19 March 2016

'Pick the Right Answer' games

I was thinking about Dixit the other night, as a result of playing the game Mysterium. The latter was described to me as a combination of the former with Cluedo (or Clue for my American readers). This reminded me of one of my favourite board games: Balderdash. For those that don't know how it works, Balderdash has a set of cards, each of which contains five words that can be found in at least one English dictionary, but are not commonly known. This includes words like 'quincunx' and 'coprolite.' Players take turns as the 'dasher,' who reads off one of the words on the card. Everyone (including the dasher) writes the word on a slip of paper. The dasher writes the real definition of the word on his paper (the real definitions being provided on the back of the card), and everyone else makes up a definition for this word. The dasher shuffles all these papers together and reads out all the definitions. Everyone else then takes turns voting for the definition that they think is the right one. You get points for guessing the correct answer, and also for each person that voted for your own answer.

Dixit is essentially the same, but instead of making up definitions for words, you're coming up with simple (one to four word) descriptions of paintings. The cards are lavishly illustrated with elaborate artwork, often somewhat surreal in nature. Players take turns as the 'storyteller,' who chooses a card and gives a short description (something like 'Memory' or 'Loneliness' or 'Lost in the storm'). The other players then choose a card from their hands that they think can also be described by that word or phrase. All these cards are shuffled together, and players must choose which one they think is the storyteller's.

In a way, this is the reverse of games like Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity; in these, a judge selects which of the submitted answers is the best, choosing from amongst the cards given him by the players. In Dixit and Balderdash and similar games, the 'judge' is hiding his answer in the ones submitted by the other players, and it's up to the players themselves to sort out which one belongs to the judge. In other words, in one, the judge is choosing the players' answers, and in the other, the players are choosing the judge's answer.

It surprises me to find that there is no category on boardgamegeek.com for this sort of game. Given how many games use this mechanic (players submit answers to a judge, and then must determine which answer is the judge's), you would think there would be a 'pick the right answer' category.

Here are some other games that use this basic design:

  • Out of Context: The judge reads off the name of a person, and players submit quotes. They must then guess which of the quotes can actually be correctly attributed to the person the judge named.
  • Malarkey: The judge reads off a question that people don't normally think about (questions like 'Why does popcorn pop, but no other kind of corn?'). One player has the correct answer; the others must make up a plausible-sounding answer.
  • Ex Libris: The judge lists a fairly-well known novel, and players make up the first or last line of that novel, then must guess which one is the real first or last line.
  • Wise and Otherwise: The judge reads the first part of a proverb, and players must make up the ending, then choose the correct ending amongst the made-up ones.
  • The Origin of Expressions: The judge reads off a well-known saying, and players must make up an origin story for that saying, then choose the correct origin from amongst the made-up ones.
  • Locale: The judge reads the name of an obscure location, and players must make up a description of it (including map co-ordinates).
  • Famous Last Lines: The judge reads the title and plot synopsis of a movie, and players make up the last line from that film.
  • Truth be Told: The judge reads a sentence with a blank at the end, such as 'Truth be told, my favourite snack is ___.' Players make up an answer that the judge might have said, and the judge writes down the real answer.
  • Say Anything: The judge reads a question (could be almost anything; examples include 'What's the greatest invention of the 20th century?' and 'What's the best activity for a first date?'). Players all write down possible answers to that question, and the judge chooses which answer he likes best. The other players must then guess which one the judge picked.
  • Imaginiff: The judge reads a hypothetical situation (such as 'Imagine if I were a cable channel. Which would I be?' Players then choose from a provided list of 6 answers (in the case of the question above, possible answers might include 'Comedy Central,' 'The Playboy Channel,' 'CNN,' 'Discovery Channel,' 'ESPN,' and 'Syfy') which they think the judge would pick.
In addition to all of these are variations on the main theme. For example, Balderdash is just one version of the 'make up a definition to a real but obscure word' theme. Other games from different publishers that are also 'definitions of words' games include Fictionary, Sesquipedalian, Nobody is Perfect, and Dictionary Dabble. There's even another game called Liebrary that is effectively the same game as Ex Libris.

Of course, all of these games are different in some way. They have a different feel, and will appeal to different people. For example, as much as I love Balderdash because I am a lexophile and I love learning and using grandiloquent words, I once acquired a copy of Wise and Otherwise because few of my friends liked the sesquipedalian nature of Balderdash, and I was hoping that Wise and Otherwise would be a nice compromise. Alas, it was not as well received by friends as I had hoped, and as I didn't enjoy it as much as I did my beloved Balderdash anyway, I let go of my copy many years ago.

Anyway, that's what's been on my mind for the last couple of days. I hope at least that you weren't bored in reading about this family of board games (ha!), and until next week,

Game on!

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