Ooga Booga

Filed Under (Party Games) by Will Bain on 07-08-2013

Ooga Booga

Blue Orange Games has made what must be the most exciting discovery in paleo-gameology since it was revealed that our hominid ancestors played an early version of Pictionary in Spanish and French caves approximately 40,000 years ago. Yes, Blue Orange unveiled their discovery of the game, Ooga Booga (named after for the universal language of all pre-modern humans) which definitively proves that our cave dwelling, stick beating, spear whittling distant relatives also loved them some raucous party games.

The game also shows that their memories must have been pretty good.

Ooga Booga is a variation on memory games that require players to repeat what each player has said (or done) before. Each player is given 6-8 cards. On each card is a phrase or a gesture. The first player to go sets down a card, chants the word (or performs the action, and ends the display with a resounding “HA!” The next player places a card so that it covers the first word, chants all of them in order, and ends with “HA!” Play continues until someone runs out of cards and shouts “OOGA BOOGA” or until someone messes up and the gathered crowd chants “PABO! PABO! PABO!”

Major Fun awardWhen you mess up (and it generally is a question of when rather than if) and your fellow cave dwellers gleefully chant “Pabo” thrice the game stops and everyone checks to see if an error has occurred. If it has, the offending player receives three more cards and play starts over.

You get a lot of games that sound like this:


As we’ve come to expect from Blue Orange, the game is wonderfully illustrated, clearly explained, and fits in a small round tin. It’s silly and frustrating and oh so Major Fun.

It’s good to know that after a hard day of inventing fire and running away from saber-toothed felines, our ur-ancestors could settle down to some boisterous family entertainment. Once they’d finished repainting the living room.

For 3-6 players, ages 7+

Ooga Booga created by Daniel Quobbach and Bony. © 2013 Blue Orange.

That’s It

Filed Under (Party Games) by Will Bain on 13-07-2013

That's It party game

Trivia games often hamper the players by placing on them the burdensome restriction of providing the one correct answer. I mean, when you ask a person a question and on that question rests the outcome of their entire social life (at least for that evening) then requiring that they can only say one answer aloud to the judge is cruel. It violates our human instinct to spout out whatever comes to mind given a completely arbitrary question.

Fortunately, Gamewright has brought the world the tiny (yet mighty) party game: That’s It.

This is a guessing game, similar in some ways to Scattergories or other trivia/word-guess games. The game comes with a box of 200 cards. Each card comes with 6 questions. The card reader reads the first question and then all the other players start shouting answers. For example, “Something that people hang up.” Responses will come fast and furious: painting, pants, criminals, flags. When someone yells the answer printed on the card (in this case shirt) then the reader yells That’s It! And awards the correct guesser with a chip. The reader then reads the rest of the questions. The sixth question is worth 2 chips.

The chips add a twist to the game. They range in value from 1 to 5 but are kept face down on the table. When the reader awards a chip he or she doesn’t know what value the winning player receives. Chips remain face down until the end of the round so no one knows how much they have until the end. If you have 2 chips you are likely to win but it is not assured. You could have two chips each worth one point while your neighbor has a single chip worth five points.

Major Fun awardIt is also possible that no one gets the “right” answer. Once the flurry of initial guesses dies down (the game suggests giving the players about 30 seconds) the reader can jump on any period of silence to end the round. If that happens, the reader collects a token. This might seem rife for cheating but it’s a party game and if you have to cheat to enjoy a party game then you probably hired the people to attend your party.

The game is loud and fast and funny. the answers might not seem especially fair but that’s hardly the point. There is Major Fun to be had just in screaming your guesses at your friends and then arguing about who said the most ridiculous thing.

3+ players, ages 10+

That’s It was created by Roland Tesh, Garrett Donner, and Michael Steer. (C) 2013 by Gamewright.


Filed Under (Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games, Word Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 08-07-2013



Tapple is what happens when you combine a traditional trivia game with a traditional children’s game and make it into a party game that could very well become your new family tradition.

There are 36 category cards which come tucked into a sweet little compartment on the bottom of the game. On each side of each category card are two categories (e.g.: things at a party, cartoons, song titles, movies). The yellow/orange side of the category cards are more challenging. Remember this.

The designers suggest that you can play with up to 8 people. We tried it with 10, and the fun we had was sweet enough to be an ice cream topping.

When a round begins, somebody selects a category from a category card and reads it aloud. If you’re playing with a group small enough, you all gather round the Tapple machine. In larger groups, you simply pass the Tapple machine from player to player.

The person who selected the category taps the center button, starting the ten-second timer. The next player taps a letter lever, gives a new example of something that fits the category that starts with the letter tapped, and, if the timer has not gone off yet, taps the timer to reset it for the next player. Etc., and so forth, until the timer goes off or someone makes a mistake.

The designers recommend that if someone makes a mistake, that person is eliminated, and the next player resumes the round. The rounds are short enough so that the players who can’t play are still amused by the fervent frolic of the remaining few.

The game is most fun when someone gets stumped, naturally. There is a rule for what happens if all the letters get used (select a new category, each player has to find two matches per turn), but generally it’s an indication that you should be using the harder categories.

Tapple is fast and fun. The Tapple machine is cleverly designed and wonderfully functional. A lever allows you to reset all the letter tabs instantly. The timer is unmistakably loud. You can turn the game off with a switch to conserve batteries. If you have a place to keep the rules, you can throw the box away entirely.

The designers acknowledge that Tapple is based on a traditional German/Dutch game called Pim Pam Pet, but the execution makes the game so playable that it becomes a new game in its own right.

Tapple, recommended for ages 8 and above, comes to us from USAopoly.



Dixit Expansion Packs

Filed Under (Creative, Family Games, Party Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 30-06-2013

Dixit won a Major Fun award almost four years ago, and we still regard it as a milestone in creative play. Easy to learn, inviting creativity, fantasy, and humor; Dixit remains a unique family- or party-game experience. The clever game design by Jean-Louis Roubira allows for a very gentle competition – just enough to keep everyone engaged, and no one overwhelmed.

As anyone who has played the game will tell you, much of the play value of the game comes from the extraordinarily evocative art by Marie Cardouat. The images on each card can be interpreted in so many different ways that, almost no matter how often the game is played, the cards take on a new significance for each player.

Further enriching the game, the publisher has introduced two expansion sets, each containing 84 new cards, each adding depth, beauty, and enticement to imaginative play.


Separation Anxiety

Filed Under (Party Games, Puzzles) by Will Bain on 25-06-2013

Separation Anxiety puzzle game

Fat Brain’s Separation Anxiety is won by the person who can identify the one word out of a list of three that doesn’t match the other two.

Sing along with me: “One of these things is not like the other…”

By itself, that’s not much of a game. The clever bit, the part that makes the game Major Fun, is that the three words in the list are mashed together in such a way that it is difficult to identify the individual words. Add the tension of racing against your opponents and you have a game that is very much like the rest on our website: Major Fun.

There are three categories of cards: People, Places, and Things. At the beginning of a round, one card from each category is placed on the table so all players can read them. A token is placed by each category (color coded to match the cards). On each card are three words: a blue word, a green word, and a pink word. The words overlap on a single line so that much of the word is muddled mess that looks like it should be starring in a 3D movie. One of the three words does not match the other two. As soon as you have figured out which one you grab the token that matches the card.

Major Fun AwardThe round ends when all three token have been grabbed. If you grabbed the token, you reveal the words and the relationship. If you got it right then you earn a point. If you got it wrong then you get zero points and earn a good minute or so of mocking from your opponents. The game ends when one player has scored in all three categories.
Most of the relationships are clear once you get the words detangled; however, parsing the words from each other is often quite a challenge. Especially under pressure.

