Filed Under (Party Games) by Will Bain on 04-05-2015


Vigilance. Paranoia. Furtive glances.

Now that’s a party game.

Wink, by Blue Orange Games, is a cousin of the Assassination and Werewolf games that I played growing up. In these games there is someone who is “it” but is trying to keep the fact a secret. Someone else, the “inspector” or “detective,” is trying to find out who is it before it is too late. In Assassination, the “it” player tries to kill all the other players by winking at them before being identified by the “Inspector.” Wink takes this mechanic and makes everyone it.

It’s a brilliant move. One of the problems with Assassination-style games is that there are few Assassins, and that’s arguably the best role. Being a victim is only fun when you have a particularly dramatic death, but otherwise once you are eliminated, you might as well go out for coffee. Elimination games do not lend themselves as well to repeat play.

Using some cards and a pawn, Wink gives everyone a chance to be the Assassin AND the Inspector.

There are 2 decks of 36 cards called Face Cards. The cards are numbered 1-36. One deck is placed face-up on the table in a 6×6 grid. The other deck (identical to the first but with a different colored back) is dealt out to the players so that everyone has an equal number of Face Cards. Each person also has a colored pawn and 4 ACCUSE cards.

On your turn you take your pawn and place it on one of the face-up cards in the grid. You may not place your pawn on a number that matches one in your hand. You announce the number and then it is the next player’s turn.

But wait there’s more! The number you chose on the grid belongs to someone else at the table. That person wants to secretly indicate this to you with a wink. While everyone is taking turns placing their pawns on the grid, you are looking around the table for someone to wink at you. Chances are, you will also have to find the right moment to wink at someone who placed their pawn on one of your numbers.

But wait there’s more! If you observe someone winking at someone else, you may ACCUSE that person by playing one of your ACCUSE cards and shouting “J’Accuse!” in your best French accent (or worst as was often the case).

Points are awarded by collecting the Face Cards. After you first placed your pawn, when your turn comes around again, you must guess who has the card matching your number. If you are lucky then you saw that person wink at you. If you are correct, you keep the card under your pawn and the other person keeps the card in their hand. That’s one point for each of you. If your guess is wrong, the card under your pawn is turned face-down and you move your pawn to another card in the grid. You may also earn points by successfully ACCUSING someone. If you shout J’ACCUSE and are successful you get both cards (the one from the grid and the one from the player’s hand). You only have 4 ACCUSE cards so you have to use them wisely. Unused ACCUSE cards are worth 1 point at the end but a successful ACCUSE is worth 2 points (plus you rob your opponents).

We played with 8 people and although I was good at winking at my partners without being seen, I was TERRIBLE at witnessing winks. On the other hand, my neighbor (the guy who won) was terrifying in his ability to successfully ACCUSE. I thought with 8 people I would catch at least one furtive wink but it was very difficult.

Major Fun awardVery nerve wracking.

And Major Fun.

Everyone is always engaged. Right up to the end of the game. There is no elimination and no down time. ACCUSING is incredibly entertaining and is definitely the best part of the game (especially when you are successful). I’ve mentioned it before in reviews that many of the best Major Fun games have a little meanness embedded in them and Wink accomplishes this perfectly with the ACCUSE mechanic.

4 – 8 players. Ages 8+

Wink was designed by Fred Krahwinkel and is © 2015 by Blue Orange Games.

Sock Puppet Charades

Filed Under (Creative, Family Games, Party Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 26-04-2015

sock puppet charades

Sock Puppet Charades is, basically, when it comes down to it, charades, with sock puppets. How potentially droll, you say to yourself. Good game, that charades. Victorian, so they say. A Parlour game of proven play value. But with sock puppets! Those clever little hand puppets devised, I believe, sometime during the early 20th century and of similarly proven play value. A folk toy, one must say. Oh, my, how foreseeably fun. A folk game that makes the use of a folk toy. How doubly droll!

