious, helpless laughter.

You get a deck of very big "Business Cards." These are not your traditional business cards, they're cards that identify kinds of business - like "Bakery" and "Barber Shop" - 200 different businesses. Each card also has a list of 20 words associated with that business - like bread and doughnut and bangs and curls. Everybody gets a write-on-wipe-off naming card, a voting wheel, a marker (with write-on-wipe-offing eraser), and until the timer runs out to write down what you might call a, for example, Barber Shop and Bakery. You know, like Snips 'n Crumpets, and The Coiffed Bagel, and maybe Feed and Groom.

When time's up, one player reads all the answers on their naming cards. The cards, by the way, each have a different color border which in turn correspond to one of the colors on the voting wheel, all of which add to the ease and the fun of voting.

You get 2 points if you get the most votes, and 1 point if you vote for the winner.

If you tie - somehow two or more players become so attuned to each other and the underlying silliness of the game that they all write the same thing - both players get points if they get voted for, and if they vote for the winner. The fact that such ties occur a testimony to the kind of closeness this silly game engenders. We played all 6 rounds, and by the 3rd or 4th we started having ties, and by the 5th or 6th, we were still having ties.

A lot of the laughter is at yourself - in a very fun sort of way. From time to time you amaze yourself at your cleverness, or your ability to think of a name that's too, shall we say, personal to share, while simultaneously nothing short of genius. We kept score. But by the last round we were too tired from laughing to care who won.

The older folk spent the most time laughing. For the 12-year-old, much of the hilarious subtlety seemed other.

Designed by Jack Degnan for Gamewright, Funny Business proves to be a Major FUN party-like game, for friends or families of up to 8 players whose kids are in their teens or beyond.

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Captain Clueless - navigate your way to fun

Gather enough people so you can have 2 teams - at least 4, maybe 8. Kids, parents, friends, whoever feels like playing something that's a little like a team version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey, and maybe a little more like a team version of the Major FUN-award-winning Par Out Golf.

Let Team Two start for a change. They select one player. That player picks a Port Card, looks for where that port is on the board - a humorously drawn of a navigator's map of the Caribbean - checks one last time where it is relative to his team's home port, and then puts his blindfold on. Somebody from her team puts a marker in her hand, puts the point of the marker on the home port, while somebody else from the other team starts the 45 second timer, announcing the beginning of the turn with the proverbial "bon voyage." Her team can give her only one-word clues, how many clues depending on the destination number. The first port of call can get up to 5 clues, each subsequent port, one clue less, and the final voyage back to the home port has to be made with only 2 clues. According to the rules, if you are "able to draw a clear route and land your marker in the anchor icon of your chosen port of call, remove your blindfold and marvel at your achievement."

Designed by Ted Cheatham and published by Gamewright Games, Captain Clueless turns out to be Major FUN - for kids (as young as 8), for families (younger kids can do the drawing while the rest of the family helps with the directions), with anybody in a playful, party-like mood. You can easily change some of the rules to keep everyone in play - increasing the number of clue words per turn, opting to play without the timer, allowing only nautical-like clues (hard a-port!). Though it's possible to play the game with just two players, the teamplay aspect of the experience is what really distinguishes this game from anything you've ever played before. It's not Pin the Tail on the Donkey. You're not trying to succeed all by yourself. The other players aren't trying to confuse you or make things harder for you. You're being supported by your team. You're the Captain, and though you might be "clueless" you are most definitely not "crewless."

The board is large and fun to look at. It is finished so that it is very easy to erase. The markers are full-size, and, since you're not allowed to have any part of your body touch the board while you're sailing, help to keep the right distance from the board. The sailing fantasy reinforces the "adventure" feel of the game, conveying the tone as well as concept, adding humor, clarity, and an invitation to practice, or make up your own sailing jargon. It's very easy to learn, the rules are very clearly written (on one, thoughtfully laminated page), and it most definitely makes people laugh.

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Letter Roll® - a word game for just about everybody

It's a word game. It's a party game. It's a family game. It's even a kid's game. It's Letter Roll® - easy to learn, short, intense rounds (lasting one or two minutes each); easily adapted to different skill levels and play preferences, taking some of the best elements from some of the best word games (a little bit of Boggle, a little bit of Major FUN Keeper-award-winning PDQ).

