Tuesday, July 16, 2013

North Star Games: "Clubs" and "Say Anything" Review


North Star Games is a company specializing in unique party games, which was founded by four different designers. Dominic, the Founder and Co-President of the company, is responsible for the design of all North Star games with the exception of "Crappy Birthday". Amy and Brian Weinstock, husband-and-wife designers, are the brains behind "Crappy Birthday". Satish Pillalamarri, the other Co-President of the company, found a love for board game question-writing when he became a contestant on Jeopardy. He left a New York hedge fund to help design "Say Anything" and "Say Anything Family".

Here is an overview of the games that North Star offers not featured in this review:
  • Crappy Birthday - A real party game! Players engage in this game by giving each other "crappy" birthday present cards. The player receiving those cards then picks the worst one - that player gets a point. This game has over 200 cards and a very easy play concept, for ages 13 and up. 3-6 players
  •  Say Anything Family - This party game is for children and adults alike, featuring family-friendly questions. Game play is the same as I have described below for the regular version of Say Anything. Ages 8+, 3-6 players
  • Wits & Wagers - A trivia game with a twist; you do not actually need to know the correct answers! Someone asks a question, everyone writes down their best guess, bets (wagers) are placed, and an answer is chosen. This game includes casino-type, trivia, and party aspects. Ages 10+, 3-7 players
  • Wits & Wagers Party - This game is similar to Wits & Wagers, but with new questions and simpler rules that a whole group can enjoy. Ages 8+, 4 or more players
  •  Wits & Wagers Family - This game is similar to the other versions of Wits & Wagers, except family-friendly, using special Meeples to place bets. Ages 8+, for 3-10 players
North Star Games can be purchased on Amazon, or can be found at one of many specialty toy and game retailers, as well as larger stores such as Barnes and Noble and Target throughout the United States.

North Star Games was generous enough to send me their "Say Anything" board game and new "Clubs" card game to review, so that I could share my opinions with you. I am quite the avid board game player, whether it's attending board game night with friends or having a quiet night in with my boyfriend. I decided that it would be great to try out some new games and expand our collection.

Say Anything is a party game that is great for a group of friends or for acquaintances that you want to get to know better. The tagline is "What would YOUR friends say?". The simplistic, shortened rules are: "1. Ask a question from the card you draw. 2. Everyone else writes an answer and turns it face-up. 3. Secretly choose your favorite answer. Then everyone tries to guess which one you picked." This game is made for ages thirteen and up and for three to eight players. It takes an average of two minutes to teach (easy and fun concept) and half an hour to play. 

Say Anything comes with:
  • 400 Topics on 80 question cards
  • 8 dry erase boards
  • 8 dry erase pens
  • 1 SELECT-O-MATIC 5000
  • 16 player tokens
  • 1 dry erase score board
  • 1 rule book
 First, you pick a Score Keeper, who takes the dry erase score board and keeps track of the game as it progresses. Next, you give each player a dry erase pen, an answer board, and two colored chips (player tokens) which match the color of the answer board they have selected. We grabbed some tissues to wipe off our dry erase boards in between rounds, but if you don't care, your hands work just as well. The youngest player gets to start the game. Whoever is playing gets to hold the SELECT-O-MATIC 5000. They draw a question card, pick their favorite question, and read it to the other players. The other players then write out an answer to the question (as it pertains to the person with the SELECT-O-MATIC 5000), and put their answers on the table face-up so everyone can see them. If two people happen to write the same thing, only the one to put it down first counts. Otherwise, for similar answers, that is at the digression of the reader. Then, the person who read the question picks their favorite answer (by turning the arrow on the SELECT-O-MATIC 5000 to the corresponding color), but does not show the other players. Next, the players who wrote answers on their dry erase boards get to guess which answer was picked. They have two tokens to place on answers - both can go on one answer (if they really think the reader picked that one) or the tokens can be split between answers (if you really aren't sure which was picked). You do not have to choose your own answer if you think the other players picked better ones! The reader then shows the other players what their favorite answer was. 

Scoring goes as follows. You get one point if you wrote down the answer that the reader picked. You get one point for each token you placed on the answer that was chosen. The reader gets one point for every player token placed on the answer that they chose. However, the maximum points for each round is capped at three! 

The end of the game could really be whenever you were done (and just count up your scores), but the game booklet has a suggested amount of rounds to follow per number of players. For 3-4 players, once everyone has asked 3 questions the game is over. For 5-6 players, once everyone has asked two questions the game is over. For 7-8 players, once everyone has asked one question the game is over.

I brought Say Anything over to play with my friends (though we are having trouble scheduling everyone together for a big game night before we move). There were four of us altogether, and the general consensus was that the game was awesome! We have known each other for quite some time and we have some personalities in the group, so it started to get get pretty funny. I think it's better when you know the people you are playing with well, because then you can either decide to go with the sarcastic/funny answer or the really in-depth, right on one. It's really a test of how well you know each other! The only suggestion was that the dry erase boards might be easier to wipe off, but that was really nothing in the scope of it all. We probably could have played all night if we weren't tired, as there were so many questions and possible answers. We all really liked how we could sort of "sell" our answers to the judge...try to amp them up so that they would be chosen. We got pretty competitive, and several times we rushed to be the first one to put down an answer, which became entertaining. At some points we wished we had a timer for one person playing, because they nearly wrote an essay for every answer, just to be very thorough. This game is great for twenty-somethings, but also for teens -- the questions aren't vulgar...even if your answers might be! 

