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Deer Lord! is a party game that brings out the loudest, most outrageous challenges while encouraging players to be subtle in completing secret missions. Its cryptic art with harsh geometry across a black background hints toward something perhaps spooky with the cyclopean deer in a suit, yet the spirit of the game shines best through with the art on the expansion sets as the deer carries a microphone or holds up a Vulcan greeting, clues to just how dynamic and wild this game can get.
Deer Lord! begins with each player drawing five cards. During a player’s turn, he or she may declare a Duel and make Confessions. In Duels, a player picks an opponent and plays a card with a challenge on it, such as “Who can do the best air guitar solo?” or “Who gives the best hug?” Both players compete, and the mob rules on who is the winner. This winner gets special rewards, like the best air guitar allowing the player control over music at the party or the best hugger now able to make players hug him or her on command.
While Duels are the flare of Deer Lord!, Confessions give it a whole second level to cunning play. Rather than acting on one’s turn, a player secretly complete tasks listed on the Do Something cards during the round, such as “whisper something in another player’s ear” or “call another player by the wrong name.” Other players may call out a player’s action as a Doing Something, prompting them to discard and draw again if they are right, thus making them start all over. When a player successfully completes a task and Confesses it on their turn, they win the card. Further, like Duels, many of the harder Do Something cards grant rewards like being able to change someone’s name for the duration of the game.
As the rewards pile up amid the wildness of Duels and the subterfuge of Doing Somethings, Deer Lord! is a nonstop thrill-ride. It is not often that a social game comes with a warning disclaimer, but Deer Lord! certainly does, releasing itself of responsibility for “damages, physical or psychological.” Although that may be a little over the top, it is certainly evident of how crazy a game could become.
The 108 cards of the initial set are solid fare for a general party, and the expansion sets allow players to go in whole new directions. The “Socially Awkward” deck features geeky duels like trivia contests and robot impersonations. “For Fame and for Game” brings out talent with singing or performance and bravado in Doing Somethings. The most intense of all is the “Emotional Rollercoaster,” moving into more of an adult direction with playful seduction, gross outs, or even wrestling.
All decks follow the same format, so they may be integrated into the start set or played by themselves with ease. True Deer Lord! connoisseurs may mix and match to build their own customized deck for maximized fun with their particular party’s tastes, from a goofy office party to a class ice-breaker to a wild night at home.
Deer Lord! is a party game for four to eight players aged twelve and up (sixteen for the “Emotional Rollercoaster”). Additional players may be added for slower paced rounds, and the game can be expanded with drawing seven cards instead of five. Deer Lord! is a very fluid game, as perfect to bend to the will of the group as it is to being the life of the party.