Your Letter Roll® box contains seven, hefty, 20-sided (go ahead, count them) dice in three different colors. Two sand-timers (your orange one-minute and your blue two-minute timer), four commodious worksheet pads and four full-sized, sharpened pencils. The different colors of the dice identify the level of difficulty (letter frequency) each die introduces. The two white dice display frequently-used letters, the three blue dice less frequently-used letters, and the two orange dice the infrequently-used, and hence, the most challenging.

When it's your turn to roll, you select any four of the dice. This gives you some control over the level of challenge. Choose only blue and orange dice, and you have an extremely challenging round. Choose only white and blue dice for a refreshingly less challenging round. Just to keep power where it most comfortably belongs, an other player gets to eliminate one of your chosen dice, so that ultimately it's not totally your fault if the round turns out to be too easy or too challenging.

Once the final selection is revealed, the roller announces the letters rolled, and players race to write down as many unique words as they can think of that use all three letters. As long as each word uses all the letters, it doesn't matter what order the letters are in. (Having the roller announce the letters, by the way, is another welcome, controversy-avoiding touch - as determining which face of the 20-sided dice are actually showing can prove somewhat of a challenge.) Players race to write as many words as they can think of, knowing that at the end of the round they will only score for words that no other player has chosen. When the time is mercifully up, players take turns reading their lists while the rest of the players draw lines through any of the words on their list that get called out. This results in much, somewhat good-natured, but clearly mournful moaning as scoring potential gets graphically reduced. When all lists have been read, players announce and record their scores, getting one point for each unique word remaining on their lists. This encourages originality, cleverness and obscurity, all comfortably confused by a strong element of pure chance.

To further refine the intensity of the game, players can select either timer, the one- or two-minute sand timer, to be used during the duration of the game. The one-minute timer not only shortens the playing time, it also makes the search somewhat less excruciating. The less time you have to think, the easier it is for you to forgive your lexicographic lapses.

Designed by Tushar Gheewala, the challenge presented by Letter Roll is so wonderfully flexible that it can be played by kids as young as 7 or 8 (just reduce the number of dice) or by adults in the prime of their linguistic abilities (increase the number of dice, increase the number of letters required for each word). By allowing each player to determine which dice to be used, players can further refine the challenge as each round of the game is played. It's a great 2-player game, and, with only slight modification of the rules, you can have as many as 20 players happily engaged (team play takes the game to an hilarity-inducing level of collaboration and chaos). As with just about every game published by Out of the Box, the components are designed for years of play, the box for easy storage, the rules for clarity and durability.

Let those good times roll again. Letter Roll® is Major FUN.

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Consensus®

Consensus® is a party game - the kind of party game to which you will eventually be comparing all other party games. If your kids are old enough, it's just that kind of family game - the kind you'd want your family to play. It's a game that makes people laugh, think, talk and listen to each other. Most of all, it's the kind of game that brings people together and keeps them together.

It's what you might call a "voting game," where "right" answer is the answer that receives the majority of votes. This shifts the focus from being "correct" to learning about the people you are playing with. Since players end up focusing on each other more so than on the actual content of the game, it creates the kind of fun that unites people, regardless of who wins or loses.

There are currently two versions of Consensus®, both of which function the same way.

In the Movie Edition, (the one we would recommend for adult groups) a "Movie Question Card" is read aloud. For example: "Which of the following movies best conveys the concept of: "Anything's Possible?" Ten "movie cards" are then arranged on the playing board, in the spaces numbered 1-10. For example: (Field of Dreams, Jurassic Park, Braveheart, Pretty Woman, Rocky, Back to the Future, The Shawshank Redemption, The Ten Commandments, E.T., The 40-Year-Old Virgin.) Using the "Voting Cards," each player privately votes for the movie title which he/she feels best answers the movie question. After all private votes are cast, the players reveal their answers. The majority answer is deemed the "correct" answer, and all players who chose that answer advance their pawns one space. The player who advances to the end of the scoring track first is the winner and is crowned "The Greatest Mind."

There are a total of 11 spaces to move before you can get crowned, so the game can take a while to play - especially if you're playing with the full complement of eight lovingly argumentative players. The game can be played with as few as three, but it's one of those definitely more-the-merrier kinds of party games.

The Original Edition (the one we would recommend for a broader audience, 12-Adult) uses the same mechanics as the Movie Edition, but the subject matter is far more generic. Here you try to select the "Noun Card" that most closely satisfies the "Adjective Card." And although Consensus® may share some aspects with the ever-so-deservedly popular Apples to Apples, you'd really be comparing apples to oranges here. Consensus® is a voting game. There are no judges. It's the majority that rules.

