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“I’m good with faces but can never remember names,” we all tell others in an effort to hide our embarrassment at forgetting yet another person’s name. But faces are intriguing, as they manage to show hundreds of emotions in subtle ways – obviously leading to the party game Faces (Buffalo Games, 2005 – A. B. J. Lawson). As I looked over the hideous visages included in the game, I had an inkling that this might become a rather popular party game.
And this prediction turned out to be true – Faces is certainly becoming one of the most popular party games I’ve ever introduced – groups continually want to play it over and over. Comparisons to Apples to Apples are often made and are certainly valid. Faces could use a little more diversity amongst its cards, but the game plays immensely well, and laughter reigns supreme during games.
The game consists of 194 face cards, separated into three decks: male, female, and animal. The male and female cards are black and white picture headshots of various people from what appears to be the turn of the nineteenth century. The animals are color pictures that show various beasts from across the animal kingdom. Two boards are placed on the table – one with six slots for faces, and another a victory point track. Players place a pawn of their color on the “start” space of the track and take six cards that are numbered “1” through “6”. A deck of Impressions cards is shuffled and placed face down, and one player is chosen to go first.
The game has two distinct phases, each of which alternate until one player is declared the winner. The first phase is made up of three “Line-up” rounds; each consisting of four turns each. For the first of these rounds, six male faces are drawn and placed on the six numbered spots on the board. The top Impression card is drawn, and then each player looks at the faces and chooses the one that they think that best matches the description (“The one who’s allergic to sunlight”, “The one who treats every problem with electric shock therapy”, “The plumber”, “The one holding a cigarette”, etc.) Each player places one of their cards face down and then reveal them simultaneously. Every player who matches the choice of the player whose turn it is receives one point, while that player scores one point for every matching player. The next card is drawn, with a new player being the one people are trying to match. After doing this four times, six female faces replace the males; and six animal faces four times after that. After all three rounds play proceeds to the Card-in-Hand phase.
In this phase, each player draws two cards from each face pile. The top Impression card is drawn, and players must select the face they think best matches that from their hand, placing it face down in the middle. The player whose turn it is does not place a card but rather hides their face at this point, as they are the judge. Once the cards are all played, the judge places them all face up and chooses the one they think best matches the Impression card. The player who played that card gains three points, and the next player becomes the judge; with all players drawing one face card to replace the one played. After each player has been the judge once, players return to the Line-up Phase.
This continues until one players pawn reaches the “Finish” space, at which point they win the game!
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: I’m not sure what prompted the colors chosen for this game –especially the box. It has a distinctive “Barbie” flair and looks like it was designed with twelve-year old girls in mind. That being said, the components are well designed, although the cards could have been slightly higher quality (the corners bend a bit). Everything easily fits inside the large box, and both boards are two large puzzle pieces that fit together. All this is merely window dressing, of course, as the game is about the faces on the cards.
2.) Cards: I have no idea where they dredged up the photos in this game, but they are without a doubt immensely hilarious. Some of the people appear to be the “missing link”, many of them looked crazed or psychotic; and when they are revealed, peals of laughter are generally heard. The women seem to generate the most laughs, while the animals tend to earn the least – mostly because they just don’t seem as funny as the horrific caricatures the people seem to be. I love the selection of the cards but only wish that there were more of them. With about sixty faces per stack, you will tend to get a lot of repeats in games. I wouldn’t mind if there was an “expansion” with a couple hundred more faces, to keep the game fresh.
3.) Rules: The rules are on a giant folded sheet and easily explain the rules in full color with a few illustrations. As with most party games, everything is simple; and even though this game has two distinct phases, I was able to teach it quite easily, usually one phase at a time. Players who have played Apples to Apples or Compatibility will immediately pick up on the spirit and rules of the game.
4.) Judge: One problem that some people have with games of this type is that the judge has complete and utter free will to pick the card of their choice. This flummoxes some folks, as it is too subjective for them. I personally love this part of the game, as you must gauge the mind of the judge and attempt to see the faces as they do. Arguments and discussions often about afterwards, as players will state that this person’s facial expression means something, etc. Oddly enough, the animal faces sometimes seem to elicit the longest arguments!
5.) Fun Factor: The game is entertaining for most people simply on the grounds of the hilarious faces in the game. The clever ideas for the Impressions cards (“The one who looks like they have to go now!”) add to the humor, and it’s fun thinking of a back-story as to why the person looks that way. The game will amuse those who like to discuss, laugh, and just have a good time – and it’s been a success in every group I’ve been in. Games last about thirty or forty minutes, which is a perfect time for a party game (although the cries of “one more game” seem to immediately follow most sessions).
6.) Replayability: I’ve played the game about a dozen times so far, but it was with several different groups, and I wonder if the replayability of the game is somewhat limited. The same group of teenage boys has eagerly played it three times now and not complained yet; but the faces may get old, and I wish that they had included more. Still, if you plan on playing the game only once a month or so – this probably isn’t a problem.
Teenagers, adults, children – everyone I’ve introduced this game to has loved it. If you like Apples to Apples, then this is a sure follow up; although those who can’t stand subjectivity should probably turn away. Ignore the cute packaging – there is a simple yet enjoyable party game inside the box. While I wonder what these people would think if they knew we were making fun of their pictures, it’s a blast to play. Perhaps my picture will be in the 2107 edition.
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Interesting, the card-in-hand phase is the part that sounds like Apples to Apples to me and I'd probably just eliminate it completely. The other part of the game sounds like the odd-number-of-players version of Compatibility, where you try to match the judge. That doesn't sound much like A2A to me because if the judge goes off on a tangent, everyone still has the same opportunity to score or not, unlike when the judge has to pick someone to give points to.
Sounds like half of an interesting game.