Introducing Reverse Charades
Party games that involve acting need the right group, but with kids, teenagers, and even adults, they can be a blast. For this reason we've long enjoyed games where teams of players try to guess words that one team member is acting out, such as Charades and Guesstures.
But now along comes a party game that turns this idea somewhat on its head. Instead of one person acting and the rest of the team guessing, the entire team acts and one person guesses! That's the simple but successful concept behind Reverse Charades, a relatively new game from Retroplay. Brothers Bryce and Scott Porter came up with the idea during a holiday weekend in 2008, and it proved to be such a big hit that they decided to bring it to the masses by getting it published.
And Reverse Charades really works - this small twist to the classic game somehow successfully turns a good game into an even better one! As proof, you only need to look at the string of awards pictured on the right that Reverse Charades has won. This is a party game that's not just good for families, but works with all kinds of groups! If I'm not mistaken, it even was enjoyed at BGG.CON this year. So maybe Reverse Charades is right for you - read on to find out more!
Reverse Charades first came out in 2010, and was immediately well-received, as is clearly evident from numerous positive reviews on the game's website. Several new editions were released in the summer of 2011, including the one I'm reviewing here. It looks like this:
The box bills the game as "a hilarious twist on Charades", and suggests it's ideal for family fun, parties, team building, and an education boost.
Back of the game box
The square shaped box is a smaller and more convenient size than the usually party games of this type (e.g. Scattergories). Here's our first look inside the box, which features a convenient plastic component tray:
Inside the game box
Here's a complete list of everything inside the box:
● 360 word cards
Everything that comes inside the box
Each team will have all its members (except one) combining to act out these words for the remaining team member. For this purpose the game comes with 360 "word cards", which are stored in a solid box.
Box for storing the word cards
Here's what some of the 360 word cards look like:
Sample word cards
All the cards are double-sided, which means that there's a large pool of 720 words in the box. Sample words/phrases include "fly a kite", "slow-motion", "yoga", "underwear", "cheerleaders", and "lawnmower". Notice how the words are in quite large and very clear print - this is excellent, because it makes them easily readable from several metres away, which is helpful for gameplay purposes.
The box is quite jam packed, and some surplus space or a "placeholder" card would have been a nice addition. I also wish that the publisher had used a different colour for each side of the card, making it easier to remember which side of the cards have been used during the first pass through the deck, to help avoid repeating words used in previous games.
The sand timer included in the game matches the colours on the gamebox and word cards, keeping in line with the blue and green theme. It gives about 60 seconds of time, which is the amount of time each team will have to guess as many words as possible.
One minute sand timer
The instructions are very simple, and consist of a double-sided sheet of card, with five simple rules that can be explained in about half a minute. It can't get much easier than this!
Flow of Play
Make teams and decide on a target: Divide up your group into teams - the more players you have, the more fun it will be! You do want to have a minimum of three people on each team, hence the minimum of six players (two teams) needed to play the game. But four or five or even more on a team works just great too! Decide how many rounds you'll play, or the number of points needed to win. This is a pretty casual game, so you can always decide this on the fly if you want, and just keep playing until everyone agrees to stop!
Take turns acting and guessing: On their turn, a team chooses one team member to be their "guesser". When the clock is started, another team holds a word card so that team actors can see it but not the team guesser, and the entire team acts out the word - individually or working together - while their team "guesser" tries to guess the word. The idea is to guess as many words as you can correctly within 60 seconds. Team members may not make any sounds (or even mouth words), but pointing to objects or people is quite acceptable. If you don't like a word, you may "pass" on one and only one word per turn.
Acting out words during game-play
And that's it! For each correct word, your team gets a point. Each round a different team member must be the "guesser", and you get another 60 seconds to guess as many words as possible. Whenever you decide to stop (all teams need to have had an equal amount of turns), the team with the most points is the winner! There, told you it was easy!
Bryce and Scott Porter came up with the idea already in 2008 over a holiday weekend. In Scott's words, “The twist is that instead of one person acting a word out for the team to guess, it is the team acting it out for one person to guess. And the team can’t talk or really collaborate other than moving each other around.” Did it work? Absolutely. Here's Scott again: “It was just a hilarious game we played over that weekend. And instantly we all had inside jokes and were laughing. It was a great ice-breaker game that bonded the group.”
Given its great success, they determined to bring it to the masses, putting in a lot of hard work to brainstorm and test words that would be most suitable for the game. Says Bryce Porter, “We felt like it fit a good niche in a really crowded gaming market because it is really easy to pull out the box and explain within 15 seconds. It is a type of game that everyone can get involved, and people are willing to do a lot more in a group than they would in front of everyone by themselves.”
He's absolutely right, and this is one of the reasons why the game is so successful. To quote Bryce Porter once again,"The biggest part that we like about it is that Reverse Charades takes away the anxiety from people that don't want to act out by themselves. Sometimes people feel self-conscious acting alone, but if they are with the group they are much more comfortable." Scott adds, "It doesn't put any one person on the spot, and every single person on both teams gets to participate. It's like an ice-breaker. There is a team-building component that you just don't get with normal charades."
