But first an apology… The real world can sometimes be a rather hectic place, filled with boring normality that takes over everything you want to be doing and buries it under a ton of stuff you really don't want to be doing…
In the last two weeks I’ve worked like crazy and my computer died so unfortunately blogging and reviewing had to take a back seat. Computer is now sorted, even more than sorted in a bizarre confluence of circumstances, and work, while still taking up more of my life than I’d like is quiet enough for me to sit down and write…
In Wits and Wagers you play a guest at party which involves trivia games. However, rather than playing a bored, know-nothing pleb you get to take on the role of a high stakes poker player, using your keen senses to accurately determine the correct answers to unanswerable questions all the while accruing a stack of poker chips higher than your house!
So what’s in the box?
- 100 Question Cards each with 7 questions
- 1 Betting Mat
- 60 Red Chips
- 20 Blue Chips
- 14 Player Chips
- 7 Dry Wipe Pens
- 7 Dry Wipe Boards
- 1 Sand Timer
The UK price point for Wits and Wagers is quite high compared to the US, in fact I paid £22 and a quick BGG scan shows that you can pick it up in the US for $20 so that’s quite a mark up. For me, I felt the components could have been better for the price. I’ve heard people talk about the original mat for this game, which was rubber backed, as opposed to the folded felt that comes in the second edition, I think I would have preferred that. Also, if you want the game to look and feel nice you’re probably going to want to change the plastic chips for clay chips.
However, the boards and markers are great and I’m glad they were included rather than expecting you to provide your own or use reams and reams of paper. However the meat of the game lies in the questions, 700 of them. Each game only asks 7 questions which means you can play Wits and Wagers 100 times without getting a repeat question. In fact if you cycle through the cards without changing the order (or dropping the stack on the floor) you will ensure that you go through every single question without needing to do anything fancy.
The questions themselves, while being a little US-centric are generally fun and difficult to answer which makes them very good as you will soon understand. However, what I really like is the “bonus material” that often follows the answer, giving you a little bit more information or citing the original reference and the relevant year so you can make an educated guess based on a time and place reference.
Playing the Game
Wits and Wagers is simple. Each player begins the game with 2 chips, they always keep these regardless of the outcomes of their bets. They are also given a wipable board and a pen.
One player is chosen as question master and reads the question numbered 1 on the top card. He flips the timer and everyone (question master included) writes down an answer to the question. These questions are almost impossible to answer, for example, How Many People Did Jack Bauer Personally Kill In Season 5 of 24? And the answer will always be a numeric answer.
Once each player has written down their guess (some of which will be amusingly high or low) they are arranged on the betting mat in ascending order. Their position on the mat will determine the odds of that question being correct and depending on the number of players the odds range from 5-1 to 2-1 with a 6-1 odds that all answers are too high.
Using their chips the players then place bets on which answers they think are closest to the correct answer, meaning you don’t need to know the answer to win at this game! They may bet on two different answers or throw all their eggs in the same basket and put both chips on the same answer. In later rounds players may bet any chips they have, but they can only split their bets over two answers, using their player chips to mark their stacks.
Once all bets are placed the question master reads the answer and the closest guess pays out, all player chips are returned, all other chips are lost.
Play continues in this fashion for 6 more rounds, the player with the most chips at the end of the game wins.
I really want to like Wits and Wagers and for the most part I do. I generally don’t find it to be as rip-roaringly-fun as others have suggested it to be, but I’ve also never played with more than 5 and never in teams, which I’ve heard dramatically increases the fun.
However, there are some things that I don’t like about the game other than being a little underwhelmed based on what I thought the game would be like. Firstly, the game uses a betting mechanic that can do two things. Firstly it can mean that random luck can win you the game on the last question and secondly the chip leader can simply keep enough chips in his hand to ensure that he can’t lose even if the other players win the maximum amount they can on the final round.
The second problem I have is that the scoring mechanism relies on maths. It’s not personally an issue for me, but I find the game slows down a bit while everyone calculates their odds and their winnings.
Now, there is a simple solution to both problems and that solution comes from Wits and Wagers Family. In that game you have two markers, just like in the basic game, but one is worth 1 point and one is worth 2 points. The game is then played to 15 (I think) points. This eliminates the gambling aspect (which can be a turn off to certain players), the issue off working out odds and of a lucky guess in the final round winning the game.
So, if you want to play the game with all the luck that was intended then original scoring system is fine, as long as you don’t mind doing a bit of maths. However, if you prefer a more tactical game that rewards you for guessing correctly then the scoring system from the Family Edition of the game can be used. If you use a piece of paper to track the scores and give each player a red chip and a blue chip (to mark their guess as worth 1 point or 2 points).
So, as it stands I enjoy a game of Wits and Wagers, but it is not my go to party game (that would be Absolute Balderdash). I think the questions are great and pretty interesting. I think the betting mechanic will appeal to certain gamers but will also be a bit of a turn off to others.
For the quality of the components I think the UK price point is a little high (double the US price point). However, if you are fan of trivia games at parties then this is a great one to try out. As I mentioned earlier I really feel I need to try the game with a larger group to really explore the “fun” but I’m glad I own it and I think it makes a great gateway game for people looking to move beyond the classics like Trivial Pursuit.