Well, my friend, until you play it, you can scarcely conjecture how beyond droll this little game of Sock Puppet Charades turns out to be. Scarcely. Because, you see, it’s far more than the sum of its play-tested parts. It’s a unique, entertaining and thoroughly enchanting game. Challenging (like charades). Tension-producing (there’s a sand-timer don’t you know). And yet, fundamentally funny (with sock puppets).

Take another look at the two sock puppets that come with the game.

sock puppet
They absolutely defy you to take anything seriously. Not when someone’s pinky and thumb are sticking out of the puppets pretending to be arms.

Now, imagine trying to use one or both of these sock puppets, without talking, with the aid only of the sock puppets, your vocabulary of vocal sound effects, and a small collection of props, to get someone to say the word “yoga.” Imagine trying to make yoga pose with your hand in a sock, you downward-facing dog, you.

The game itself is designed so that everybody is continually involved. One player dons the socks, selects the props, and then a charade card upon which are written 3 different words: an action, a person, and a thing. She now has exactly one minute to get the rest of the players to say all three words. The puppeteer gets one point for each person who correctly identifies the word. And the player who is first to guess correctly also gets a point. Then the next player dons the socks of puppeteerness. Depending on how many players there are (as few as three, as many as six) the game continues for four, three or two complete rounds before the final scores are calculated.

On the other hand, as it were, by the end of the game you have probably laughed so hard, so often, that the whole idea of keeping score kind of loses its point, so to speak.

Everything about the game is well-made. The box it comes in is sturdy enough to last a generation or two. You don’t have to worry about remembering the rules, or losing them, because they’re written right on the inside of the cover. The sock puppets are made of long-lasting knit polyester with embroidered faces. And the props, though the small collection truly demonstrates the play value of having them as part of the game, can be expanded upon indefinitely.

Brilliantly designed by Jack Degnan, diligently produced by the enticingly-named Marbles the Brain Store; Sock Puppet Charades, should you need to ask, is Major Fun!


Coconuts “Crazy Monkey Game”

Filed Under (Dexterity, Family Games, Party Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 22-04-2015

Coconuts "Crazy Monkey" Game
So, let’s say you just bought your very own copy of the Coconuts “Crazy Monkey Game”. And you just opened the box.

There are monkeys in the box. Four of them. They all look the same and they all do the same thing. Their arms are stretched out, palms together. They’re spring-loaded. So if you press down on their arms, they go down, and if you let go, they spring up. So, what does that make you want to do with them? Put something in their palms, no? And press down maybe all the way, maybe only part of the way. And let their arms go. And watch the thing fly. Oh, yes!

If you rummage around a bit, you’ll notice a bag full of little brown rubbery things, about the size of Raisinets – you know, chocolate-covered raisins. If I were you and had the time, as soon as I got my Coconuts Crazy Monkey Game, I’d run over to the supermarket and buy a few boxes of those candies, or M&Ms maybe, because those little brown rubbery things they call coconuts look too delicious not to be edible, which, alas, they are not.

There are also cups in the box. Twelve of them. Four red, the rest yellow.

That, in fact, is all you actually and in truth need to know to have significant, genuine, generation-spanning, party-like fun with your Coconuts “Crazy Monkey Game”. And that, in truth, is what makes the Coconuts “Crazy Monkey Game” as major fun as it turns out being. You don’t really need to know how to play it. You can make up your own game. A truly fun, delicious game – party-worthy, for the whole family, even without the kids. Especially if you remembered to get the Raisinets. Though the little rubbery things do have an undeniable bounce to them, which adds that certain bounce to the gameplay of it all. But then you can’t eat your winnings.

Look a little further into the box and you’ll come up with four boards. This will change your perception of the game a bit, because it will make you wonder what to do with them. And, with a little more rummaging, you’ll find a deck of twelve “special magic cards.” And a set of, gasp, rules even.

So, you set the game up according to the instructions, until the whole thing looks something like this:

cocunut game
And no, I’m not going to tell you what the rules are, because: A) I don’t want to spoil the fun of your making up your own rules, and 2) the rules are pretty easy to understand. Especially if you watch this video:

YouTube Preview Image

And yes, yes, the game can be even more fun for a longer time (didn’t think it would be possible, did you?) with the board and the cards. All of which is to say, Major Fun? O, yes!


