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Subject: It Ain't Apples to Apples, and That's A GOOD Thing rss

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Randy Cox
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I saw a copy of this game in a "brainy kid" store in Narragansett, RI around August 1 of this year. I was looking for a party game for the extended family who were congregating up there and thought it looked good. Note: It was right next to Apples to Apples on the shelf, and that's a game I loathe.

Looking it over, it seemed to be very much like Apples to Apples, only without the horrible mechanics. Still, I wasn't convinced. I needed to check BoardGameGeek to make sure it was decent. Imagine my surprise when it wasn't in the database! So, I waited until I found out more (directly from the designer/publisher). That's when I bit and purchased it on-line.

Components: The components are well made. You get 300 "Noun" cards (yes, just like Apples to Apples) and 100 "Adjective" cards (sounding familiar?). You also get a too-long board (long and narrow, big enough to hold 10 noun cards along the bottom and one adjective card in the middle at the top). In the middle of this board is the score track (11 spaces from start to finish). It's well crafted, but surely overkill for a party game.

I bumped into Van Overbay at GameFestSouth a week after purchasing the game, and he was impressed with the graphic design and printing quality. He asked if I knew where it was printed and I happened to know (from a conversation with the designer). The answer is China. But the fact that Van (no slouch with graphic design) was impressed means it was pretty top notch.

Other than what I've mentioned, you also get 8 colored pawns and 8 matching sets of cards, each with one card each showing the digits numbers "1" through "10". They are voting cards.

All in all, the components get a solid A minus. The cardstock is poor, but that's to be expected for 400 semi-disposable cards. My only other issue is that I'm concerned about collation. I had the word "Sensual" appear on two separate cards in the first game we played. Uh oh.

Rules: The rules are on the Internet at the company's site (http://www.consensusgame.com/) and when I read it, it sounded like group think Apples to Apples. Ten noun cards are always showing on the board. No one has a hand of Noun cards. One adjective is flipped up and everyone takes one of their voting cards (1 through 10, matching the noun card they think most closely matches the adjective) and when everyone has placed a card down, turn them up and plurality rules (the answer with the most cards is the "right" answer and those playing that card move forward).

When I spoke with the designer on the phone, I discovered that he is NOT a game geek, but is familiar with A2A (and doesn't like it). So, this "plurality rules" version of A2A is the result. He also told me that the written rules are even more impressive than the Internet ones.

Well, they're not. They are exactly the same with the addition of eight examples of a 7-player game and how the "majorities" work. It's just plurality rules, but the rules call them "majorities." I guess when the box art says "Majority Rules," it's tough to go away from that word, even if it's inaccurate.

So, all in all, the rules are fine. They are incredibly simple and written well (except for that misunderstanding about pluralities / majorities) and the huge page of examples is overkill of determining who moves forward.

Last rule: any Noun cards that get a vote (not just the "winner") are removed and replaced from the draw pile. That's it.

Play: How does it play?

I expected it to be just what I wanted. I detest two things about Apples to Apples and this game corrects both of them. First off, you no longer have to play with a crappy hand. Everyone has the same hand of noun cards, so you don't throw in cards just to get new ones.

Second, you don't have to worry about whimsical judges. More often than not, I see people choose ridiculous answers in A2A because they think it's "funny." Pshaw! No one will remember such sophomoric humor, but they will recall that the game is ruined (or at least chaotic) due to such actions.

So, this game corrects both of those problems very well. Some nitwit can vote for "Adolph Hitler" for "Sexy" while everyone else votes "Marilyn Monroe". See how that plays on the humor scale, except for the giggling people get as they watch your pawn stay back on the scoring track. :)

But there is one unintended consequence which makes the game fall flat. Not nearly as flatline as A2A, but flat. With voting cards, the concentration is on the numbers. Everyone looks at the noun cards, but then votes by number (numbers are on the board underneath the cards). Then someone looks around and says something like "The winner is 3 and we also remove 4, 6, and 10."

It feels a lot like a Carny huckster just calling out winning numbers and moving along. When we played at home with 3 people, this wasn't a problem, as everyone could quickly see what the winning word(s) was and what the loser(s) was. But when we played at a convention with 6 (or maybe 7) players, it was all about the numbers. Many turns went by so fast that I just knew if I moved up or not. I had no idea what other people voted for, except for the number.

Not that that's so bad. It keeps the game moving along, but it doesn't stimulate any conversation about why Sally said that Tom Cruise was Smart. No one even knew that she chose Tom Cruise. They just realized that his card wasn't there anymore when the next round started.

