- Designers: Julien Gupta and Johannes Berger
- Publisher: Chili Island
- Players: 2-5
- Age: 14+
- Time: 30 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by publisher
Chili Island is a new imprint, one that focuses on family games – from the company page on BGG:
- Creative, communicative, and cooperative – are our games.
- Easy as pie – are the rules to our games.
- Artistic – are the cover and the game materials.
- Critical – are we about plastic, climate change, and discrimination.
I was given a set of three of their newest releases at GenCon 2022, and we gave them a try at a recent family reunion. Most of the players were not gamers, but I felt like this was the sort of audience that Chili Island is looking for.
Soulmates asks you: How well do you really know your friends – can you find your soulmate? In each round, use one of 125 short scenarios with four possible answers. First you decide for yourself, then you guess your fellow players’ decision. Each player gets a set of Ego Chips and Evaluation cards in their color. Additionally, there are split-colored boards in all the player colors; get out all the boards so that all of the color combinations in your game are present on the table. The scenario deck is shuffled and the appropriate number of cards is drawn.
At the start of a round, a player draws two scenario cards from the deck and reads them silently; choosing one of them to play in this round. The chosen card is read aloud – as well as the four possible answer stems, and then it is laid on the table for everyone to read it themselves/refer to it later.
First, each player evaluates themselves for the active question. Each decides which answer is true for themselves, and then places the corresponding chip facedown on the table. Next, the players are evaluated one at a time; the rules suggest starting with the First player. All other players try to guess what the First player has chosen as his answer; and cards are played facedown and revealed when all players have chosen. The First player then reveals his facedown token, and you see if there are any matches. If there is a match, place a friend chip on the board which has the two colors of the pair. The game then says you can discuss your answers a bit; but cautions you to not reveal your own answer. We have found this impossible, and instead wait to discuss until all the evaluations are done.
The process is repeated for the remaining players. Finally, after the evaluations are all done; look at the ego chips. Any players who have matching answers on their ego chips also score an additional friend chip on their shared board.
Repeat this process until all players have had a chance to be the start player for a round. The “soulmates” (aka winners) are those whose board which has the most friend chips on it. Both of the players on that board “win”.
My thoughts on the game
In all honesty, this is the sort of game that “winning” or “losing” maybe doesn’t apply. It has been a fun experience learning or confirming things about my friends, and for me, the ride was enjoyable on its own.
As a game, the scoring system works OK – other than the awarding of points for people who have the same ego chip down. This seems to unfairly reward people with similar interests, for no reason other than they have similar interests. This makes much less sense than awarding the same point for being able to guess someone’s answer. Though, that in itself can be a bit skewed; for when you play with couples, that pair is much more likely to actually know the answer of their partner’s…
We played this at a family reunion and it was an enjoyable way to catch up with some relatives that we hadn’t seen in awhile. It was always played with at least some of the group knowing others well (siblings, spouses, parent/child, etc) – and that’s how the weird scoring quirks became apparent. But, the questions are well constructed, and they pose interesting questions. Sometimes you are asked about your moral stance on things (what would you do if you found $10,000 on the sidewalk), others reflect on your personality or activities (If you were in a karaoke bar, you would most likely….)
The best times with the game happened in between rounds when the questions elicited the telling of stories or memories. For a family reunion, that was a perfect sort of activity for us. Getting to hear about my cousin’s actions at a karaoke bar during his bachelor party was one of the highlights of the game for me. It was definitely fun getting a chance to hear some stories of loved ones.
One other game was played with two couples, who did not know each other that well – and there was more of a Newlywed Game vibe going on. It was sort of expected that the spouses would know the answers from each other (though they didn’t have huge posterboard signs to smack each other with in frustration when the correct answer was not given…), as well as a nice chance to discover some things about the other couple.. The players in that game reported a very enjoyable time with it.
The artwork, like the other Chili Island games, has a very colorful feel to it. The company is trying to limit the plastic in the game, and have succeeded in part due to a clever box insert. I couldn’t figure out at first what the insert was for, especially because there were a few extra notches in the crossbars; but once I made a 3×3 grid out of them, I was able to store the bits without needing additional bags. The two decks of cards did still come wrapped in cellophane, the wooden friend chips were in a plastic bag, and the whole game was shrinkwrapped – but there is a definite reduction in need for plastic in storage afterwards. I very much like the art direction of the Chili Island games, and the boxes do look nice sitting next to each other in a Kallax cubby in the gaming basement.
Of the three Chili Island games I’ve tried thus far, this is the one I’ve liked the most; and if we ever have another family reunion to attend, or possible a double date dinner party – this could certainly fit the bill for those occasions.
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor