Man Bites Dog

Man Bites Dog wins the Major FUN Award for its humor, its playability, its invitation to creativity, its quickness, and, most of all, it’s fun.

It’s a card game the object of which is to create high-scoring headlines. Each card contains a word or a phrase and a score value. Headlines can have such bizarre grammatical structures that players can, with a modicum of creativity, compose a headline out of almost any cluster of words. The key word here is “almost.” Sometimes it’s impossible. Sometimes you have to stretch your concept of linguistic clarity beyond the breaking point. Take, for example, the following hand: CONVICT, SUSPECT, UROLOGIST, BLONDE, DUMPS. Luckily, DUMPS is one of those words that can be a noun or a verb. Otherwise, you’d be lost (you can replace up to three cards). So, how about BLONDE UROLOGIST DUMPS CONVICT? That’d work. So would BLONDE UROLOGIST DUMPS SUSPECT. Well, more or less. But you’d get another 5 points if you could use CONVICT. You can’t have a SUSPECT CONVICT, though. How about CONVICT UROLOGIST DUMPS BLONDE SUSPECT?

Well, you get the point. But to actually get the points, everyone else must agree that your headline actually makes sense. This keeps the game from getting too competitive, because ultimately everyone is working together to keep the game going.

The game play is fast – a hand takes maybe five minutes to play. Since the average hand scores from 50-150 points, and the game is over as soon as someone reaches 500, the whole game rarely takes more than a fun, comfortable 20 minutes. It feels a little poker-like (you get five cards and can exchange up to three), which invites the creation of a minor infinity of non-gambling poker-like variations.

Man Bites Dog is recommended for 2 to 6 players, ages 8 and up. And a very good recommendation it is.

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