Review: Say Anything – Family Edition

Designer: Dominic Crapuchettes
Publisher: North Star Games
Ages: 8 and up
Players: 3-6
Time: 20 minutes
Review by Mark Jackson (review copy provided by North Star Games)

Proving once again that my superpower is Getting Random Strangers To Give Me Things (though, frankly, there are not enough Random Strangers and not enough Things Given), I just received a review copy of Northstar Games Say Anything Family. This is actually my second free game from Northstar – the first was, oddly enough, Say Anything.

In fact, let’s just cut to the chase – if you’ve played the original game, there are no surprises here. The game is essentially the same wonderful Box O’Fun with the following differences:

  • The family version of the game only supports 3-6 players… which is probably my only quibble with the new release. I don’t think it works particularly well with 3 players (though 4 – two kids & two adults – worked like a charm). I do understand that limiting the upper number of players makes picking easier for young players and answer duplication less likely.
  • The cards have only three questions on them – and while some cards lend themselves to gross answers (we had a question which managed to invoke both booger-eating & posterior-picking during one of our games), the tendency toward R-rated answers seems to be mitigated. While some might be tempted to complain about the smaller number of questions, it’s quickly obvious when playing with kids (and some adults) that this keeps the game from bogging down while the Judge chooses their question.
  • The artwork has been meeple-ized for your gaming protection – it’s very cute & the members of our family immediately had their favorites. (Due to the utter coolness of the yellow Super-Meeple, my boys end up with him & I’m left with orange Balloon-Meeple.)

The formula that makes Say Anything games work so well is extremely simple – take the rotating Judge concept from Apples to Apples, add in the answer submission system (tiny dry-erase boards & pens) from Wits & Wagers, and top it off with a kinder version of the Wits & Wagers betting system.

Players take turns being the Judge, who draws a question card & picks one of the questions to read. The rest of the players then race to scribble out answers that they think will entice/entertain or otherwise engage the Judge.

After all the answers are in (the Judge gets to decide if answers are duplicates – you can’t have those – and who got their answer down first), the Judge secretly picks the answer they like using the Select-o-Matic 5000, which sounds a lot more sophisticated than it is. (It’s a spinner that doesn’t spin very well – which is how it’s supposed to work.) Then the rest of the players quickly lay their bets (each has two betting chips) on the answer or answers they think the Judge will pick.

With the chips played, the Judge reveals their answer & points are scored – the system is designed to reward players who guess correctly without creating chances for runaway victories… in fact, the entire game is designed for maximum party enjoyment rather than maximum gamerness. (Yes, I know “gamerness” is not a word – but most of you get what I’m talking about.)

Here’s what I like about the games:

  • plays quickly – a huge plus for party games
  • nobody feels dumb – you can approach how to answer the questions in whatever form you wish: you can try to please the Judge, you can try to be the class clown & make with the silliness, you can simply try & entertain yourself…
  • the score doesn’t matter much – sure, if you’re playing a 2 hour game of El Grande, you want to know the exact score at the end, but the draw here is not the winner(s) celebrating, it’s the journey getting there
  • the rules – they are incredibly easy to explain
  • it’s got the good parts of Apples to Apples with added creativity – the free-form questions means the game doesn’t devolve into the same kinds of jokes & picks (as A2A has a tendency to do)
  • it simplifies the Wits & Wagers scoring – I love Wits & Wagers… but the betting system is tough for non-gamers to wrap their heads around. Say Anything uses the same kind of system in a way that’s friendlier to non-gamers. (Note: I have not played Wits & Wagers: Family, which evidently has much more non-gamer friendly scoring.)

Opinions from Other Opinionated Gamers

Dale Yu – The biggest thing here is that the bidding is easy to understand, and this means that my kids (10 and 8) can handle it just fine.  While this normally isn’t my sort of game, it’s a good one to have around for the kids and their friends from the neighborhood when they are looking for something to do on a rainy day.  At this point, my kids can teach the rules to the other kids and keep the game going without me having to play/watch them.  That can be a win-win situation too!  NB: My copy was also provided as a review copy from North Star Games.

Matt Carlson – Aside from their willingness to promote their games through review copies (mine included) I have to admire North Star Games for making very family / non-gamer friendly games.  I’ve been a big fan of Wits and Wagers for its ability to handicap trivia buffs so that everyone can enjoy a trivia game.  With Say Anything, they make some similar traits and create more of an Apples to Apples feel where you have a party game that is very accessible and serves as a nice focus for social interaction.  I have to admit that I haven’t played the Family version much, but I do appreciate how they made an effort to avoid questions that might lead to less age-appropriate topics and answers.

Patrick BrennanSay Anything is one of my kids’ (ranged 8-12) favourite games to play with us, the grandparents, the cousins and with other kids on the street, always generating laughs and good times. Creativity is rewarded, the playing time is right, and anyone can win – all good things. So you don’t need the Family version to play as a family. Now … I haven’t seen the Family version questions, but (for non-American families) just check before you buy to see what type of questions are considered “Family”. The Wits And Wagers Family edition had so many questions that were so American pop culture specific that the version was almost unplayable by us here in Australia – especially if you don’t let your kids watch Disney channel trash! (I kept the scoring system, chucked out the “family” cards and we now play with the original cards.) But I’d heartily recommend the base games as being great family games already, without necessarily going down the “family” edition route.

Ratings Summary from the Opinionated Gamers

I love it!… Mark Jackson
I like it…  Dale Yu, Matt Carlson, Patrick Brennan
Not for me…

About Mark "Fluff Daddy" Jackson

follower of Jesus, husband, father, pastor, boardgamer, writer, Legomaniac, Disneyphile, voted most likely to have the same Christmas wish list at age 57 as he did at age 7
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