This review originally appeared on my blog: The Bookish Gamer
Concept is a party game of reasoning, defining and reading your partner. Concept, unlike other party games, barely feels like a game at all. I like to think of it as an activity that is both fun and thought-provoking. There's also a hilarious frustration that works in its favor. No doubt, if you have a family get together or want to engage children and adults alike, Concept is pretty much perfect.
How it Works
In Concept, players have a giant board in the center play area with over a hundred different pictures representing a vast number of clues. Players also have little cheat sheets that explain what each of these pictures could be. Two players work in tandem to place down cubes to give clues about the object. The player who guesses receives 2 points while each player that gave the clue receives 1 point. The clues range from simple words such as bird or television, while more complicated clues might be Judas or Holy Grail. Since players on a team cannot communicate, placing cubes can be a bit of a crap shoot as you may have a partner who envisions the clue in a whole new way.
For example, players may place the giant green question mark on the picture representing clothing. Your partner may place a green cube on the picture of a head. From here, players can chime in with any guess: hat, headband, or visor. But the clue is far more complicated, so an exclamation point is used by one player as a sub-category on the country / flag icon clue. Players work together to place colors on green, white and red for Mexican flag. At this point, you pray someone guesses "sombrero."
A Game that Scales
What I love about Concept is it's as hard or as easy as you want it to be. If you have kids, you can opt to play with the top three choices which are easier clues. Those who get the hang of the game, may opt for choices four through six, which are described as intermediate. Within a couple rounds, players may even opt for the most difficult clues (seven through nine). It means anyone of almost any age can play Concept. An unlikely feat in board game history.
It Doesn't Feel Like a Game
While players accrue points, it all seems secondary to the point of the game. Concept works best because there's a camaraderie that exists among the group playing. Teams want players to guess correctly and players want the teams to give meaningful clues. Although there's a "winner" at the end of the game, Concept has yet to feel competitive. Everyone wants to guess correctly, but players tend to play off of each other's guesses anyway. One person says knife, you'll more than likely hear others call out "spoon, butter knife or spatula." It's kind of the perfect game for non-gamers who do not enjoy the competitive nature of other such games.
Example of an expert clue
Main concept: Man, Book, Literature, Real or Historical
Sub-concept: Woman, Fictional, and Fast / speed / hare
Sub-concept 2: Time
Answer: Lewis Carroll
Of course, therein lies the problem with Concept. It doesn't feel like a game. The game is even devoid of a timer to push players along. Rather, the clue givers give up and decide they've failed the guessers. The game has an air of nonchalance about it. If players want something competitive, Concept just isn't the right game; instead, Codenames is a far better fit. Judging from other reactions, there's a unanimous feeling that Concept is an activity. That doesn't hamper the fun in any way, but it does put it in a unique category of games .
And what I enjoy about Concept is that it makes me feel smart. It makes me feel smart when I'm guessing, when I'm playing off a team-members cube or when someone guesses the clue I'm giving. It's akin to games such as Charades, Pictionary or Taboo! but it feels fresh and rarely makes players feel too dumb to play.
Concept doesn't have too many components. But the components fit perfectly. Large concept and sub-concept clue markers feel good while smaller cubes look so nice you could eat them. There is a little bowl that holds the cubes nicely and the light-bulb point markers are nice too. The cheat sheets are clearly labeled and the board is well constructed and colorful. This is a gorgeous and sleek looking game because of its simplicity. Within a couple games, you'll barely need to look at the reference sheets.
I love it. The fact that it's barely a game doesn't detract from the overall enjoyment, and since it scales with any group, it's an ideal family game. As for me, I cannot wait until Thanksgiving when 10 or more people can gather around and enjoy the fantastic and ridiculous world of Concept. A excellent addition to any board game collection.
Nice review! We played this the other night with four people (1 clue giver & 3 guessers working semi-competitively), but just added a smart phone timer of 2 mins. If no one guessed it within the time limit, we asked the clue giver if they'd like to continue giving clues without any points awarded (or additional time limits) or simply tell the group their word and move along.
It works nicely this way, but, as you mentioned, it quite a bit less "game-y" than something like Codenames.