Perhaps the most difficult category for us was the People category. This is the one category where your cultural literacy (or trivial literacy) is put to the test. We found that the younger players could read the names but often had trouble identifying exactly who the people were. For example, we had the list Lombardi, Shula, and Knight. Now, I’m of an age that I could identify all of them as coaches and that Knight was (presumably) Bobby Knight of the IU Hoosier basketball teams of lore while the others were legendary football coaches. Knight doesn’t fit (seems appropriate). This was lost on several of our players.

The game is quick and there was this moment when we decided it was Major Fun because everyone in the room—all 8 of us—were leaning across the table to press our faces as close as we could to the three cards, hands hovering inches from the tokens.

For 3+ players, ages 12+

Separation Anxiety concept by Peggy Brown. Distributed by Fat Brain Toy Co.

La Boca

Filed Under (Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games, Puzzles) by Bernie DeKoven on 17-06-2013

La Boca

So, there’s these wooden blocks. Eleven of them to be exact, each a different color. Only we’re playing with just ten, because we’re not feeling “expert” enough yet. And you and I, we’re sitting opposite each other, each of us looking at one side of a two-sided card. My side shows me what I want my side of our block building to look like, yours, yours. Your side of the card is different from mine, and vice, needless to say, versa.

So, we start the digital timer, and, simultaneously, using only that one set of blocks, we each try to build what we see on our side of the card as fast as possible. We can talk to each other, of course. We can laugh, sing, cry, even. As long as we can build the thing, and, in the shortest possible time, your side looks like your side of the card and mine, mine.

Major Fun AwardAnd, should it happen that we’re not the only two people playing, when our turn is over we get another turn, only with a different partner, until everyone gets a turn playing with everyone. And when everyone has played with everyone, the game is over, and the fastest pair wins.

Of course, there’s more. There’s playing with all eleven blocks. There’s a point system. There’s this very simple, clever, and surprisingly functional method to make sure that everyone plays with everyone else. And there’s the frustration, and craziness, and the laughing? Oy is there the laughing.

Cleverly crafted, well-designed, primarily cooperative, Major Fun for 3-6 players, ages 8 and up. It’ll take maybe 40 minutes for the whole game. Designed by Inka & Markus Brand, published by Kosmos games, and soon available in the U.S. from Z-Man Games.


Filed Under (Family Games, Party Games) by Will Bain on 29-05-2013

Pictwits!Pictwits! is a great party game. Easy to learn (especially if you have ever played any humor game like Apples to Apples) and virtually inexhaustible. The game consists of over 500 pictures and 144 captions. One player, the judge, reveals a caption, the rest submit a picture. The judge decides which picture is best.

You can keep score if you want. You can try to win by having your pictures chosen most often. You can try to get to know something about your fellows. But most importantly you try to be the funny one. Laughter is the best measure of success. In the end, no one will care who won. They might remember individual jokes, but they’re more likely to just walk away with a pleasant ache in their funny-bones and the buzz of a good party.

Pictwits!The designers suggest having a countdown from 5 to help speed things along. We did it and had some laughs as folks scrambled to slap a card down. But it was hardly crucial. Another layer of joy for a Major Fun game.

Last year I was introduced to Cards Against Humanity. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this game , think Apples to Apples for the eighteen and over set. If there was a category in Major Fun for “Adult Games” this would certainly be a Keeper. It’s not that the language of the cards is particularly crude (although some are) it’s that the responses are so highly suggestive. Cards Against Humanity drives home one of my central beliefs that humor is inappropriate. ALL humor is inappropriate. Humor is a way humans cope with situations in which some rule or expectation is violated. Even simple Knock-Knock jokes demonstrate this.

Major Fun AwardPictwits! is a great way for people to say inappropriate, outlandish, transgressive things and then bask in the resulting rush of endorphins and neurotransmitters like dopamine. The game sits somewhere between Apples to Apples (Why did the chicken cross the road?) and Cards Against Humanity (There once was a man from Nantucket…) so you can generally feel good about opening it up at your next family game night. The pictures and captions in Pictwits! can be enjoyed a by a wide range of ages. There’s plenty of room for snark and double-entendre among an adult crowd, and outright silliness for younger kids.

It’s also good to see this game mechanic applied to visual answers. Picking out funny photographs? Major Fun.

For 4+ players, ages 10+

Pictwits! was designed by Nicholas Cravotta and © 2012 by MindWare.

Wits & Wagers: Party

Filed Under (Family Games, Party Games, Senior-Worthy) by Will Bain on 27-05-2013

Wits & Wagers: PartyVegas, baby!!

Let it ride!!

Baby needs a new pair of shoes!!


And thus endeth my knowledge of Las Vegas and the exciting life of the high roller. What I do know is that any great game has an element of risk. Vegas epitomizes the lengths to which people, both the casinos and the gamblers, will go to make money. The games in Vegas are a thin fiction that glamorize this risky pursuit  of the Big Money. In contrast, North Star Games’ party version of Wits and Wagers, uses the opulent veneer of Vegas to encourage players to take a more intellectual risk in order to win some fun. Dare I say, the Big Funny?

As is subtly implied in its title, Wits & Wagers revolves around making a wager. Once you have divided into teams, the group is asked a question that has a numeric answer. For example: In what year was Velcro invented? In feet and inches, what was the longest recorded zucchini? How many taxis are in New York City?

Each team writes their answer on a wonderful little dry erase board. Each team’s board is revealed at the same time and put in order from lowest to highest. Although it is possible that someone will know the exact answer to a question, such precision is rarely possible and the game derives much of its fun from the teams betting on what response is closest to the correct answer without going over.

Each team has two betting tokens. Once the whiteboards are arranged, each team places their tokens on the numbers that they think are closest to the correct answer (but not higher than the answer). Once everyone bets, the answer is revealed to an eruption of cheers, howls, name-calling, fist-bumping, finger-pointing, and teeth-gnashing. The team who wrote down the closest number gets a chip. Any team that placed a betting token on the closest number also gets a chip.

This process of coming up with an answer and then betting on the collective range of possibilities is very engaging. Just coming up with an answer for your team is tense, but the fun really kicks in when you see the other guesses; especially when the range of answers is close. All the same arguments your team had in coming up with a number come BACK when it is time to put your tokens down.

Major Fun AwardTo keep things interesting, the seventh (and final) round adds a wrinkle. This time, your team can use the chips you have won over the last few rounds in the betting stage. On this round, when you place your betting tokens, you can add some (or all) of your chips to that bet. If you win, you get a chip for your token and one chip for each chip that you bet. If you lose, you lose them all. In this way, the fortunes of the teams can change quickly. In one of our games, we had three teams that all wrote the same number as their answer. It was the last round and those three teams were well ahead of the fourth team, but because they thought they had an easy answer (how could three groups of well-educated adults be wrong?) all three teams went all in. The fourth team also bet on that answer BUT kept a few chips back. As you’ve probably guessed, the answer was wrong. The three leading teams were wiped out and the last place team won.

Wits & Wagers: Party is crisply designed and a snap to learn. The dry erase boards and markers work perfectly for this kind of game. We also appreciated the clearly illustrated (and short) instructions.

You won’t lose your shirt but you might lose your breath. There is a lot of laughter and cheering and groaning. And that’s the kind of “loss” that makes a game Major Fun.

For 4+ players, ages 8+

Wits & Wagers: Party was designed by Dominic Crapuchettes and © 2012 by North Star Games.

Riff Raff

Filed Under (Dexterity, Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 29-04-2013

Riff Raff

Riff Raff is a game of rigorous self-assessment, strategic cunning, and Kung-Fu-like dexterity. OK, maybe not so rigorous or cunning. And more of the white-belt level, Kung-Fu-wise. But, for a rocking-boat-in-the-water balancing-type game, surprisingly, shall we say, deep.