The Coconuts “Crazy Monkey Game” was designed by Walter Schneider and is brought to us by the compassionately playful folk of Mayday Games.

Jenga® Giant™

Filed Under (Dexterity, Family Games, Party Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 13-04-2015

Jenga Giant
Jenga® Giant™ is, as you might conclude, a giant version of Jenga. You play it just like you’d play Jenga®. Everything you know about Jenga® makes this game as fun as it is. Only with Jenga Giant the fun is, shall we say, even more major.

Why even more major? Because when those blocks come a-tumblin’ down, man, do they come a-tumblin’! We’re talking loud. We’re talking spectacularly loud. By the second or third time you play, and you know full well how much of a spectacle it is, and how loud it is, the tension is even greater, the game even that much more exciting, and attractive, which makes it especially good for parties.

It is made of “54 precision crafted polished Jenga® Giant™ Premium Hardwood Blocks each 6″x2″x1″” (premium hardwood, but not from endangered rain forest, jungle, or similar areas). This “precision crafted polished” feature of the game is what makes it work so well, and why you could very well drive yourself beyond the limits of the home craftperson should you try to make your own. Blocks that can slide without making the whole thing fall are blocks that slide the way only a precision crafted polished block could slide – smoothly, smugly, validating your Jenga-like acumen.

There is nothing cheap about Jenga Giant. Nothing. But after you play it at one or several of your parties, you’ll have no trouble at all justifying the expense. And neither will your guests.

To further the party-like aspect of Jenga Giant, and for a relatively minuscule investment, consider purchasing a ChalkInk marker so that you can write messages, erasably, in a subtle but clearly legible white, right upon your beautiful Jenga blocks, added rules and other hilarity-provoking things. We take, for example, from The Big List of Drinking Jenga Tiles (not that drinking is necessary or even essential for the majority of the added fun):

  • The next person must take their turn sitting on your lap.
  • You must play the rest of the game wearing no shoes or socks.
  • You must keep physical contact with the person to your right for the remainder of the game.
  • Any time you sing the Jeopardy theme song, the person taking their turn must complete their turn before you finish the song.

(Fortunately, the Jenga Giant blocks are giant enough for just about any message you can think of.)

The only reason we don’t recommend Jenga Giant for kids? Kids might get a bit too carried away to remember not to play near fragile things like on your beautiful dining room table or too close to the proverbial china closet. O, they will have fun. Big fun. But there are times when one must ask: what price fun?


The Metagame

Filed Under (Party Games, Word Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 13-04-2015

The Metagame, explain the triumvirate at Local # 12,

“is a social card game about everything: comics and literature, fine art and tv, architecture and videogames. It’s a way to show off your cultural smarts and get into ridiculous arguments with your friends. Arguments like:

  • Which feels like first love: Pride and Prejudice or Hungry Hungry Hippos?
  • Which is responsible for the fraying of our moral fabric: Tupperware or Das Kapital?
  • Which should be required in schools: Dungeons and Dragons or the Bible?

“The Metagame is not a single game or a single set of rules. Like a traditional deck of cards, it’s an open game system enabling a wide variety of games for different settings and play styles.”

Before I begin to wax enthusiastic about The Metagame and all the joyous socio-conceptual affordances thereof, I needs must recuse myself. I know the guy. Eric Zimmerman. He is my friend and has catalyzed something like a renaissance of my work. So I really want to aid his success as much as he has aided mine.  On the other hand, as an advocate of good games, and real fun, I can’t keep myself, or you, from the many wonders of the Metagame.

There are six games. Each is different. Each is will make you laugh. There are games that are strong enough to engage a party-full of friends, and games that you can play with your lover – or a several of your lovers. The cards are very well thought out – all of them. Which is no small achievement, considering how many cards there are to think about.

Here’s a great little video on how to play the game:

And another, earlier one, with the inventors of the game, at a slightly earlier stage.

