Thursday, July 25, 2013

McNeill Designs for Brighter Minds: You've Been Sentenced Review and Giveaway!
McNeill Designs for Brighter Minds was founded in 2004, in Wilmington, DE. This company is committed to selling innovative and challenging board, card, and party games. They have seen much success in the past few years, earning more than a few awards along the way. McNeill Designs for Brighter Minds is invested in education, as well as charities; they donate a percentage of their sales to Success Won't Wait, Inc., an organization that helps to fight illiteracy by "distributing books". 

McNeill Designs for Brighter Minds has received a TON of awards for You've Been Sentenced. They are all telling of what a great company and what an innovative game this is. Some of the awards that McNeill Designs for Brighter Minds has received are: The Toy Man Seal of Approval, the Parent-Tested, Parent-Approved Seal of Approval, Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal, Dr. Toy "Best Products Winner", National Parenting Center Seal of Approval, Creative Child Magazine Seal of Excellence, Scholastic's Instructor Magazine Teacher's Pick, Mensa Parenting for Higher Potential "Hot Product", Parents' Choice Award, Hot Media for Educators Edutopia Magazine, FAO Schwartz Toy Audition Days Winner, iParenting Media Award - Greatest Products, Toys, and Games Category, Mr. Dad Gold Seal of Approval, Tillywig Laugh out Loud Award, Stylish Award, Dad Does Approved Award, and the Spewgie Award. Can you say wow? Now you can see why I was so excited to work with this company.

McNeill Designs also offers two other great games that are not featured in this review:

Wheel of Chore-ture - Feed the pets! Wash the dishes! Sweep the floors! Set the table! Spin the wheel and assign your task. This "game" is a fun way to decide who should do the chores around the house. It contains a spinning wheel, which can designate any household task. This retails for $3.00.

You've Been Sentenced Country Music Edition - The award-winning You've been Sentenced! game you know and love -- with a country accent! Inside you'll find your favorite country music artists, song titles, lyrics, and words. Players simply deal a hand of 10 cards and start to build a sentence. Then, the real fun begins when players have to read their sentences out loud...and explain them! Vote thumbs up or thumbs down. 540 cards with over 2,500 words insure billions of possible sentences so the game is never repetitive and has unlimited re-play value. Multiple other methods of play are available on our website that turn "You've been Sentenced!" into not just a game, but a full game system! We even have a lesson plan to turn "You've Been Sentenced!" into a classroom teaching tool. This game makes learning grammar and sentence construction fun and easy. This game is for ages eight and up and for three to ten players. It takes thirty-forty minutes to play and retails for $29.95.

Their board games can be purchased at many major retailers, such as Barnes and Noble, Toys-R-Us, Kohl's, etc. Check to see where you can buy McNeill Designs for Brighter Minds' games here.

McNeil Designs was very generous; they sent me a copy of You've Been Sentenced, plus every expansion pack that they sell for the game. I received the “Sci-Fi Fantasy”, “Pop Culture”, “Gourmet Cuisine”, “NASA Space Terminology”, “Reader's Digest National Word Power Challenge”, and the “Sports Highlights” expansion packages.

You've Been Sentenced is a great family word game where you attempt to create sentences given different word cards. This game is for ages eight and up and is for three to ten players. It takes approximately thirty to forty-five minutes to play and generally retails for $24.99. You've Been Sentenced includes: a 540-card word deck, a score sheet pad, a sand timer, a rules sheet, and a pencil.

The object of You've Been Sentenced is to be the first player to reach two hundred points by combining your word cards to create GRAMMATICALLY correct, creative, and sensible sentences. The game begins by each player drawing ten word cards from the box. The players are to put these word cards face down in front of them until everyone has their cards lined out. Then, everyone flips their cards over at once. Players then try to form a sentence from the word cards that they have been given – the longer the sentence and the more creative the word choice the better. The first person to construct a sentence (you do not need to use all of the word cards in front of you, just as many as you can make fit) knocks on the table and flips the sand timer over. Once this has been done, that player cannot change their sentence, even if they see another option after they have flipped the timer. The first player to complete a sentence each round receives a ten point bonus. Also, the other players are then confined to a time limit (when the sand in the timer runs out) to finish their sentences. Any players that are unable to finish completing a WHOLE sentence by the end of the round receive zero points for that round.

