Monday, March 28, 2011

Capsule Review Cavalcade: A & P

Let's head back to board games, and check out selections that recently hit the game table around these parts, but missed hitting the review table here:

Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? (2007)
An at-home adaptation of the Jeff Foxworthy FOX game show. The amount of cards gave me the same feeling I have with any trivia game - it looks like I'm being ripped off. But you later realize you'll never see half of what they say in your lifetime. Played at home, your opponents take the role of "the fifth graders" whose proverbial test you can copy off of. To entice them not to sandbag, the game awards each success in that field $1,000. Given the game's $1,000,000 top prize, these awards are basically tiebreakers should two people reach the same plateau. That aside (it hasn't made the game less fun at home), the materials are nice enough, and the idea of the game is one many people get involved in. There's just a built-in enticement to the game's title question. ***¼ The material is a lot more straightforward, and easier, than its TV counterpart, which means a good number of players can march right up the money ladder.

Pop Smarts (1999)
Endless Games presents Pop Smarts, a test of knowledge in various aspects of pop culture. You spin the spinner to help choose a category - either TV, music, movies, books, or the game's wild card category, "pop-pourri." A series of clues are read which are either characters from the same TV show, songs from the same artist, etc. Being first to shout out the answer earns you points - up to 4 if you get it on the first clue. To win, you must answer a question in each of the five topics, and earn at least 25 points.

The category where you name the movie common to the actors listed takes a wild guess to earn top points on. The rules allow only one guess per question, so the first clue is basically useless, unless someone's desperate for points. A game like this lives and dies on the material, and for my money, it isn't very strong. The inclusion of books is curious, because the public's general knowledge of literature tends to be low. The times we played, books were mostly a dead end. The question cards are wider than letter-size paper, and handle awkwardly. Score is kept on dry erase cardboard. The rules page is meant to be conversational and fun, but ends up muddying things. Pop Smarts has minor potential, but really doesn't work if your players have uneven knowledge of pop culture.
The method of winning leaves something to be desired as well. **

A to Z (1997)
In a nutshell, A to Z is Scattergories: Speed Edition. Each player is equipped with a plastic board showing each letter of the alphabet. X and Y share a space. On their turn, players shout out answers over a 15 or 30 second period that fit a category from the ubiquitous deck of cards. Every time you're right, you cover the first letter of the answer with a chip. The first player to terminate their entire board wins. Along the way, players can earn a free chip, which helps with the more odd letters. Some rounds have you take chips away from an opponent, rather than add them to your own board. That part made the game drag for us at times, extending the session beyond what felt appropriate. But overall, A to Z is a hit. A very accessible game that hits the same note we love from Outburst and other party games, with superlative materials. ***¾

1 comment:

TLEberle said...

Nice to see A to Z getting the love it deserves.