The Original Edition proves to be as much fun as the Movie Edition, and because the subject matter is even more subjective, so to speak, and more accessible, the game proves equally inviting to your pre-teens, who have probably watched even fewer movies than you, unless you're talking about cartoons, which, thankfully, the Movie Edition doesn't. Furthermore, in Consensus® each player is voting from a common set of nouns, which allows player to compare answers in a more discussion-worthy way.

There are many subtle aspects of the game play. The rules for determining what constitutes a Consensus (you don't score if everyone votes for the same or if everyone votes differently, or if there is a tie) encourage players to learn more about each other so they can better anticipate who might vote for what the next round. The "movie cards" or "noun cards" that receive no votes remain on the board for the next round. This accomplishes at least several goals: it keeps more cards available for subsequent rounds, it keeps good, but neglected possibilities still possible; and it gives players fewer new things to think about and more opportunity focus on the real fun of the game: each other.

All in all, our Tasters' consensus was that Consensus®, the game, is Major FUN.

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PDQ earns KEEPER award

Every now and a Major Fun game proves to be the kind of game we want to keep in our permanent collection - something exemplary. PDQ is one of those games. Originally reviewed here, PDQ has proven itself to be just that kind of game: fun, flexible, easy to learn and teach, one of those games you just wouldn't want to be without. Here is the review again:

PDQ is a sweet little word game - easy to learn, quick (Pretty Darn Quick) as a matter of fact - a game you can play by yourself or with maybe one, or several or even many other people?

You get a deck of 78 letter cards - nice looking, good stock, big, easy-to-read letter cards. You deal out three at a time, face-up. And then you see who can make a word first, or, in case of a tie, who can come up with a longer word. TLP, for example. Tulip. Sure. Or perhaps Platitude. Platitude. Of course. Longer than Tulip. (Did I mention that you can use the letters backwards or forwards?) (Did I also mention that you can use any number of letters before, between or after the three letters that you draw?) (And, of course, the letters have to be in the same order?)

Designed by Jay Thompson to be played by kids as well as adults (kids use just two cards at a time, word game experts can try playing with four), PDQ is pretty darn close to everything you would want in a word game - 5-30 minutes of engaging, challenging, and frequently laugh-producing fun.

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Scrabble Slam

Scrabble Slam is an easy-to-learn, quick-to-play word game for 2 to maybe 6 players of equal word-game-playing skill, and, yes, it's Major FUN.

OK, it's not Scrabble. It's more like a Word Ladder puzzle, only without the rungs. And played with cards, rather than paper and pencil. Two-sided cards, actually. 55 of them.

Players decide on a four-letter word, then find the 4 cards with the letters needed to spell that word. These cards are laid face-up on the table to spell the word. The rest of the deck is then distributed as evenly as possible between the rest of the players (in case you're concerned: since there are 55 cards, and 4 are played out, you can only get an even distribution with 3 players). If you want to make the game feel more fair, the stronger player should get the extra card. If you're playing as a family, the youngest player should get the fewest cards.

Once the target word is laid out, players race to change the word, one letter at a time, trying to be the first to use up all the cards in their hand. So, for example, if the chosen word were PLAY, and you had a card with an N on it, you could cover the Y and make PLAN. If you had an F you could make PLAN into FLAN. If you had a T you could make FLAN into FLAT. And so on, and so on, until someone has no more cards to play.

You don't take turns, so you are under significant pressure, especially if you're playing with equally-skilled players. This makes the game short, and very sweet - especially for the winner. Since the cards have two sides (the letters on the opposite side of a card are indicated by small letters in the corners), there's what one might consider a challenge to one's dexterity - not a big challenge, just big enough to add to the tension and provoke laughter.

And yes. There are blank cards, that act just like the blanks in Scrabble. On the other hand, Scrabble it is not. On yet another hand, fun it most definitely is.

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One Word

Quick, think of a word, one word, that is both a season and a type of guy. Did you say "fall"? Cute. You're right. Grab a Scoring Marker. OK. How about something you do with a pencil that is also a kind of bridge. "Draw." Prexactly. Grab another Scoring Marker. Quick now. And I mean really quick. Because as soon as the top stops spinning, your team's turn is over, what's one word that's both a unit of measurement and a kind of stone. Never mind. It's too late. The top stopped.