Once the timer has run out, the player who put their cards down first reads their sentence out loud. All of the other players become the “Jury”, because they can vote on the correctness of the sentence – is it grammatically correct, and does it actually make sense when spoken aloud? The players can make an “Objection” if they are questioning the sentence, and the player who made the sentence can counter their claim with a “Sentence Justification”, where they try and defend their sentence. Once both sides are finished, all of the players vote on the status of the sentence (by placing their thumbs up or down) – you can still vote yes for the sentence even if it doesn't make perfect sense. If the Jury gives majority vote to the “Sentence Justification”, the “Objection” is overruled and the player gets the points for the sentence; if the Jury gives majority vote to the “Objection”, the objection remains in place and the player gets no points for the round. If there is a tie, the player will receive the points for their sentence. The player who is clockwise to the first gets to go next. The next round will begin as the first did, with players discarding their original cards and picking up ten new word cards.

The strategic way to play “You've Been Sentenced” is to try and make the most out of the words that you are given. On each word card are different point values – the higher the points, the closer you can get to the 200 you need to eventually win. If possible, try to use the higher value words in your sentence. These words are usually more obscure versions of the word on that card, or are harder to fit in to a sentence. If you cannot do that, try and use as many word cards as possible in your sentence to rack up points. If you are able to use all ten of your word cards, you get an extra 10 bonus points. Look for extra adjectives you can place in front of nouns, or for more connecting words. There are Wild Cards that can be played, which substitute for any possible word, but are worth no points. These are great to play when you are missing a pertinent connecting word or sentence starter. Remember, you also get 10 extra points for being the first to form a sentence. Sentences start at two words and can be as long as ten words.

You are not allowed to use sentence fragments to score points; your sentence must have a subject and a verb. When you say your sentence aloud, it must make sense without being placed in some other context. You can use your Wild Cards to substitute any word, but also to add an apostrophe s to a word ('s). There are also Wild Name cards, where you are allowed to create your own name that starts with a specific letter. This Wild card is actually worth five points. Scoring is kept on the Official Score Sheet. Add up the rounds as you go – the first person to two hundred points wins. If two people score over two hundred at the same time, the player with the higher score wins. If they TIE, there is a “Final Summation” round, where only the tied players take ten word cards and play a private round. Nobody can object to these sentences, but the rest of the players get to vote on which sentence is better. That player wins the game. If there is a tie between the two sentences, both players win!

You've Been Sentenced has many variations that the creators have come up with to switch up the game-play or to make it move a little faster/easier. Here are the variations and the company's description of each:

THE” RuleWhere the word “the” appears before another word on a card players have the option to use or not use the word “the”. For example, “the kitchen” can be used simply as “kitchen” or “the kitchen” in a sentence. The player defines how the card is used when reading the sentence aloud. Players cannot add the word “the” to a card, only remove it.

WildStart each round with a Wild Card, then draw nine more cards for a total of 10 cards. When a hand is discarded, keep the Wild Card and draw 9 new cards for all subsequent rounds.

DeadwoodThis variation is only recommended for experienced players. Any cards not used in an accepted sentence stay in the player's hand. Rejected sentences go back into a player's hand. Draw as many cards as needed to get back to a 10-card hand at the beginning of a turn. Otherwise, try to make do with the “deadwood”!

Longer/ShorterPlay to fewer (100, 15) or a greater number of points (300, 400, 500). Or play a set number of rounds (3, 5, 10, etc.) and the highest score at that point wins.

LightningAfter the cards have been drawn, and everyone is read, start the timer and turn cards face-up. Everyone has until the sand runs out (90 seconds) to make a sentence.

Card DiscardAfter the deal, but before making sentences, a player has 30 seconds to discard and re-draw 1, 2, or 3 cards from the Word Pool. A player can only redraw once per round. This variation plays to 300 points.

Not-So-CasualSame as Casual, except the last person who knocks gets ZERO POINTS for the round.

Popular VoteAfter all sentences are judged, players take a vote to determine who had the “best” sentence this round. Everyone gets one vote. The winner gets a 10-point bonus. In the event of ties, no one gets the bonus.

TeamIf there are a large number of players, divide up into teams. Each teach draw 10 cards and makes/defends sentences together. This is an excellent way to pair up players of differing skill levels.

Move On! - If players are taking too long to debate a sentence, any player may start the sand timer. Sentences may be discussed only until the timer runs out. When the time is up, the Jury must cast a vote.

CasualThis is a low pressure introduction to the game without using the sand timer. When the first player has finished a sentence, he or she knocks on the table to alert the other players. All other players also knock on the table when finished, until all players have formed a sentence. All other rules remain the same. 





You've Been Sentenced is honestly one of my favorite new games. It is so versatile and it is great for all ages. I can see it really being used as an educational tool, especially for children and young adults who need a more creative way to practice their English and language skills. You are consistently using your brain to put together a well-structured sentence, so you are becoming more educated...but it just seems like fun! I say that anytime you can introduce healthy competition and entertainment to a "subject", children and teens will become more engaged...and this is certainly the way to do it. On the other hand, it is a GREAT party game, and even (I imagine) an ice-breaker for medium-sized groups. You've Been Sentenced is challenging, but it is really anybody's game -- you may get all good words, or a really bad "hand". No two rounds of You've Been Sentenced will ever be the same, and the Add-On Decks just further increase this. I played You've Been Sentenced with one of my friends and my boyfriend to test it out for the purpose of this review, and I fully intend to bring it to my next board game night. We had a lot of fun trying to create not only the sentences with the highest point value, but also the most RIDICULOUS. If you have funny friends, this game will really be hilarious. I'm sure you could even turn it into a more "adult" party game by adding in some mixed drinks. I had enough trouble trying to form coherent sentences as it was, so I can't imagine how difficult it would be to make them with some liquor involved. ;) You've Been Sentenced is so creative, and a breath of fresh air in the modern game industry! If you see our pictures, you can probably tell that there was an easier way to set up the cards. You are actually supposed to over-lap them going in one straight, vertical line, but we were having trouble picking them up on the table, so we slid them around into a line. You may want to make the vertical lines if you have a big group of people so that you don't crowd the table. We really enjoyed being able to judge each others' sentences and to defend our own - my friend made some pretty poetic stanzas. I'm not entirely sure if they were completely correct, but we didn't count them out because they sounded so sophisticated (and we couldn't do any better)!

The expansion packs are fun additions to the main You've Been Sentenced game. These Add-On Decks can be used in two different ways (with the exception of the Reader's Digest deck). They can be mixed into the regular You've Been Sentenced word cards for players to draw from (the cards look different on the back so they are easy to separate afterwards), or they can be put in to a separate side deck next to the word cards. In this case, the players would take eight regular word cards and two cards from the Add-On Deck. When you use the Wild Cards from the Add-On Decks, your “Wild Card” edge of the card will play as your regular Wild Card does from the main deck, but if you can match it to the theme of the other words on the card, you can actually get points for it! Each Add-On Deck contains 80 new cards, with 400 words. As stated above, the “Reader's Digest National Word Power Challenge” Add-On Deck is the only deck that plays differently from the others. This deck must NOT be mixed into the main word deck, and may only be played on the side as a separate deck. All Add-On Decks retail for $7.95.

Here is what McNeill Designs for Brighter Minds has to say about each Add-On Deck:

NASA Space Terminology Add-on Deck - Created in conjunction with the Education Department at NASA, this deck is a wonderful way to learn more about the exciting world of space exploration. Choose from famous astronauts, missions, craft, and more for out-of-this-world fun!

Brain Buster (A-L) Word Challenge Add-On Deck - Get your word on with this unique deck that will challenge even the most proficient linguists!

Gourmet Cuisine Add-on Deck - Famous chefs, exotic spices and ingredients, and all of the kitchen gizmos and gadgets necessary to cook up some fun!

Pop Culture Add-On Deck - Do you know Lindsay from Jen? What's an IM? And how do you crump? In this deck you'll find the latest dance crazes, techno terms, and celebrities for LOL fun.

Sci-fi/Fantasy Add-On Deck - Set your phasers for stun and prepare for a warp speed ride through the most memorable vocabulary from the sci-fi/fantasy genre.

Sports Highlights Add-On Deck - Ready, set, hike...putt, smash, or dunk! You will find terms and teams form every spot. It's a touchdown, run, goal, score thing!


