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If I asked you to name the company that produced Say What! (Twilight Creations, 2003 - Kerry Breitenstein), you'd probably be surprised to see that it's the same company as the one that produced the hit franchise Zombies or When Darkness Falls. But Twilight Creations has put out several games that deviate from their trademark in the horror genre, and Say What!?! is more of a party game than anything else.
I think that Say What!?! is a decent party game - one that will cause chuckles (and more often than not - silence) and humor. But it is absolutely fabulous when used in a children's or teenage setting - it's a terrific tool for teaching, or simply as an icebreaker in large gatherings. Up to twenty people can play (and I've fudged it so that more can be included), and it has been so popular in my classes/youth group that I've already worked through one deck of cards.
There are three rule sets included with the game, and all use the same deck of cards. This deck is made up of Word cards, such as "that", "big", and "boy"; and Action cards, such as "Sits", "Eats", and "Nods/Shakes Head No". Each card has a point value listed on it from one to four points and is shuffled together to make a deck before the game.
In the "Card Swap" game, each player is dealt four cards. The game can be played while doing other activities, such as watching TV, attending a party, classroom discussion, or even playing another game. Each player is dealt four cards, and then the game begins, following a set time limit by the person in charge of the game. Players talk to each other, etc.; but if any player says any of the words on the Word cards or does the action shown on the Action cards, the player with the card(s) gives them to that player. If a person refuses to talk at all, the other players can vote to have them draw two additional cards from the top of the deck, and players must answer another's questions. Any player who reaches ten cards is removed from the game. At the end of the time limit, the player with the fewest points (on the cards they hold) is the winner!
In "Silent Card Swap", players are doing something such as watching TV, etc., and discard a card whenever someone not involved in the game says the word. Other than that, it plays the same as the "Card Swap" game.
In "Sentence Rummy", only the Word cards are used. Each player is dealt seven cards, and one player is chosen to go first. On a player's turn, they draw one card from either the draw pile or the discard pile, and then attempt to lay cards in front of themselves, forming a sentence. One word can be implied in a sentence, such as "the", "a", or "and", and all of the other players must agree that the sentence makes sense. When a sentence does make sense, the player scores points equal to those on the cards. Play continues until one player gets rid of all their cards, at which point the game ends after one more round. Players lose points for cards in their hand, and the player with the highest sum is the winner.
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: The cards are of good quality and have some humorous artwork on them, showing a variety of cartoonish figures doing the action or saying the word on the card. The cards stand up to a lot of damage; my students took them to the lunchroom, etc., and played the game dozens of times before the cards simply couldn't take it anymore - and my class was probably a bit more brutal than most people will be. The cards fit in a plastic insert in a box with a lid - bright red!
2.) Rules: The rules are on both sides of a long sheet of paper and explain the rules of all three games, with quite a few variants and alternate ways to play explained. Some of the rules could have been explained better - especially Sentence Rummy, but there are also some nice features, such as a comprehensive listing of all the Word cards. The game itself is fairly easy to teach, although I've met many people who needed to have several cards handed to them before they finally caught on.
3.) Activity: Say What!?! is a game, but it feels like an activity first and foremost. Much of this is due to the fact that it can be done during any activity, even another game. I will state that doing it during another game, especially any game needing a certain level of player interaction, has the tendency to devolve into insanity. The chance of the base game being completed correctly (or without arguments) is rather slim. I found that the best time to play the game is during classroom discussions. The students are all talking to me and one another and listen to each other more carefully so as to catch the words that are being said. Participation amongst children and teenagers when I play this game is very high, and even the most apathetic people can get really involved.
4.) Silence: The initial natural response to games such as this is to simply not say or do anything at all - lessening your chances to get a card from someone else. The rules forbid this, however, penalizing folk who attempt to stonewall in this fashion. It's a little harder to do this in groups, which is why a moderator (like a teacher) is handy - who can point out and quickly give cards to a student who is being stubborn and/or trying to fly under the radar. The point of the game is to encourage listening, not discourage talking, but it takes active involvement to ensure that this happens.
5.) Games: The first two games are probably the best ways to use the deck, and it can even be a channel surfing style game with a good degree of success. Sentence Rummy also works to some small degree, but there are other games, such as You've Been Sentenced that do the job a bit better. It's when you see a group of twenty kids laughing and handing each other cards that the game really shines. The rules include rules for a fewer number of players, but I much prefer the game with a large group; the dynamics and chaos are much more interesting.
6.) Education: Each card has the words printed on them in English, French, German, and Spanish, which allows the cards to be used for educational purposes. If anything else, it raises awareness of other languages in a fun and interesting way.
7.) Fun Factor: Watching a player lunge across the room to give another player a card, laughingly proclaim that fact out loud, only to have another player hand them a card is priceless. I went down to the school cafeteria to watch the students play this game, and it was worth the price of the game simply to see them talking and enjoying themselves. Adults get into the game under certain circumstances, perhaps as a one shot deal; but kids will play this game time and time again.
So if you're looking for a game for your gaming group, this might make for an interesting diversion, especially when you are playing another game. But more importantly, if you work with groups of children - such as a teacher or youth director - this is an incredibly fun activity that you can run with your kids. It has good replayability and can handle large groups easily. It often needs a strict moderator, but it works so well that I think any teacher who wants to encourage learning in English (or other languages) can use it with great success.
"Real men play board games"