Updated: Sep 17, 2019
I’ve always professed that my gaming addiction started with a game of Settlers back in the late 2000’s, but, truth be told, we’ve always played board games, monopoly, trivial pursuit, scrabble and loads more. But most often we used to play party and trivia games. Of these games, my favourite, bar none, is Absolute Balderdash, I like it so much I’ve owned it three times and I still have two copies of the game.
I am lucky to be a highly intelligent person, blessed with a group of equally intelligent friends, all of whom are capable and quick witted. If you too are such a person then I urge you, go out and get this game.
Balderdash was originally a game that used obscure words, asking players to each submit a possible meaning for the word, all the definitions were then read aloud and the players had to choose which they thought was the real answer.
Absolute Balderdash expanded the original game to include Initials, Dates, Movies, Famous People and most recently Laws.
Depending on the edition of the game the components would vary, but typically:
100’s of Cards
I know I usually prattle on about component quality, but the only quality component you need to enjoy this game are players.
Playing the Game
Players take it in turns to pick a category, reading aloud a word, a series of initials, a movie title etc. All the other players must then write down the meaning of the word, what the initials stand for or a short synopsis of the film.
Usually, to chose a topic the player will look through the answers to see which will make for the most amusing round, although players could determine the topic with a die roll or a fixed system that dictates which topic to use in a given round.
The reading player then reads out everyone's answers, his or her job is to try and make players not guess the real answer, by doing this they score 3 points. If someone does guess the real answer they score 2 points, if someone guesses your answer you score 1 point. The game is played to a certain number of points, the first player past the post wins!
Balderdash is already a great game but there are a couple of variants that make it even more fun. Reverse – In Reverse Balderdash players may use either side of the card. For example, the player may read out the movie synopsis and ask the players to suggest a title. Or he may read out the definition of the word and ask players to come up with a word for the definition. Obviously this variant only works in certain circumstances, for example, people, dates and initials are not as funny when reversed.
All Play – In lower player count games I highly recommend that the reader also writes an answer and includes it along with all the submitted answers, this prevents the tactical voting that can occur in the lower player count games. Although, I would suggest this variant at all times because the more answers the better in a game of Balderdash.
Balderdash is a blast when played with creative people who are capable of coming up with witty definitions on the spot. I have seen exceptionally shy people really come out of their shells when playing this game. It is the kind of game that really brings out elements of peoples personalities that you never knew were there.
The more you play the game the easier it becomes to get tactical with it. As you learn the way the real answers are structured you can begin to emulate them, which makes your answers more likely to be chosen by the other players.
For example, dropping in the name of a famous actor when writing your movie synopsis can be very convincing. Of course, slanting your answer so that it shows your own personal opinion will lead people to know which is your answer.
Another trick can be to memorise a fact or two when you are the reader and reuse them later in the game, they will sound plausible because they really are.
As the reader you can use all manner of bluffs or double bluffs to lead the players towards guessing the answers you want, just be careful not to be too obvious about it.
Intelligent players have a serious advantage in this game, because they can use the knowledge they have to make their answers sound plausible. For example if you understand prefixes and suffixes or if you speak multiple languages you can write convincing word definitions based on what you know of language.
Of course, almost all the answers in the game are ridiculous, so you have to bear this in mind when you are writing your answer. In fact this is one of those games that if an answer sounds too ridiculous to be true, it may just be true.
For example, I once played a game in which we had to write a movie synopsis. The film title was innocuous enough and most people’s synopsises seemed reasonable, except one which read. “This is a film in which a single black dot moves slowly across a white background over 45 minutes” This seemed so ridiculous that everyone voted for it, of course, it was entirely made up!
Occasionally you may come across something you actually know (this has only happened twice to me with the words Howdah and Didgeridoo) but you could easily draw a fresh card or use a different topic.
Absolute Balderdash gives you back what you put in times ten, the more you put into the game the more you will get out of it. When played with a group of like-minded individuals with a spark of creativity, there is no better party game.
Absolute Balderdash can be easily picked up in most charity shops for less than £5 and if you get the chance to do so, I highly recommend it!