Since then the game has gone through several different editions, as it continues to be proved and expanded.
Developers Bryce and Scott Porter (in the striped shirts) get some help acting out "The Karate Kid"
Click here to see a marvellous video with Bryce and Scott Porter explaining and demonstrating the game on TV.
Original edition & Junior editionDifferent editions
What you see in this review is the "Original Game," although it's a new and improved edition for 2011. The publishers have also produced a "Junior Edition", which is virtually identical except for a different colour scheme, and the fact that half of the more difficult words have been replaced to make them more suitable for children as young as 6. So the "Junior Edition" is probably a better choice for families, and the words/phrases in that edition work just fine with adults as well.
It's worth noting that there's even an iTunes app for Reverse Charades, which organizes the game for you by keeping track of score and time, and brings up the words from a memory bank of words. I've not tried this myself, but some will be pleased to know it's been released as an iOS and Android app, with word card packs available for the Original game, Junior edition, and a number of other specially themed word card packs.
The Reverse Charades iPhone App
Example of play
To get an idea of the game in action, check out some hilarious videos posted by the publisher on youtube. Here's an example:
Just watching how hilarious the game can be is a sales pitch in itself! You'll find several more in the video gallery right here:
What do I think?
● It's better than traditional Charades. Involving more players with the acting improves on the original Charades in several ways:
1. It is funnier. Reverse Charades is just funnier with more people acting at once, especially for the other team to watch. A good actor can be funny to watch, for example imagine someone acting out "CPR", "barbershop", "changing a diaper", "operation", or "pillow fight", or "mouse trap". But these can become twice as funny when you have a group combining to act them out. For example, with "changing a diaper" you can have one team member being the baby, while another one pretends to change the diaper. Or with "mouse trap", one team member acts out the mouse while the rest work together to show the trap. With "orchestra", team members can play different instruments. Also imagine having four people doing "doggie paddle" or "ants in your pants" at once - it can become even more hilarious than just having one person act it out! Wow, talk about ramping up the fun factor!
2. It is faster. It's easier to guess words when a larger group is giving clues. Because multiple people are acting out words at once and together, the words are usually easier to guess! This factor helps make the game more accessible and more fun, because on a given turn a team may get as many as half a dozen or more different words correct. Each minute is intense, and packed with laughter for the other teams watching the team whose turn it is! The cooperative play also means that it's possible to act out words/phrases that would be impossible for a single person, so it opens up the possibility of words/phrases that would otherwise just not work with regular Charades.
3. It is friendlier. It's more friendly for the self-conscious person in the crowd. The one thing I've always felt unfortunate about Charades and other party games of its ilk, is that it puts one player on the spot. But what about if they're highly self-conscious, and just aren't any good at acting, drawing, or whatever skill the game requires? The good thing with Reverse Charades is that it takes away this pressure - instead of just one person acting, most of the team is! This helps people loosen up and lose their inhibitions, and also takes away the focus from just one person. As such, from a social perspective it's just a better and more friendly choice, and won't put non-actors in awkward social situations. I've played this game with several groups, including youth, children, and adults, and it worked well in each case, even with a mixture of these!
For the reasons mentioned above, Reverse Charades just works better than traditional Charades - it's funnier, faster, and more friendly, and so on several levels it's going to have a a better chance of succeeding in a bigger range of groups than the original. For such a simple rule change, you might wonder if it's worth buying this game rather than just play another Charade games with these rules. Well you certainly can play those games with the Reverse Charade rules and you'll certainly get a taste of why this variant can be more fun. But it's also worth considering that some of the words included in this game are optimized for playing with more than one actor, e.g. "changing a diaper", "three little pigs", "chest bump", and many more - and it's especially the words/phrases that are dependent on group cooperation that are the funniest to see!
● It's ideal for large groups. At a minimum you need 6 players for this (two teams of 3 players each). But you can easily play with a large number of players, even if the numbers within each team isn't entirely equal. That makes Reverse Charades perfectly suited for very large groups.
● It's ideal for parties. The rules are super easy to explain, and you can have it out the cupboard and be playing in no time.
Overall, Reverse Charades just seems superior in every way to Charades as most people know it, and for me at least it has fired the original from my collection. After playing Reverse Charades I'm not sure I'll ever go back to the traditional Charades or Guesstures, but will only play them with the Reverse Charades rules to make them more fun as well!
What do you think?
Did you play Reverse Charades at BGG.CON this year? Or have you played it elsewhere? Please tell us what you thought of it, and how it compares with regular Charades!
So is Reverse Charades for you? If you enjoy party games, this is an outstanding one of its type. It's true that the success of games like this often depend a lot on the group you're with. But the simple rule change to the traditional Charades is a good one, which in my estimation helps make the game more accessible and more fun, and perhaps more importantly it also makes it more likely to succeed even with less extrovert personalities. Recommended!
The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
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Thanks for the review.
Re: Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: An award-winning party game - why have just one person look silly, when it can be the whole group?
Just downloaded the App to my phone to try it out
Sounds like fun! I always like games that let you get creative.