Here are some examples of questions you might find on one of the Say Anything cards:
  • What's the most annoying thing about being a woman?
  • A genie just granted me a wish. What should I ask for?
  • What would my pet say about me if it could talk?
  • What website would be the hardest to live without?
  • What's the most important thing in life?
  • What shouldn't be done while driving?
  • What would be the weirdest secret to hear about your mother?
You can see some of our sample answers as we were playing Say Anything. I was green and I ended up winning with the highest score at the end of the game. In response to the question "What's the best place to buy clothes?", two of us immediately tried to answer "None" for our male friend, because he hates shopping. For another question that asked about an important issue that the judge would care about in so many years, I said "gay rights", my friend said "sexism", and our male friend said "What will be the best changes made to nail polish". Guys...


Clubs is a classic card game with a simple goal: get rid of all of the cards in your hand before your opponents. At the same time, you have to be conscious of what melds you are playing, to ensure that you are racking up points. This family game is for ages eight and up and for two to six players. It takes approximately thirty minutes to play, depending on the number of players. There are two games you can play with Clubs - Classic or Crazy. Classic is better with 4-6 players, whereas Crazy is better with 2-4 players.

Clubs comes with the following:
  • 60 Cards (15 in 4 suits)
  • 6 Bonus Cards
  • Rules for Clubs and Crazy Clubs
During each round of the game, the object is to both be the first to get rid of your cards, as well as to win Tricks with clubs in them. Clubs are the only suit in the game which give you points (as indicated on the cards). The first step of the game is to put the right Bonus card face-up on the table. Six player games get all the bonus cards, five player games get the 10, 8, 5, 2, and 0 bonus cards. Four player games get the 8, 5, 2 and 0 bonus cards. Three player games get the 5, 2, and 0 bonus cards. 2 player games just get the 5 bonus card. The game begins with the dealer dealing 10 cards to each player. The person to the left of the dealer starts, or Leads. This person must play the Meld-Type of their choice. After the Meld-type has been played (or led), players can only play that Meld-type until the round has ended. Meld-types are different combinations of cards that you can play; you can have an "Of-a-kind" meld, which means you would play one of a kind, two of a kind, etc, or you can have a "Run" meld, which is saved for playing cards in sequence. On your turn you can play or pass. If you have a strong hand you can say "Double or Nothing" before you play your first card in the round - assuming that you will be the first to go out for the round. If successful, your points double...if not, your points are taken away. You win a "trick" or a round when someone plays a meld-type with a 15, or when everybody passes. Whoever wins the round takes all the points from the cards they received and adds them up. The first to "go out" takes the highest bonus card and it goes on down from there.

Scoring is easy - if you win the round by going out first, you get the points from the bonus card. If not, you get no bonus points. Then each player adds up the points from the clubs that they won (printed right on the cards), unless they were the person to get the 0 Bonus point card. The game ends when someone has 50 or more points! For two players, the 0 Bonus card is not used, and each round ends after the last trick is taken. The first player to go out gets the 5 Bonus point card, and the other player gets the points for their club cards but no bonus points. You can also play in teams, or use your 15's as wild cards to change up the game a bit.

I decided to play Clubs with my boyfriend one night, because he is the master at card games, and I thought he might be able to pick up on it quickly and explain it to me. Once you have seen the game played, it is relatively easy (even if the directions sound a little confusing the first time). My suggestion is to make sure that you pay attention to the bolded terms at the end of the instructions manual, so you make sure that you understand the rules. My boyfriend had to explain what a "meld" was and how you play it. Basically, the rule book shows you the different kind of hands that you can play during a round, and that is my explanation. Really look at the "sample plays" page to see how a round might pan out. As you can see below, we had different melds played in different rounds. You can either put one card down, a pair, three of a kind, two in numerical order, or four in numerical order. I rarely found four in numerical order. If someone puts a pair down, you also have to put a pair down, but it has to be GREATER than the pair just played. (If someone put two 3's down, I would have to put two 4's or anything higher down to play). We tried both the Crazy Clubs and the Classic Clubs games. He won nearly every round, and we both enjoyed it. I think it would be more competitive with a greater number of players, but everyone's schedules were hard to coordinate this week. As you play, you definitely get a feel for how to be more strategic, so I think the more you play Clubs, the better it gets. I liked that it was different than many card games that I have played - I have never seen the suit of clubs be the suit that is focused on. I think this game is great for all ages and makes a perfect family get-together game. Bring it to the beach, to lunch, or even to your next party and I'm sure it will be a hit.

This picture specifically shows one of the pair melds. Each pair is larger than the last.

Interested in learning more about North Star Games and their products? Check out the links below: