Okay, so I’m back with my new series Game Night Reviews. Each game in the series has been played at my friendly game night with my non-gamer friends. In the review I’m going to talk about the reasons why I chose the game and how I feel it went over, possibly with some comments from the non-gamers themselves.
I reviewed Wits and Wagers many moons ago back in the days when I only owned a couple of dozen games and my opinion of it was “It’s okay.” and my opinion hasn’t really changed. First up, it’s a trivia game and looking at my collection I really don’t have many and the main one that I have is Fauna (and Terra but they are the same game) and Fauna does what Wits and Wagers does, but it does it better in my opinion.
Secondly, I dislike the scoring in Wits and Wagers. For those who don’t know, each round players write down an answer to the question and then everyone bets on which player is right. However, by round 7 it is possible for one player to be so far in the lead that no one can catch them regardless of how many chips they win that round, thus leading to an anticlimax or to social bullying where the leading player is goading into betting all his chips just so everyone else has a chance of winning. The scoring problem is addressed by using the family rules, simply put, you have two point tokens, one worth 2 and one worth 1. You place those tokens on the answers you think may be correct and score those points if you’re right. The first player to 15 wins.
A Brief Overview
Wits and Wagers is played over 7 rounds (If using the Family Variant the number of rounds played varies). Each round a question is read aloud and the players must write down their answers on their card. All answers are revealed simultaneously. The answers are organised from highest to lowest on the playmat which dictates the odds of the answer being correct. Players then bet any number of chips, split between up to two answers, or they can bet that all answers are too high. Once the bets are placed the answer is revealed and the winning answer pays out to all that placed bets there. After 7 rounds the player with the most chips wins.
Why Choose it?
So, if I’m not that keen on the game, why would I use it as the first game I introduced new players to? It’s simple. It takes the standard trivia format that people know and like and it euro-game-i-fies it. By that I mean, it takes a game which would normally reward only the smartest player and levels the playing field. In this environment players feel safer, sure you might get mocked for under or over guessing the answer but it won't affect your chances of winning and can even play into your favour.
Wits and Wagers, for it’s faults, is a good stepping stone to other games, it’s fun, it’s simple, it’s a gentle lead in to what is coming. For me it was the first taste my non-gamer buddies needed to tempt them back for more.
Did they like it?
Wits and Wagers is easy to like, that’s what makes it a good party game. Its rules are simple but its questions are nigh on impossible and if nobody knows the right answer then nobody gets to feel stupid, not even Bob. (Bob is a fictional character created solely for this joke, any likeness to other persons, real or imaginary, is completely coincidental. Sorry Bob).
This of course doesn’t preclude players from mocking people from time to time when they are out by a factor of ten (or a hundred), which is the other reason that it goes over well, it generates laughter.
Finally many of the answers in Wits and Wagers are rather astonishing, learning how many cups of coffee the average american drinks per year? or What percent of U.S. households own at least one pet cat? Can be very enlightening.
So, did they like it? Yes, in fact it has been requested a couple of times since, although I have insisted on using the family rules instead of the traditional scoring.
Wits and Wagers is not going to provide that “moment” in new players, that spark that we gamers felt the first time we played [Insert Appropriate Gateway Game Here] (for me it was Settlers of Catan). It’s not that kind of game, it’s a party game and it will remind them of other brightly coloured offerings they’ve seen at Rick and Janet’s house and maybe played with a glass of wine in their hand. However, it’s non-threatening, it takes away that fear from their eyes when they look at your games collection and wonder if you’re planning on burying them in cardboard and wooden cubes. It’s simple, it’s familiar and it’s fun and it’s a good stepping stone to other trivia games like Fauna and Terra.