Well, it's not exactly a top. It's more like a large, plastic jack. But it spins - very sweetly in its special, concave spinning spot. And though one doesn't generally think of using a large plastic jack as a timer, this one works really well, and actually adds a most delicious modicum of fun to the game, and challenge to one's spinning dexterity.

Designed by Garrett J. Donner, Michael S. Steer, and Wendy L. Harris, and brought to by the fun people at Fundex, One Word is a Majorly FUN party game for two teams. It comes with 100, two-sided clue cards, each with 5 different puzzles; 5 Scoring Markers, which prove to be a significantly satisfying mechanism for making one's cleverness manifest; and, as advertised, a wacky jack-like Spin Timer, that somehow manages to makes a fun party game funner.

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Partini

If variety were the spice of fun, Hasbro's Partini would be the paprika of play. Or maybe the garam masala of games.

Partini is a collection of 6 different party games. The key words here are "different" and "party games." For example, there's "Clay Smoothie" - a familiar party game, like Pictionary, only with something like Play Doh (oddly enough, all products of Hasbro), except your team has to figure out two out of three of your sculptures, all of which share a common (announced) property (e.g. "green"). And then there's Mime Twist, a charades-like game, similar to the "Star Performer" games in Cranium, which, perhaps not-so-coincidentally, is also manufactured by Hasbro. And then there's Hum Punch, in which, like in Cranium's Humdinger, the object is to get your team to identify the song you are humming. But then there are also the non-Cranium gamelets, Shooters (which turned out to be one of our favorites) - a game involving cups and balls and small variety of cup-and-ball-based challenges, and What Nots in which you try to describe something by saying what it isn't, and Straight-Up - a most party-like "familiarity" game in which players write something true or funny about a team mate (we were worried about this, because this is a game of an ilk that requires a certain amount of sensitivity - which can not always be counted on - yet the game proved well-enough structured to keep things safe, fun and funny). And, totally unlike Cranium, there's no board - just a bunch of coaster-like disks which determine what game you are to play, and act as score counters.

Hasbro has gone to great lengths to make this Partini as attractive as it is fun to play. It comes in a large, sturdy, suitcase-like box. There are 500 game cards - all well-made and attractively-illustrated; cups and balls, pencils and paper, and a special Straight-Up die. Designer Chris Nelson has made praiseworthy efforts to make the game fun, unpredictable, and elegant. The coaster scoring- and game-selection mechanic works brilliantly. The balance of games keeps everyone involved. Familiar enough to be easy to learn (especially for Cranium players). Different enough to be an valuable addition to any party for involving 4 or more adult-aged, but not too adult-like people.

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Backseat Drawing

Draw a rectangle. Wait. Draw it horizontally - you know, so it's wider than it is high. Make it a little smaller. Good. Now draw a kind of egg shape touching the upper right corner. Great. OK. Now make 4 straight lines, attached to the bottom of the rectangle, spread more or less evenly. Now draw a small arc, the bottom of the curve touching the top of the egg shape. Good. Good. Good. Still can't guess it? Try this: between the first and second of those lines you drew on the bottom of the rectangle, the lines on the left, draw smallish "W" shape. Feel free to guess what it is any time. No penalty for wrong answers. And if anything the other team draws or says helps, please, be my guest. What? Did you say "cow"?

Holy, mmm, cow, you're right! We get a card! Oh, the udder bovine bliss of it all!

The name of the game is Backseat Drawing. And, yes, in deed, it's Major FUN.

You need two teams of two or more players. Each team gets a dry-erase marker, board and eraser (the eraser comes in very, very handily). There's a deck of 168 "challenge" cards. The cards are two-sided. One side is easier. That's where you'll find "Cow." The other side is where you find words like "Soup," "Zipper," and, OMG, "Sea Horse." The cards fit into an open plastic box which also acts as a viewer - revealing the top card to the people who are directing while concealing it from the artists and their cohorts of fellow-guessers.

It takes maybe five minutes to learn. And a good 20-30 minutes before any team accumulates enough points to win. We played a couple rounds. In the second round, we changed partners and also tried the more challenging side of the Challenge Cards. We drew. We laughed. We lost.

The game is in four different languages (English, Spanish, French and German). There are four different rule cards, each in one of the aforementioned languages. The Challenge Cards are equally multi-lingual. What this means is that should one wish to elevate both the chaos and joylikeness of it all, one could conceivably backseat draw cross-culturally.

