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Never go in against a Sicilian when DEATH is on the line!
You know what would be funny...
This was my first time to play Smarty Party by the rules - we'd previously pulled out the question cards and just tried to get as many of the answers as we could. Adding the "points" you gain by missing the questions, plus being able to subtract some of those points for different situations, added a little more suspense to the trivia, and made for quite an enjoyable game.
We played with four people, including my wife and two friends. I think the game would bog down after about six people, but we've not tested that out. With four the game lasted about fourty minutes, and while there was a "leader" throughout the game there was no runaway situation where less fortunate players feel kicked out early. In fact, part of the strategy for those in second place started to be absorbing some of the "missed guesses" so that the third place players didn't get all the points and end the game too early.
The mechanics of the game are interesting - you get points by "missing" an answer. The last player to give a correct answer gets to ditch their highest scoring point piece, so having one late answer might spare you from your earlier mistakes. Also, the less people know the faster the game moves, which can be a real blessing in disguise - the most painfull games of Trivial Pursuit I've ever played have lasted way, way too long because the majority of the players struggled to get any answers. Now, the game lasts longer if everyone is answering correctly, but ends swiftly if two or more players falter consistently.
The topics range from real knowledge to random and funny categories... The "answers" are a list of items that fit the category title. The play feels a little like Family Feud, complete with disbelief that the "survey" could say such a thing. Among the most highly contested misses of the night were some of the answers to "Alfred Hitchcock's Most Famous Films". But in a sense those little arguments and the semi-random nature of what items are included on the list or not make the game more fun, if the players can forgive the game for not thinking the same as they do.
I ended up squeaking out the win at the end (thanks to "Outermost Planets and our Solar System's Largest Moons" - all that sci-fi finally came in good for something!), and a tired four year old is the only thing that kept us from immediately starting a new game. This will definitely be a game we pull out for out less hardcore-gamer friends.