It happened almost as soon as we opened the box. Everybody brightened up, almost as if we knew that Malarky would prove to be just the kind of game we were looking for – easy to learn, fun, competitive, but just competitive enough to keep your attention. An intellectual game, but not so intellectual that you’d actually have to know anything. In other words, just the kind of game you’d want to bring to a party – or make a party out of.

My first exposure to anything Malarky-like was the parlor game called “Fictionary” – your basic bluffing game where the object is to be the one everyone thinks knows the “real” answer, even though you really made it up. Malarky isn’t about word definitions, but rather about everyday life “factoids” like why laundry detergent boxes come in such odd weights.

But the real genius of the game is in the execution. You get this big deck of obscure but everyday factoid cards, as you’d expect. One player selects and reads the question, and everyone else has to think up an answer – again, as you’d expect. The problem that these games usually have is how to get from this point to the voting without enduring painful minutes of writing and deciphering. Normally, everyone writes something down. And then they pass their slips to the questioner, who also has to write the answer down. And then she has to read all the answers, one at a time, without fumbling or giving anything away. The designers of Malarky have come up with what they call “Concealing Folders.” This simple device (a cardboard frame with a front and back cover) makes possible truly stunning acts of subterfuge and dissemblance. The reader puts the card in one of the folders, closes the folders, mixes them up, and then distributes the closed folders. Everyone takes turns, opening the folder and appearing to read the “real” answer. Of course, only one player actually has the question card.

This simple device, the cleverness of the questions, and the introduction of voting chips combine to create a game that takes an old parlor game to a new level – making Patch Product‘s Malarky a game that could only be called “Major FUN Award-worthy.”

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