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Zenn

Zenn is a remarkably fun and inviting dexterity game for 2-4 players. What makes it remarkably inviting is how easy it is to play, even if you never read the rules. What makes it remarkably fun is how many different games there are to play.

Here are a few things you might want to notice: each corner of the playing field is at a 45-degree angle. This makes it possible for a player to achieve some remarkably impressive bank shots. Directly in front of each goal are two reflecting blocks. They are positioned just where you'd want them if you were trying to bank your chip off the corner into the cup. The space between these blocks is only slightly wider than a small poker chip. Thus, sliding a chip from one side of the board so that it passes between the two blocks on the opposite side (and into the goal cup) requires concentration and coordination that is, well, Zen-like. Then there are the various lines and numbers and letters - each of which lends itself to the formulation of yet further and more profound challenges.

Then of course there are the poker chips. Four each, of two different sizes and colors, inviting yet further possibilities of game-like engagement.

You might also notice that the instruction booklet that comes with your Zenn set describes exactly 101 different games you can play.

In sum, the game of Zenn is an invitation to chip-flicking at it's finest! Each different game described in the booklet takes advantage of some different aspect of the board and pieces. Each is an inspiration to invent your own.

This is what makes Zenn Major FUN - the elegance and subtlety of the design, the almost intuitive clarity of the goals, the many, many different ways to play; and the sheer delight of the game mechanics.

Yes, the rule booklet has a certain homemade look, and the poker chip pucks seem a little, well, common, but the game is anything but common, and the many different variations are positively inspirational, and the chip-pucks, available almost anywhere, slide and bounce ever so satisfyingly around the lifetime-guaranteed board (with added slipperiness provided by your readily available can of Pledge spray wax)(and a bag of replacement chips available for a nominal $1.75).

For kids, families, parties - like I said, Major FUN.

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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 5000...one 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.

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Go Nuts!

Have you ever seen anyone go crazy when playing a game? Go Nuts!, a new entry in Gamewright's 12-Minute Games series, certainly seems to encourage this in the title alone! The frenzied activities of the game add a level of wackiness and fun not often found in dice games, and the "push-your-luck" aspect will keep players on the edge of their seat for the few minutes this game takes to complete.

On a player's turn, they simply roll five dice that have squirrels, acorns, and cars on their faces. Each acorn a player rolls scores the player one point, while cars are placed out of play. Players are allowed to re-roll all dice with squirrels and/or nuts on them; but they can stop at any time, taking the sum of points they have accumulated. Continuing to roll presents a level of danger. Because if the player ever rolls all cars at one time, their turn ends immediately; and any points gained that turn are lost. If the player rolls all squirrels, pandemonium breaks out. The player shouts, "Go Nuts!", and starts rolling the dice as fast as they can, attempting to score as many points as they gather. All the other players roll one special die that has a dog picture on a single face. When another player rolls a dog, they scream out "Woof, woof, woof!" and the player whose turn it is tallies up their points and passes the dice to the next player.

To add an even spicier element to the game, a player who has only a single die remaining gets all five dice back if they roll an acorn. Since the chance of causing a "nutty" round or losing all the dice because of cars is high, players have to assess the risks of doing this, although it may allow a player to come back into the competition.

Whenever "Go Nuts!" is shouted, it's hilarious to watch everyone rolling dice as fast as they can, trying to stop the player from gaining any more points. Rapid-fire dice rolling is amazingly fun; and when added to the simple probability choices, it gives the game a most definitely Major FUN feeling. I've seen groups of people literally shrieking in fun as they tossed the dice at the table, trying desperately to get a dog before Uncle Bob scores any more points; and no one is ever out of competition until the game ends. Add the fact that the game takes less than 12 minutes to play to the mix, and you have a wonderful choice for families and parties.

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games"
The Dice Tower

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Attribute

Attribute, another minor wonder of strategic silliness from Z-Man Games, is a word game inviting more than a bit of psycho-strategico contemplation.

There are two decks of cards: one deck of 60 sheep cards and another of 164 attribute cards. There are only two kinds of sheep in your cutely-illustrated sheep card deck - the green sheep card of topic matching and the red, out-of-topic sheep card. There are 164 kinds of attribute cards, indicated by words like: "spooky," "bleak," "wild," and "furry."