Although the Add-On Decks are not necessary for game play, I think they are a great investment. The words are specific to their given category, which adds a lot of variation and humor. I think that everyone will have a different favorite Add-On Deck depending on their hobbies and interests. I really loved the Pop Culture deck and the Reader's Digest National Word Power Challenge deck. The Pop Culture deck has a lot of modern concepts and words included, which made my sentences really funny. The Word Power Challenge Deck was just that – a challenge. I have a large vocabulary, so for me, this deck was a lot of fun. For some of my friends, the words created confusion and often got discarded. This Add-On Deck is great for people who want to bring the game to another level and make the creation of sentences even more difficult. On the bright side...if NOBODY knows the meaning of the word, who is really going to argue against your sentence? I know that the Sports Highlights Add-On Deck would be the most difficult for me to utilize, because I don't watch many sports, so I really don't understand a lot of the terms. This deck is great to throw in if you are playing amongst a lot of sports fanatics! The Gourmet Cuisine Add-On Deck seemed to be a more generalized deck that everybody enjoyed and understood. The NASA Space Terminology and Sci-Fi Fantasy Add-On Decks are wonderful for all self-acclaimed dorks. I didn't feel as though the NASA deck required specific space knowledge to comprehend. The Sci-Fi Fantasy deck contained a lot of awesome references and also made for some hilarious sentences. Below are some of the example words from each Add-On Deck, so you can get a feel for what I am talking about:

Sci-Fi Fantasy – T-800 (5 pts), Dalek(s) (5 pts), Robbie the Robot (5 pts), Marvin (5 pts), Cylon(s) (5 pts), Middle Earth (5 pts), earthen (5 pts), earth (5 pts), earthly (5 pts), earthy (5 pts), Gary Gygax (5 pts), Stephen King (5 pts), Isaac Asimov (5 pts), Ray Bradbury (5 pts), Kurt Vonnegut (5 pts), time travel (5 pts), time traveled (5 pts), time traveler (5 pts), time travelin (5 pts), traveler (5 pts), Arrakis (5 points), Giedi Prime (5 pts), Gallifrey (5 pts), Magrathea (5 pts)

NASA Space Terminology – nebula(e) (5 pts), nebular (5 pts), nebulous (5 pts), nebulously (10 pts), nebulousness (10 pts), galaxies (5 pts), galactic (5 pts), intergalactic (5 pts), intergalatically (20 pts), (the) galaxy (5 pts), Mars Colony (5 pts), colony (5 pts), colonies (5 pts), colonization (5 pts), Lunar Colony (5 pts), atmospheric probe (5 pts), atmospheric friction (5 pts), atmosphere (5 pts), atmospheric (5 pts), atmospheric pressure (5 pts), gravitational force (5 pts), gravity (5 pt), gravitate (5 pts), gravities (5 pts), gravity assist (10 pts)

Sports Highlights – goal tender (5 pts), goal (5 pts), goals (5 pts), end goal (5 pts), goalie (5 pts), Larry Byrd (5 pts), Jim Thorpe (5 pts), Pele (5 pts), Muhammad Ali (5 pts), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (5 pts), fumbled (5 pts), fumbling (5 pts), fumbler (10 pts), fumble (5 pts), fumbles (5 pts), drop (5 pts), slam dunk (5 pts), field goal (5 pts), hole in one (10 pts), bogey (5 pts), ring side (5 pts), bleachers (5 pts), court side (5 pts), 50 yard line (5 pts), sky box (5 pts)

Gourmet Cuisine – Italy (5 pts), China (5 pts), Japan (5 pts), France (5 pts), Mexico (5 pts), grills (5 pts), grilled (5 pts), grilling (5 pts), griller (5 pts), grill (5 pts), stirs (5 pts), stirred (5 pts), stirring (5 pts), stirred up (5 pts), stir (5 pts), saute (5 pts), sautes (5 pts), sauteed (5 pts), sauteing (5 pts), sauterne (20 pts), bus boy (5 pts), dish washer (5 pts), waiter (5 points), wastress (5 pts), maitre d' (10 pts)

Pop Culture – Jerry Springer (5 pts), Rush Limbaugh (5 pts), David Letterman (5 pts), Jay Leno (5 pts), Oprah Winfrey (5 pts), Guantanamo Bay (5 pts), North Korea (5 pts), Afghanistan (5 pts), Iran (5 pts), Iraq (5 pts), cell phone (5 pts), PDA (5 pts), BlackBerry (5 pts), viral video (5 pts), Bluetooth (5 pts), email (5 pts), IM (5 pts), talk (5 pts), write (5 pts), call (5 pts), drive-thru (5 pts), IMAX (5 pts), coffee shop (5 pts), Internet Cafe (5 pts), bistro (5 pts)

Reader's Digest National Word Power Challenge – emaciated (10 pts), acerbic (10 pts), benevolent (10 pts), cerulean (15 pts), defray (10 pts), diatribe (10 pts), esoteric (10 pts), ambivalent (10 pts), brandished (10 pts), concession (10 pts), blithe 910 pts), coalesce (10 ps), derided (10 pts), entomologist (10 pts), affect (10 pts), iconoclast (10 pts), jingoist (10 pts), fatuous (10 ps), gelid (10 pts), haberdasher (10 pts), gaffe (10 pts), jest (10 pts), austere (10 pts), doldrums (10 pts), factotum (25 pts)

Interested in learning more about McNeill Designs for Brighter Minds and their products? Check out the links below:


One lucky reader will win their own SEVENTY-FIVE DOLLAR PACKAGE, consisting of a copy of You've Been Sentenced, as well as ALL six Add-On Decks, courtesy of McNeill Designs for Brighter Minds! All you need to do is enter on the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is open to U.S. readers, 18 and over, unless you have permission from your parents. Please be honest when submitting Rafflecopter entries -- remember, I DO check all of your entries for verification, and I will throw them out if they are false. If the form has a spot for you to enter information, please provide me with the appropriate username, link, etc so that it is easier for me to verify your entries! I am not responsible for the shipment of the prize, that is the company's duty. I will contact the winner via email (so make sure to use one that you check) and you will have 48 hours to respond with your shipping information. If you have any questions or if the Rafflecopter is not working properly, you can always contact me via Facebook or email (links on the sidebar). Good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I've seen this game at the store before and it looked so fun! Love seeing those add on packs! I learned that the won the FAMILY REVIEW CENTER GOLD AWARD 2013 so that's pretty cool!

  2. I learned that they have a lesson plan for teachers for this game.

  3. I learned that they have lesson plans for teachers--no, I really didn't copy. I didn't realize we said the same thing until I read this!

  4. I learned that "Although the Add-On Decks are not necessary for game play, I think they are a great investment. The words are specific to their given category, which adds a lot of variation and humor."

  5. I learned that they have a lot of teacher resources!

  6. site has lesson plans on how you can use the game You've Been Sentenced as a learning tool for student, they have recently released a music one and you can call and talk to a person or order from the site on the computer, This does sound like a great game for all to learn and play. Thank you McNeill Designs for coming up with such a useful and sounds like fun game.

  7. The long-anticipated You've been Sentenced! Country Music game is now available.

  8. We tried this a while back, when they didn't have some of those add-ons. It's a fun game!

  9. This looks like a fun game and I'd be all over the Gourmet Cuisine questions!

  10. I love that they have lesson plans! We are a homeschool family, so I love anything I can turn into a lesson(without the kids realizing it! ;)

  11. I learned that these games would be awesome in the classroom :)

  12. Commented on "Blake's All Natural Meals" post. kristiedonelson(at)gmail(dot)com Thank you.

  13. I learned that from the earliest stages of the firm’s development, McNeill Designs for Brighter Minds has been committed to using its success to help support important charitable causes. McNeill Designs currently donates a portion of sales of the word game You’ve been Sentenced! to Success Won't Wait, Inc. a 501c3 non-profit organization that helps fight illiteracy through the distribution of books. As a librarian I think that's AWESOME! kristiedonelson(at)gmail(dot)com Thank you.

  14. They have a Country Music edition!

  15. i learned that Expressly Speaking names You’ve been Sentenced! among the Top 10 word games for use in speech therapy. i like that because my daughter needs as much practice as she can get in speech therapy.

  16. I learned that they won the moms choice award in 2012 and the top 10 education games award in 2012.

  17. Great educational games that i didn't know about

  18. I learned that they have earned tons of awards including Mom's Choice Awards & Top Ten Educational Games!

  19. I also commented on this post:

  20. i learned that they are coming out with a country edition in November!

  21. I learned this game contains lessons plans for teachers

  22. Being a teacher, I love the links to resources for teachers! That is great! It's something that I can play with my students as well as my family.

  23. I am a middle school teacher and I like how the site had ideas for teachers on how to use the game.

  24. I learned that the site provides a lesson plan for teachers so You've Been Sentenced! can be used in the classroom.

  25. This resembles a fun diversion and I'd be everywhere throughout the Gourmet Cuisine questions! buy facebook followe

  26. I learned that from the earliest stages of the firm’s development, McNeill Designs for Brighter Minds has been committed to using its success to help support important charitable causes. McNeill Designs currently donates a portion of sales of the word game You’ve been Sentenced! to Success Won't Wait, Inc. a 501c3 non-profit organization that helps fight illiteracy through the distribution of books. As a librarian I think that's AWESOME! cara main pokemon go
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