Here’s our review of the game at an earlier stage.

Here’s how you can buy the finished, packaged game in all it’s many glories.

And here’s our award:

Major Fun Award

Menu Mash-Up

Filed Under (Family Games, Party Games) by Will Bain on 30-10-2014

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Menu_Mash_Up_product_shot_contentsParty games accommodate snacking in ways that other games don’t. Speed games engage the hands and eyes too much. Word games and strategy games consume too much intellectual bandwidth. But party games are made to be played with friends at a casual pace.

Menu Mash-Up doesn’t just accommodate party food, it has the distinction of being a party game that could actively encourage players to put the game aside for a while in order to prepare a full meal.

The mechanics are simple—think Apples to Apples but with ingredients. There are three kinds of cards: ingredients, preps, and dishes. Players have a hand of ten cards: 7 ingredients (papaya, caviar, asparagus, saffron, etc…) and 3 preps (cookies, baked, flambéed, omelet, etc…) Each round begins with one player (the Diner) drawing a Dish card. These cards describe what the other players (the Cooks) need to prepare such as Romantic Dinner, Tickle the Senses, Break the Bank, and Bring the Pain. The cooks put together any number of their ingredients and preps in a way that will most appeal to the diner. These cards are placed in an ingenious folder that looks like a menu and passed to the Diner. The Diner shuffles the menus, reads them out, and then chooses the winner for the round.

Some of the Dish cards are have special instructions. The Diner might have to roll a die for the number of ingredients or the Cooks might have a 45 second timer. These serve to spice things up as it were.

01 AwardIt’s a tried and true party game mechanic but the responses to the various dishes are incredibly varied. The game also comes with a set of Linking Cards that anyone can use—words like “with,” “followed by,” “on.” Cooks have 10 cards PLUS the Linking Cards to arrange in any order they want. They can fill the order with multiple courses or one simple item.

One of the things I loved about the game was how it swung between funny and tantalizing. There were lots of combinations that made us laugh but the ones we talked about the most were the ones that sparked our gustatory imaginations. And you could tell the really powerful ones because everyone would sit back for a moment with a faraway look and sigh a collective “mmmmmm.”

Silly, sumptuous, and absolutely Major Fun.

3 – 7 players. Ages 12+

Menu Mash-Up was designed by Karen Hudes and is © 2013. The game is produced by Chronicle Books.


Filed Under (Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games) by Will Bain on 13-08-2014

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BlurbleDeluxeBlurble is a game like Anomia that gets a lot of laughs and game-play-mileage out of making you sound stupid.

You aren’t stupid. I know this because you are reading this web post. You also demonstrate great taste and a fine appreciation for the playful side of life. And in that last regard, Blurble is the game for you.

Just be warned: the longer you play the game, the dumber you will sound.

The game consists of a big deck of cards. How many cards, you ask? I’m not quite sure, but at a guess I would say more than 11. Yep, the box lid confirms there are more than 11 cards (489 more to be exact). The cards have pictures on them—illustrations of objects that are easy to identify (although one card had a plate of nachos that I was SURE was a pizza).

The game starts with a person called the “Blurbler.” Say it out loud. GO on. Now say it more than five times in a row. That kind of silly stupid tongue tied feeling is something you are going to have to get used to a lot. The Blurbler turns to the first person clockwise and flips up a card. The two players then races to say a word that begins with the same letter as the object in the picture.

Blurble cardsBUT (and notice it is a big but…) there are legal words and there are illegal words. Words cannot be proper nouns, numbers, contractions, or contain fewer than 3 letters (when we played we misread the rules and so disallowed anything with less than 4 letters—harder but still tons of fun). Words may never be used more than once in a game. Finally, the word cannot name the image. For instance, if a picture of a cat comes up you cannot say cat nor can you say catatonic nor can you say vacation (va CAT ion). That last one you might be able to slip by the other players (who act as judges) but they could call you out for illegal Blurbling.