Each person gets 4 attribute cards and one sheep card. Let's say you have a red sheep card. You put that card face down, in front of you. One player, anyone, actually, makes up a topic. Really, literally, any topic. For example: crime. You are more or less in luck. At least one of your 4 cards clearly and obviously is unrelated to "crime." For example, "Furry." But perhaps less in luck than you might first have thought. Because if you put down your Furry card it will be fairly obvious to everyone that you are a red sheep. It might have been better to use your "spooky" card, or even the card called "wild." At least you might make someone hesitate.

Because, you see, when all is said and done, and everyone has put their sheep face down and an attribute face up, players then select (e.g. grab) any face down pair, the object being to have grabbed a green sheep, and not a red, don't you see. So when all the pairs are on the table, you have to think very, very quickly - is the attribute that's revealed enough like the category to be covering a green sheep? Or is it perhaps a ruse, or a rouge, by any other name?

Since Attribute can be played by as many as 8 people, it is definitely a party game. It might also succeed as a family game, depending on age of the youngest players. We'd recommend 10 and above for a mixed age group, and 8-10 for a kids' game.

Designed by Marcel-Andre Casasola Merkle, Attribute is a unique and engaging word game. Major FUN.

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Party Pooper

In the latest Out-of-the-Box card-(432 cards)-reading, personality-predicting, finger-pointing fun.

There's a die (the Party Cube). You roll the die. That tells you whether you are looking for the most or least likely person in the group who, for example, would join a bow-hunting safari. It says "Party Pooper," so you're looking for the person you think would be least likely to want to join that old bow-hunting safari. At the count of three, everybody points. Since it's you're turn to be the prime pointer (the "host"), you point to the person you think is the Pooper, while at the same time everyone points to the person they think would be the person you would point at. Get it? Not necessarily the "real" person. Just the person they think you would point at. Then everyone who pointed at the same person you pointed to gets points (chip) and gets to give you points (also a chip) ("gets" as in "has to"). Everybody else, the nay-pointers, as it were, gets nothing. And that's the game. And someone else gets to be the host. And the die is rolled. And a card is picked. And people point. And then they laugh.

And that's it, in brief. In sum, Party Pooper, the many-carded game with chips and pointing and laughing, is Major FUN. In a little more depth, I think you should know why this makers suggest that the game be played, yes, by as many as 8 players, in party-like fashion, as long as everyone's at least 12. Physically and emotionally. Because getting pointed at or not, as fun as it can be, is easy to take a little too personally. In fact, there might be people who have been categorized as adults, and yet might actually be prone to taking such playful pointings personally.

And there is an alternate set of rules, actually, that don't involve finger pointing, but rather thumbs-upping or -downing.

But you happen to be the kind of person who plays for fun. And regular-old Party Pooper happens to be just that kind of game, especially with all the pointing. A genuinely fun game. And the people you want to play with are also of that emotional age we consider to be at least 12. And it will be something definitely, deliciously fun, this game of Party Pooper. I promise, or my name is not Major Fun.

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Rage

It gives me great pleasure to introduce you to Rage. Being the mild-mannered Major you know me so well to be, it might strike you as uncharacteristic of me. But, you see, I'm talking about a game. A game called "Rage." A card game, for as few as 2, or as many as 8 players, all of whom know about trick-taking games. It will remind you, as a matter of fact, of that old trick-taking game, with the unfortunate, but evocative name "Oh Hell.

The Rage deck consists of 110 Cards of 6 suits of color cards each numbered 0-15. There are 14 "special" cards including: 2 Wild Rage cards, 4 Out Rage cards, 4 Change Rage cards, 2 Mad Rage Card. All those cards, and all those special cards might make you think of another card game. Not a trick-taking game at all, but the rather hilarious, and far less serious UNO game. Which makes sense, since the original publishers of UNO were in fact the same people who publish Rage. (In case you asked, Rage is now published by Fundex).

Trick-taking games. You know about those. The reason I am stressing that point is that we had one person in our Tasting who didn't know about trick-taking games, and it made the game less fun for all of us. If you know about trick-taking games, you can learn Rage in a few minutes.

First, there's the deal. The first deal, each player gets 10 cards, the next 9, the next 8, all the way down to the last round, with one card each. So each round is a little shorter, and the tension a little higher.

Then there's the bidding - everyone declares how many tricks she's going to win that round. Not bidding, really, since you're not trying to out bid anyone. More like, well, declaring.

