"An identity would seem to be arrived at by the way in which the person faces and uses his experience." James Baldwin
Every once in a while my wife or I get the urge to play really simple games. Usually, they are titles from when we were children such as Cootie, Don't Break the Ice, and Connect 4. While we were strolling through a toy store one day we came upon this title from our youth and for the princely sum of around five bucks we left with Guess Who? I had fond memories of playing it while in grammar school during lunch breaks and thought that it would be worth a giggle if nothing else. My wife had played it before too and agreed that there was some room on our gaming shelf for this one.
After we got home and I pulled out the pieces I was awash with disappointment. Having gone nearly twenty years since playing it previously I wonder if my memory had played tricks on me, but the production looked pretty cheap to me. I remembered nice sturdy plastic flip pieces with faces that were stickers or inlays but on this copy it consisted of thin cardboard faces that were slid into the flip-down markers. The regular deck of face cards (used to randomly select each person's character) was also thin cardstock.
On second thought, for the price I paid I shouldn't really complain because the pieces will probably hold up okay. Having spent the last ten years collecting games with lots of chrome, it sure is a big change to take three steps back into the world were rules are printed on the underside of the box and everything is flimsy paper. But I digress. The faces are printed pretty well and feature lots of goofy looking guys and girls.
The premise of the game is to have each person start off with 24 four people facing them ("facing" them... get it? ... never mind), with the opponent having randomly selected one of them via a card draw. By asking questions such as "does your person have red hair?" or "is your person a guy?" and using deduction based on the answer, you can then eliminate or flip down the people facing you that don't match the response. Eventually, you will have only one person left standing and that must be your opponent's character unless someone made a mistake along the way. It is a pretty simple game and it probably won't take more the 10 minutes to play with kids, or 2 minutes to play with adults.
What I Like
It is a lot of fun with children and for the intended market it is an excellent game. It teaches basic deduction and reasoning skills, something that Candyland and Chutes and Ladders won't do. It is inexpensive and portable, meaning you can play it on a long car ride (but as the driver forced to listen to it the car ride will take much longer!). It doesn't require any reading skills aside from the person's name, which means that it is language independent. Finally, is goes by pretty quick. There is nothing as painful as being stuck in a children's game requiring rolling the exact amount to land on a special space or pull a certain card when you really just want it to end.
What I Don't Like
If you are an adult playing this game there are several things you will find annoying in short order. First, with a couple of good questions you will find that over half of the people get flipped down. This was an amazing phenomenon that I don't remember as a child, but playing with my wife we both asked one question and it seems that most of the options disappeared. I think it is because we are smarter now, and some characters are unique features that can be targeted even inadvertently by the other person. Since it makes the game go faster perhaps it is a plus.
Also, if you play it a lot you will start to remember where people are on the other player's board. This takes A LOT of playing but since there are only 24 people it can be done. You can either (1) switch boards with the other player to mess up your memory or (2) every now and then switch the cardboard inserts around. It isn't a big deal but something that may come up with repeated play. Personally, I would rather just look for a different game at that point.
Since we occasionally have kids over it is a nice game to have in the house. It can usually be found at garage sales and swap meets for a few bucks and it teaches some good gaming principles. And, it can lead to some interesting conversations when you pose questions such as "does your character look like he could be a strange science teacher?" or "does your character look like a serial killer?" etc.
A Warlock of
Benjamin Maggi wrote:
If you are an adult playing this game there are several things you will find annoying in short order. First, with a couple of good questions you will find that over half of the people get flipped down.
Those two questions are 'is your person male?' and 'is your person female'?
Play with my LGBT variant, in which you aren't allowed to use those questions.
He's looking real sharp in his 1940's fedora. He's got nerves of steel, an iron will, and several other metal-themed attributes. His fur is water tight and he's always up for a fight.
He's a semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal of action. He's a furry little flat-foot who'll never flinch from a fray. He's got more than just mad skills, he's got a beaver tail and a bill.
I can't believe I'm doing this.
The thing about Guess Who and Deduction games in general (Mr. Jack comes to mind) is that you can GO BIG! with a question that relates to only a few people to try and eliminate LOTS, or you can try to come up with a question that will eliminate about half the people every time. In my old Guess Who game, there were about 6 females and the rest were males, if you use traditional gender features in order to decipher that. Thinking of it now it may have been a better idea to ask 'Do you have a beard' instead of 'are you female' as that might eliminate all females prior to having to ask the question.
In Mr. Jack, this takes place in how you manipulate the board for the light and dark round - as the investigator, you want Mr. Jack alone in the light or dark, and as Mr. Jack, you want to be with as many uneliminated people as possible. But, as the investigator, you can try and move people into one or the other hoping to get a lucky go and catch Mr. Jack in the wrong side of things.