01 AwardAs the game goes on you do tend to get faster but you also tend to run into words that have already been used. You will find yourself tripping over some of the most basic words because you just can’t remember if the word has been used before.

One thing we really liked about Blurble is that you are not penalized for saying an illegal word. If you say an illegal word you just have to keep trying. Players just keep shouting out words (and a lot of gibberish) until they say a legal one.

Major Fun for lots of ages and big groups of people.

2-12 players. Ages 8+

Blurble was designed by Grant Bernard and is © 2011 by Bernard Games.

Rumble in the House / Rumble in the Dungeon

Filed Under (Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games) by Will Bain on 11-08-2014

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Rumble in the houseA while back we awarded King of Tokyo with a Major Fun Award. Giant monsters rampaging their way through a major metropolitan city. What isn’t there to like?

Well, Flatlined Games has lowered the stakes a little (you are fighting over a house instead of a city) but kicked the rampaging into overdrive.

Rumble in the House (and it’s virtually identical twin Rumble in the Dungeon) distills the fighting game down to its most basic core: move monsters, remove monsters. Cram a bunch of hare-trigger psychopaths (like Cthulhu, a Chicken Man superhero, and a penguin packing dynamite) into a single flat and watch the furniture fly.

For all its parts, the game is beautifully simple. There are twelve room tiles that make up the board. Arrange these as you like. There are twelve monsters on little plastic stands. Place one in each room. There are 12 monster tokens. Each player chooses 2 at random. Keep yours hidden! These are the monsters you are trying to protect as long as you can.

Rumble ComponentsOn your turn you can do one of two things: move one monster (if it is alone) OR “pick a fight.” If there are two or more monsters in a room, you get to remove one from the game. Fights in the house are very fast and very decisive!

As monsters are eliminated from the house, you must place them in a line. Play until only one character remains. Points are determined by the place of your monsters in the line. The first two monsters score nothing. Zero. After that each monster scores points by their position in line starting with one point for the third monster and going up to ten points for the one who walked out of the house. You take the score of your last monster.

The game is played over three rounds. Each time, you build the house, draw new secret monsters, and then RUUUUMMMMMMBLE!!

01 AwardRumble in the Dungeon is the successor to Rumble in the House. The location and characters have changed and a treasure chest has been added to the basic mechanics. Moving and fighting are still the main actions, but if you can get one of your characters to carry the treasure chest to the dungeon’s entrance, that character can leave and earn 10 points. Moving and fighting continue even if someone succeeds in removing the treasure (instead of fighting for the treasure you are now fighting over who let someone else abscond with it).

Rumble in the dungeonYour first game is the longest and that’s only because you have to punch out the pieces and glance through the rules. The artwork on the pieces, the box, and the rules by Kwanchai Moriya is fun and colorful. We loved looking at the pieces and making up stories about how one character defeated the other. It’s a very light game but it lends itself to lots of replay. I also appreciated that even when your monsters have been eliminated you still get to influence the game.

Spite becomes a powerful force for Major Fun.

2-6 players. Ages 8+

Rumble in the House was designed by Olivier Saffre and is © 2011 by Flatlined Games. Rumble in the Dungeon is © 2012. Worldwide distribution is being handled by the good people at Iello.

Spot It! Freeze

Filed Under (Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games, Speed Game) by Will Bain on 01-07-2014

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spotitfreeze_gamerIt has been well established that Spot It! is Major Fun.

For evidence, you may look here…

…and here

…and here

…and here

Although it seems like we have sufficiently covered this point, I don’t think it can be over-stated how clever the basic game is. You have 55 cards. Each card has eight images. Any two cards in the deck have exactly one image in common. Games revolve around trying to find which one is the match. Spot It! Freeze adds a timer to the mix. The electronic timer has two modes: countdown and random.

I’ll admit that most of us at Major Fun were skeptical that a timer would add much to the game. After all, the point of Spot It! is to be fast. Surely a timer couldn’t help much.

We were wrong.