Then there's the play. A card is thrown. You follow suit. If you can't, you throw anything, or throw trump. You know, like a trick-taking game.

Then there are the wild cards. There's Bonus Rage, which gives 5 points to whomever takes the trick. Mad Rage, which takes 5 points away from the she who took the trick. Out Rage, of course, there is no trump for the rest of the round. Change Rage, which lets you change trump to any color. And Wild Rage - allowing you to change the color of the suit being played.

So, no matter how card-countingly astute you are, anyone at any time can change pretty much everything. Which adds just that extra spice of fate-fickleness to make you laugh instead of scream.

Very Major FUN.

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Cheeky Monkey

Cheeky Monkey is what they call a "press your luck" game (similar in its pres-your-luckness to perhaps the archetype of all press your luckish games, the most significantly Major FUN Can't Stop, both of which, coincidentally, are published by Face 2 Face Games). It's easy to learn, and can be played with actually equal glee by both children (7 and up) and adults. Hence making it something like an ideal family game, but an equally good children's game and an even more equally recommended party game.

You get a collection of 52 poker-chip-like tokens, 8 "bonus tiles" (made of satisfyingly thick cardboard), and an even more satisfyingly thick cloth, drawstring bag. There are eight different animals depicted on the chips. Some animals are more numerous than others. For example, there are 10 monkeys but only 3 elephants. There is one tile for each animal, and the total number of of each kind of animal is indicated on the corresponding tile. The eight tiles are placed, face up on the table, and the chips placed in the bag.

On your turn, you pick and pick and pick chips from the bag, until you want to stop picking, or you pick an animal that you've already drawn. In the first case, you keep all the chips you drew. In the second, they go back into the bag - that's right, all of them. You are, of course, sorely tempted to keep on picking. Hence, the press-your-luckishness of the game.

When you have finished picking, you stack your chips, in any order you deem strategically beneficial. On your next turn, you add your winnings, again in any order, but you can't change the order of the chips you've already stacked. The relevance of stacking order becomes especially vivid during play, when you discover that if someone picks an animal that is currently on top of your stack, you must relinquish said animal to the aforementioned someone. This is a clearly less than desirable outcome for you, as the player with the most chips at the end of the game wins.

Then there are the monkeys, those cheeky critters, which, upon pickage, can also be swapped with any animal on top of anyone's stack.

As play progresses and stacks heighten, the strategic implications of stack order and animal distribution become ever more vivid. Seeing as there are only 3 elephants, for example, if you know that the other 2 elephants are already stacked, you can just about secure your stack if you place an elephant on top - that is, as long as no one picks a money and decides to employ it in a cheeky manner.

Yet another game by the prolific designer Reiner Knizia, Cheeky Monkey is further evidence of what good game design is all about. Major FUN.

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Incan Gold

Incan Gold is another "press your luck" game, different enough from all other "press your luck"-like games to be just as fun, and just as worthy of your seriously playworthy consideration.

It doesn't take long to learn, it takes only about 20 minutes to play, and the joyful luck-pressing can be shared by 3, or as many as 8 players. You do have to spend some time arranging the cards, but, after the first time you play, all that card arranging adds to the anticipation of a significantly fun experience of engaging each other in an intense exploration of the various wages of caution and greed.

The game is played in 5 rounds. A round begins by drawing a "Quest card" from the pile, turning it over, and placing it face-up next to one of the "Temple cards." The card that is revealed can either be a Treasure card, an Artifact, or a Hazard. If it is a Treasure, the players divide it between them, placing small plastic pieces in front of their personal treasuries (in front, and not inside, because the Treasure can't be claimed until someone has taken it safely out of the Temple). If it is an Artifact, it will be added to the treasury of the first player to remove it from the Temple. If it is a Hazard, there's no score. If a second Hazard of the same type is drawn later on in the round, all the potential treasures and artifacts are lost. All those little plastic, colored crystal-in-the-rough-shaped pieces... They go back. And nobody gets to keep them. Nobody. Not even you.

Once a card is placed on the table, players all have the option to go forward and reveal the next card, or to leave the Temple and collect the goodies indicated by the graphically rendered significance appearing on the card.

On the other hand, before the next Quest card can be revealed, you all, simultaneously, flash one of two cards on to the conceptual table. One card shows that you want to go forward, as it were, into the Temple, and seek greater fortune. The other, that you want to "leave the temple" immediately.

