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One of the biggest events for me in high school was taking the SAT exam. I didn't really study much for it, but the test scores directly affected my entry into college, so it wasn't something I fooled around on. I did quite well on the math part and slightly less so on the verbal section - not scoring a perfect score in either (although I did come close in Math). Still, as important as the test was, I'm fairly certain that I don't sit around, wanting to take it again. 800: The Game of Verbal Perfection (800 Board Games LLC, 2005 - No designer credited) is a game that basically takes the verbal part of the SAT (800 is the highest score one can achieve) and makes a game out of it.
Yes, dear reader, someone took the dreaded SAT and made a game out of it. Now, even though I was sure that the average person wouldn't like the game - and I was right - I thought perhaps students who were studying for the SAT might enjoy it - they didn't. The question selection is excellent with questions that simulate actual questions from the SACT, ACT, GRE, and MAT (pant, pant). I do like that the questions have a humorous bent; but the game itself is a bit too lucky to match, and I just can't see anyone wanting to play 800: the Game of Verbal Perfection other than someone preparing for the SAT test - and then, why not just use a book?
A board is placed on the table with an octagon track on it. The track is made up of six rings, each ring, containing spaces that are either a number (the outer ring spaces are "300", with numbers increasing until the final inner space, which is "800"), an arrow, or a "RC" space (Reading Comprehension.) Two decks of cards: the Level Deck and the Reading Comprehension Deck are placed on the table, and each player puts a pawn of their color on one of the arrow spaces on the outer ring. All players roll the dice, with the highest roller going first, with play proceeding clockwise around the table.
On a turn, a player simply rolls the die and moves their pawn counter-clockwise that many spaces. Depending on what space a player lands on, the following occurs:
- "RC". Another player reads the passage on the top Reading Comprehension card to another player, and then asks them a question with five choices.
- Level Space ("300" through "800"). Another player asks them a question, using the matching question on the top Level card. These questions are ones such as "Machete is to brush as…", and there are five choices to pick from.
- Eliminate One: Some level spaces say "eliminate one" on them - and are the same as a normal space, but a player only has to list one wrong answer to get the question correct.
- Arrow Space: The player is asked a question from a Level card that is equal to the level of the ring they are currently in. If they get the question correct, they move their pawn one ring further in; if incorrect, one ring out.
No matter what space they landed on, if a player gets the question right, they may roll again and continue.
The game continues until one player gets their pawn into the middle 800 space and answers a question correctly. At this point, all other players gladly crown them the winner.
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: The board is rather bland to look at, with a pile of numbers dotting a yellow, green, and orange theme. It looks like the game could have been designed in 1876, and no one would have blinked. The board itself is almost like a mouse pad, being mounted on a very flexible background. The cards themselves are simply a pile of questions printed on two different colored cards - green and white. Everything fits inside a box that folds like a pizza box, and the entire graphical presentation is rather lacking. I know that the game is meant to be used as a study guide, but it still could have used a large amount of sprucing up in its artistic presentation.
2.) Rules: The rules are listed on two sides of a single sheet of cardstock - with one side listing a FAQ - which talks about the design of the game, rather than gameplay itself. They're formatted okay, although bland again; and it's not difficult to understand them, especially if you've played a trivia type game before.
3.) Questions: I was impressed with the quality of the questions, as they look very similar to many of the common question types on the SAT. Some of them have a bit of humor behind them, such as "Dr. Miller assumed the fetal position and whimpered, so ___________________ was he when his parents finally told him the truth about the hernia fairy." This adds a bit of color to the game (which so despereately needs it!), but I'm not sure it's enough. The reading comprehension questions are annoying, to say the least. Each contains a paragraph and a list of sentence answers, and they really slow the game down. When we played, groans emerged from the players whenever anyone landed on an RC space.
4.) Roll-and-Move: One of the reasons reading comprehension questions were so dreaded is that they were a lot of work, with NO reward other than the ability to go again. And this, my friends, is the main fault of the game. No matter how brilliant you are, the game can drag on for long periods of time if one never lands on an arrow space. And the game simply will annoy people….
- after answering four questions in a row, they land on an arrow and get one wrong, forcing them down a level;
- watching Johnny land on arrow after arrow, moving upwards rather quickly, while they slowly circle the first ring, hoping to land on an arrow;
- continually landing on RC spaces and getting them correct, only to get the next question wrong - spending five minutes doing this;
- constantly going up and down levels until someone wins.
Really, the mechanics of this don't work, and they cause the same anguish that Trivial Pursuit does - as players are trying to land on the same spot - but unlike Trivial Pursuit, they are bound to one direction. Too much luck is in the game, and combined with long questions, can really annoy people.
5.) Fun Factor: I'm going to state that the game really isn't fun and will perhaps suck some fun out of you. Even students preparing for the SAT test were annoyed at how lucky the die rolling was in the game, and who else would want to play the game. I'm certainly not going to play it again, and the only use I can think of is using the cards in some of my classes as study questions. Or maybe not.
If you aren't studying for a college preparatory test, then stop right now - there is no way in the world that this "game" is going to interest you. And even if you are, I still think you'll get as much enjoyment from a study book - and then go play a fun game, such as Ticket to Ride or something. The game looks bland, plays bland, and even a bit of humor doesn't save the annoying luck and questions. Pass this one up, folks.
"Real men play board games"