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Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Game Night Review: Wits & Wagers

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.

Final Thoughts

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.  

Friday, 26 August 2016

Gil Hova Made Me Cancel Community...

… And I’m pissed!

Now, what many of you probably don’t know about me is that my other great love, other than gaming is TV. I watch a lot of TV, I devour new series, I rewatch old series. I watch while I work, I watch while I paint and I have even been known to watch while I sleep.

So when the opportunity presented itself to combine my two great passions I could not pass it up. Mike and I interviewed Gil Hova, the designer of the Networks at the UK Games Expo this year but by the time we got to him all of his copies were gone, however this week the game went on sale in the UK and I was able to grab a copy.

Now, since the Expo I’ve obsessed about this game a little. I’ve read stuff, I’ve watched stuff, I’ve typed it over and over into the search bar at Gameslore and really the game had a lot to live up to. So, last night, I played it solo and there was one defining moment that made me realise that this is the TV game I’ve been looking for.


I’d been running the much loved and critically acclaimed series Communist-y for three great years, the show was raking in plenty of ad revenue and it’s aging star was a massive boon for the viewing figures but with only a 0.6 share in the key demographic in a highly contested timeslot, there was no choice but to axe the show and send it to the reruns.

And you know what, I felt bad about it. Over the years I’ve bemoaned the loss of many great shows, CBS’s the Unit, ABC’s Better Off Ted and FOX’s criminally underrated Dollhouse (One of the finest chapters in the Whedon anthology, read more about that on my sister blog (Season 1, Season 2)).

I’ve lost countless gems, Farscape cancelled long before it’s time, Angel slain just as the series was getting good again, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip with Matthew Perry at his very best and the golden goose that is Bradley Whitford. There’s no doubt this cycle of devastation will continue, already this year we’ve lost the musical extravaganza that was Galavant and the irreverent stoner comedy that was Deadbeat and I wait with baited breath to know the fate of AMC’s fine, fine, show Halt and Catch Fire.

My point is that if the Networks gives me the feeling of experiencing what those decisions must be like for the corporate exec then it must be doing something right. I’ll be adding The Networks to the short list of games I need to get to the table before Christmas and I’ll try and do a real review of it sometime in the new year.

Until next time, keep on gaming!


Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Game Night Reviews

It’s time for a new series of reviews from Unboxed the Board Game Blog. I’ve been struggling to write reviews now for several years because the market place is so saturated with reviews that I feel like all I do is add my voice to the never ending chorus, repeating, mostly, what all other reviewers have already said. 

Amongst my group of close friends I have one gamer friend, with whom I play games most weeks. However, in November of last year, I accidentally ended up organising a Game Night for my birthday with a group of my non-gamer friends. I panicked and worried, I spent days writing lists of games I thought would work with non-gamers. I truly thought everyone would have a horrible time and would sit there staring at me and hating me for making them play games. 

However, everyone was very polite and the gaming went on into the early hours, much food was consumed and even some alcohol was enjoyed in moderation and at the end of it all I thought to myself, “That was nice, maybe we’ll do it again next year.” 

Well, Christmas rolled around and out of the blue, my friends said, let’s get together and play some of the games we didn’t get to play last time. I couldn’t believe it. I packed a handful of short games, believing at this point that we’d mostly just be celebrating the festive period and that really my friends were just suggesting bringing some games to humour me. However, once again, we broke out the games and we played into the early hours and much fun was had by all. 

I realised at this point that I could probably take this success and capitalise on it, that if I acted quickly I could turn these impromptu gatherings into an ongoing, regular game night. I could transform my non-gamer friends into gamers! 

The plan came together quickly and soon I had sent out the invites to our first Game Night. I felt sure that I’d overstepped, that I had flown too close to the sun, that I’d become that pushy guy who tries to force his hobbies on other people, you know, that guy you avoid at parties. But, to my eternal surprise they said yes, all of them!

So, this series of reviews then is going to focus on the games we’ve played at Games Night, my reasons for choosing them and how I feel they worked with non-gamers. Here are some of the reviews you can expect over the coming months.

Wits & Wagers 
King of Tokyo
Travel Blog
Flash Point Fire Rescue
Ticket to Ride
Settlers of Catan
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Forbidden Island
The Resistance
Sushi Go
Dwarf King
T.I.M.E Stories

It is worth noting that the Game Group varies between 4 and 6 players which limits the scope of the games we play and has led to some interesting challenges when striking a balance between fun, complexity and player counts. 

Check back soon for my first Game Night Review and until then, have fun gaming.

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