If one and only one of you flashes the card that symbolizes the decision to "leave the temple" already, that player, you, for example, get to take all the exposed Artifact Cards as your very own. Heh. Heh. Hey. If you're not the only one leaving, you and your fellow leavers share the pretty plastic pieces potentially accumulated and put them into a little tent you made out of a folded card. And nobody gets the Artifacts. Heh, hey. But you don't play any more for the rest of the round. Also hey, hey, hey.

Incan Gold is produced by Sunriver Games and is also available from Funagain. An earlier form of Incan Gold, Diamant, was published in Germany by Schmidt Speile, and was also was also available from Funagain.

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Imaginiff - the card game

You've undoubtedly read about the Major FUN-worthy game of Imaginiff, and made careful note of our unabashed enthusiasm for the aforementioned. This all should prove useful in helping you understand why we are so exceptionally delighted to introduce you to Buffalo Games most recent Imaginiff-like accomplishment: Imaginiff - the card game.

It's somewhat of a significant accomplishment, actually, for all playkind: For the designers, making a successful translation from the board game to a card game format. For the traveler, who needs games that are portable and can be played almost anywhere (restaurant, hotel lobby, ship deck, motel room). The mechanics are simple and efficient. You get a write-on/wipe-off card and marker (the marker even has an eraser on it - which comes in demarkably handy), a die, 68 question cards, and 6 voting cards. The write-on/wipe-off card is used for score keeping and to keep track of who gets to be the subject of the question. The die is determines who's going to get talked about. And the question cards ask things like: "Imaginiff ______ were a flying object. Which would he/she be: A Blimp, B Biplane, C Glider, D Lear jet, E Brick." Players vote, and those who agree each get a point. If the person who asks the question also agrees, s/he gets an additional point

A subtle, but very useful variable in both versions of the game: the six people who are to be the subjects of the Imaginiff questions can be anyone at all, real or fictional, the people you're playing with, or anybody else you all know. So, when you're playing with people you don't really know that well, and are maybe wisely concerned that someone might not share your sense of humor, you can choose to have all imaginary players, or athletes, or movie stars, or politicians, even.

Most assuredly Major FUN.

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Gumball Rally

Ted Cheatham's Gumball Rally is another excellent card game from Z-Man Games. This one's especially for kids or for adults looking for a "filler game."

It's a race, all right, for up to 8 players. The game takes less than a half-hour to play, and probably less than half of that to learn. The manufacturers recommend it for kids 6 and up. We recommend it for kids who like playing race-type games, and especially for adults who enjoy playing light and quick.

You get 8 different Go Kart cards - that is, large, thick, well-illustrated, cardboard cards depicting different Go Karts. You also get a deck of playing cards - 4 different kinds of playing cards (Race cards - 4 suits, each numbered 1-10; Hazard cards (19 cards, no numbers), 10 point cards, and 8 small Go Kart cards to help you remember which Kart is yours. So there are several sorting moments required. And yet more sorting moments once you separate out all the Hazard cards: giving each player 3 cards, removing the Winner and two Checkpoint cards, shuffling the remaining cards, removing 4 cards and placing them in the box (without looking at the cards), taking 3 cards from the Hazard deck and shuffling them with the Winner card, then 3 more cards from the Hazard deck shuffled with one Winner card, and again - placing these all in a stack to form the bottom of the draw pile. All of which is very clever and logical once you actually play the game, because the Winner and Checkpoint cards, placed as they are near the bottom of the deck, force the game to some oft-delightful and generally timely conclusions. After the first game, all this shuffling and sorting seems to add both to the fun of the game and the fun of getting ready to have fun.

The large Go Kart cards are placed, in order of play, on the table - the first player in the first position, etc. Race cards determine which Go Kart is the fastest. If you play a Race card, and you are in, say, third position, and your card is higher than the Go Kart in the second position, then you move up one position. Then there are the Hazard cards which affect the Go Kart whose color matches the inner border of the Hazard card.

Oddly enough, despite all this apparent complexity, the game takes only about 15 minutes to learn and less than a half-hour to play. The pace is fast enough to keep everyone in play - even when there are 8 players. Which makes the game feel most race-like - especially as cars are constantly changing position, and even more especially when you pass the lead car.

The cards are vividly illustrated by John Donahue under the direction of jim pinto (who artistically spells his name in lower case).

A lot of big fun in this little game.

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