Sunday, May 23, 2010

My issue with party games: case in point...

Played Balderdash last weekend at a friend's place and one of the players was Romanian.  He'd been in Canada since he was 13 so he's very fluent in English now but it's still not his first language.  Now, he's smart, very smart, but if you're familiar with Balderdash, you'll see the issue.  The goal is to write imaginary definitions for strange words so well that people will guess your definition is actually the real one.  Now, for someone who hasn't spent as much time reading English definitions as the rest of us, he's at a bit of a disadvantage.  Lame.  And not a fair game of skill.  He lost.  Of course.

Reminds of my game of Cranium with my very intelligent but dyslexic friend who kept having to spell words backwards.  He lost.  Of course. 

When I play a game, I'd like to know that everyone is on an even footing if they haven't played the game before,  independent of their academic or cultural background.  Maybe that's why I play so many Eurogames.  Cubes are totally language independent...


  1. Very thoughtful post. Perhaps a list of "accessible" games might be in order?

  2. Hey hey totally off topic but have you played Taluva or dungeon lords? and if so what do you think?

  3. I'm a pretty big fan of party games, so I'll defend them a little bit. In fact, Balderdash (or rather, the "Beyond Balderdash" with 5 different categories of stuff, rather than just definitions) is what I would consider my "favorite" party game.

    Clearly, Balderdash didn't work for your Romanian friend. But I have a feeling that, unless he is already a hardcore boardgamer, something like Reef Encounter or Caylus wouldn't have gone over very well either.

    Party games have their place. And for many, they are the most accessible and appropriate games to bring out in social settings.

    The bigger failure is in not matching the right game to the right crowd. Heck, there's a lot of groups filled with native English speakers that I won't bring out Balderdash for, because the "skill" of writing things in the right way is not easy for lots of people to pick up on.

    Dixit, however, would have been a much better game that still gets at some of the same kinds of fun as does Balderdash, but with a much shallower learning curve and less language dependence. Wits & Wagers, Telestrations, or even Word on the Street would have probably all been acceptable as well. So don't write off the whole range of party games just because one didn't work out...

  4. Chris, you know I LOVE Wits and Wagers. I would argue that W&W is extremely accessible, even to those of us with very little trivia knowledge. Dixit is probably pretty similar and Say Anything is also on my list of must-haves. Even Apples to Apples works in many groups.

    I think it is a matter of fitting the game to the group. My Romanian friend would actually do quite well with a monster Euro. Those Eastern Europeans are pretty darn good at math, don't you know?

    And Tammy, the games Chris mentioned are all pretty accessible party games. Trivial Pursuit and Cranium, not so much...

    Mags, haven't played either. But I think Chris here highly recommends Taluva.

  5. Apples to Apples is okay (and is certainly very accessible), but I tend to find it a little boring. With the right crowd that really gets into the bluffing and persuasion aspects of the game, however, it can be a lot of fun.

    And I do love Taluva quite a bit. You can check out my review of it if you're interested.

  6. Chris I've been nosing about your blog and I saw your favourite game is Princes of Florence... please be my friend!!! LOL It's my favourite game and has been for years but most of the time I can't get most people to play it because they find it daunting I don't know why (that said I did actually get a few plays in recently and everyone said they liked it)

  7. Sure, I'll be your friend! Come on down to North Carolina and I'll play a game with you!

    It's a little strange to find Princes daunting. It's always gone over well with me, even for people new to eurogames, because even if they don't have some sort of "grand strategy", they can always just look at their profession cards, assemble the parts they need, and get a few done. It's not necessarily a winning strategy, but you can still get a pretty good sense of accomplishment doing that, and then you will know how to play better next time.