Stage one: the setting-up

There are two large cardboard “waves” that bend into three sections. These are placed together on to the parts compartment in the box, so as to form the base for the ship. A wooden collar is then placed over the opening where the two wave-pieces meet. Into this, you “place the joint of the ball-bar on the wooden ring in such a way that the boat sinks into the whole and the two retaining rods come to lie in the troughs of the ring.” Thus assuring something like 360-degree rockability. And then on goes the hull, and the mast goes into the hole in the hull, and a small round bar is placed into the bottommost mast-hole upon which is placed the lower yardarm. And, oh, you know, you get a boat, cunningly counterweighted, tantalizingly tippable, with three yardarms, that have numbers on each end.

Each player (2-4) gets a set of 8 different pieces- wooden, of course, as is the boat and all its parts, except for the metal ball counter-weight, and a deck of ten cards, numbered from one, to, let me see, yes, ten.

Stage two: the up-setting

Major Fun awardEach player selects one of her cards. Simultaneously, all players reveal their chosen number. The player with the highest number is captain, and starts the game. The player who has the second highest card goes next, etc. Once a card is played, it gets thrown into somewhere retrievable for the next game. Now here’s the thing about the cards. It’s not just about seeing who gets to go when. It’s also about where you have to put a piece of your cargo. Note the numbers on the ship. Note the corresponding number on the card you played. Ten gets to go first. But then again, that means the player who played a ten has to put a piece of the very top yardarm in the “ten” section.

So, when you select your card, you have to anticipate (predict, potentially; guess, actually) what card the other players might also choose. Which, of course, entails considerations about what card they think you’re likely to choose. Hence the whole strategic cunning part. And the Kung-Fu-like hand-steadiness. And, of course, the rigorous self-assessment (I mean, can I actually get the monkey to hang on the 10 side of the yardarm, given how the whole ship is tilting 1o-wardly?).

The game is surprisingly easy to understand. Consistently engaging. Frequently funny. And probably one of the strategically deepest dexterity games we’ve yet encountered. Major, we say, fun.

Designed by Christoph Cantzler, art by Michael Menzel, published by Zoch, available in the U.S. from Lion Rampant Imports


Filed Under (Dexterity, Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 29-04-2013

Hamsterrolle via BoardgameCafe.net

For people who like to explore the mysteries of balance and steadiness of hand,  Hamsterrolle is an ingenious, and, to our knowledge, unique (and, hence, uniquely fun) challenge.

If it reminds you a bit of one of those wheelish things you find in a hamster cage, you have satisfactorily explained the etymology of the game’s name.

The main component of the game is a large, wooden wheel, divided into 12 sections by steps of different length. There are also four sets of 7 wooden pieces, each piece a different color and shape. In addition, there is a cone-shaped piece, used to steady the wheel in preparation for the beginning of the game. Each of the 2-4 players gets one full set.

Major Fun awardOnce the cone-shaped piece is in postion, the game begins. The first player places any of her pieces into the first, second, or third compartment (separated by steps) after the cone. From then on, players take turns placing their pieces, either in the same compartment in which the last piece was placed, or the compartment after that, or the compartment after that. If a piece is placed in the same compartment, it must be different than all the other pieces in that compartment, and placed so that it is ahead of the last piece placed.

Sooner or later, the wheel rolls. That establishes the “roll” direction, and all subsequent plays must be made so that the wheel, if it rolls, will continue rolling in the same direction. This can also cause a piece or several to fall out of their compartments. Even if they only fall partly out, they are still considered “yours,” so you must add them to your collection, which is not so good for you, especially when you take into account that the first player to use up all her pieces is the winner.

The game is challenging, absorbing, and takes you enough by surprise to catalyze serious laughter. It can be played by almost any age. The rules can be easily changed to accommodate younger children and older adults. It is elegant, attractive, and major fun.

Watch a couple kids playing:

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Now watch the amazingness:

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Designed by Jacques Zeimet and produced by Zoch games, Hamsterrolle is recommended for 2-4 players ages 7 and older. It is available in the U.S. from Lion Rampant Imports