Blue Orange has come up with some great games that utilize the two types of timer to great effect. The most basic game requires the players to collect cards from a pile in the middle. Play proceeds as normal until a player successfully makes a match with one of the blue images (cold-based images like ice and snow are always blue). When that happens, that player yells “Freeze” and the countdown timer is started. The player has 10 seconds to play solo—no one else can interrupt. When the 10 seconds is over everyone else can jump back in.

Playing by yourself is an advantage, but not nearly as great as you might first imagine. The countdown adds pressure that tends to interfere with your ability to spot the similar images. It breaks the flow and it also gives your opponents time to look at the card and jump in at the end of the countdown.

01 AwardAnother variation involves the random timer (a loud ticking sound) that plays like Catchphrase. Each player has a stack of cards they are trying to get rid of. A card is turned face up in the middle of the table and the timer is started. One player flips their top card up and tries to make a match. Once they do, play moves clockwise to the next person. If the timer stops on your turn (before you can play a card) then you take two cards from the middle pile. You can also reverse the order by matching a blue item and saying “Freeze.” You don’t have to reverse things but you can.

This is a great game variation for a wide range of players. It equalizes things quite a bit. My daughter is fantastic at the basic Spot It! Far and above the best player in our group. She can consistently take on and beat all the rest of us COMBINED. This variation (called Flash Freeze) means that she still has to wait for the rest of us and it is possible for us to keep her from playing (or at least give her very little time). I’ll admit that it seems petty and cruel to keep my 12 year old daughter from playing her cards, but short of gouging out her eyes, I’m not sure there is any other chance the rest of us have.

And she has lovely eyes.

Spot It! Freeze is a great expansion of the Spot It! universe. It is the only one to not come in a round tin but the timer is also a compact box for the cards. It is clever and bright and fast and oh so Major Fun.

2 – 8 players. Ages 8+

Spot It! Freeze © 2014 by Blue Orange Games.

Dodge Dice

Filed Under (Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games) by Will Bain on 20-06-2014

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Dodge DiceDodge Dice is a wonderfully minimalist press-your-luck game. Ten dice and some chips are all it takes to give you a lot of tough choices in the face of random chance.

Eight of the dice are the Dodge Dice. These have three blue sides, two green sides, and one red side. One die is the Penalty Die. Similar to the Dodge Dice, the Penalty Die has three blue, two green, and one red sides; however, each side also has a number value: blue = 10, green = 20, and red = 40. The final die is the Action Die. This die either stops the round immediately or effects the final penalty score.

The starting player rolls all the dice. Whatever color the Penalty Die shows is the color that must remain face up in future rolls. The first player puts the Penalty Die and any matching Dodge Dice in the middle of the table and passes the rest of the dice to the next player. That player rolls all the dice, setting aside any that are the same color as those in the middle and passing the rest.

The goal of the game is to have the fewest points. You earn points if the round stops on your turn. There are two ways for the round to stop. First, if the STOP symbol comes up on the Action Die when you roll the round stops (duh). Second, if all the Dodge Dice are the same color, the round stops.

01 AwardIf the round stops on you, you earn the number of points on the Penalty Die BUT this can be changed by the Action Die. The points can be doubled or tripled. The points could actually be subtracted from your score or the points could be passed to one of the other players. Of the six possibilities that could happen to you when the round stops, four of them are bad for you but two are good.

So, because this is a press-your-luck game there must be some choice to make so that you could conceivably avoid a bad outcome. That’s where the chips come in. Every player has two Skip Chips. You can play one before you roll to pass the dice to the next player or you can play two chips to skip AFTER you have rolled. Skip Chips can replenish with a lucky roll of the Action Die, but these chips become very valuable in those long rounds toward the end of the game.

There’s a lot of nail-biting and analysis paralysis that accompanies some of these rolls. Do you take a few points now so you can save your chips for later? Do you roll and spend your chips only if you have to? Is it better for you to take a few points if it means preventing someone from ending the game?

All good questions and all Major Fun.

2 – 6 players. Ages 8+

Dodge Dice was designed by Eric Messersmith and Mike Mandolese and is © 2014 by Gamewright.