Verdict: I like the game. It's a fine Noun/Adjective party game. Funny that there can even be a genre of those games, but there is. However, it's not special. Don't get me wrong. It is 1000% better than Apples to Apples, but that isn't saying much.

I'm sure it would go over well at a Mensa Mind Games or would get a good review from GAMES Magazine. It's a game for "commoners." As to people here on BGG. It won't be as well received as Apples to Apples, and that's a pitty.

The curmudgeon has spoken, so be the word.
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Marshall Chrein
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Randy,

First, I want to commend you on a stellar analysis of Consensus. You have certainly been very thorough and unbiased in analyzing the game, pointing out both your perceived strengths and weaknesses of the game.

That said, I just want to address some of your issues with the game.

-Regarding the "too long" game board: While it is true that players sitting on the left/right edge of the board might have to lean over somewhat to see the nouns on the opposing side, such length was necessary to accommodate 10 noun cards. Overall, I feel that the benefit of a long board far exceeds the inconvenience of having lean over slightly.

-Regarding the card stock: It is my understanding that the 260 gsm gray core playing card stock is of extremely high quality. If you rip a card in half, you will notice the gray core, which serves to give the card "snap" and durability. Each card consists of 2 sheets of paper with a gray core in the center. The gray core also prevents the back of the card from showing through. I think you'd be hard pressed to find such high quality cards in most games.

I incurred higher than average manufacturing costs as a result as I did not want to sacrifice quality for cost. In addition, the Selection Cards are made of 300 gsm gray core playing card stock for more durability since they are most often used and they are UV coated to allow for easier sorting.

-Regarding collation: It does appear that the only printing error present in the game is the one duplicate adjective. Such error will not recur in future runs and (IMO) does not materially affect the play/value of the game.

-Regarding the "calling out of winning numbers": I understand what you are saying, which is why I specified in the game instructions that:

"(Please note that in order to create suspense, the “Selection Cards” should be turned over one at a time, thus allowing each player an opportunity to explain or defend his/her choice.)"

If you enforce this suggestion, each player will receive a brief platform to publicize/explain/defend his/her answer thus alleviating the issue you described. Please try that suggestion and let us know if it helps.

All in all, I am most pleased that you are deriving joy from Consensus and I am most appreciative of your constructive feedback. Keep playing the game as you will probably notice that your enjoyment of the game is often a function of the people with whom you are playing.

Marshall
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Randy Cox
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About the one-by-one card reveal. While that will probably work for most players, the "game geeks" I play with wouldn't buy it. After all, it does make the game much slower. And people who frequent BGG are so familiar with the "simultanious reveal" in so many Eurogames that they just can't get past it. They figure if the goal is to see all cards, they should be revealed expeditiously.

That said, for the majority of your audience (ie, people who do NOT come ot boardgamegeek), I suspect they will "play by the rules" and spend the time doing the soapbox thing. But to gamers here, that would just be time lost that could be used to play another game. :)

Out of curiousity, will you be sending copies for the Mensa Mind Games or a copy to GAMES Magazine for review? And will you be showing the product at Toy Fair in Manhattan?
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Marshall Chrein
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A copy has been sent to Games Magazine and is under review, but I missed the cutoff for Game of the Year for 2008. I wasn't aware of Mensa Mind Games and I thank you for bringing that to my attention.

The product will certainly be exhibited at Toy Fair, and I'm hoping that the "Movie Edition" will be available for display/launch as well, at Toy Fair.
 
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Hal

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Nice review. +1.

This is one of the few games that my kids (ages 7, 9, 11) demanded that we play again, and asked for it again the next day.

In my house we always take a few seconds after the reveal to see who voted for what. Frankly the most fun in the game is asking people why they voted for oddball answers.
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Thanks for the review. I was brought here by MaRo's recommendation and interested to hear what someone else thought of the game.

I think that - as with A2A - this game will fall flat if you concentrate too much on the game mechanics. In A2A, the judge needs to consider the options and can easily do so out loud to provide the table-talk that 'makes' these games.

I think that the one-by-one reveal is something I would definitely implement with my 'more casual-friendly' friends. With those who only care about exploring a set of rules/mechanics, they may want a simultaneous reveal, but you shouldn't be playing this game with those folk. Some games are mainly about the mechanics, some are about the people you play with. Some gamers only enjoy one sort of game.

My one concern that remains un-adressed - wouldn't it be a simple matter to work out what the most popular vote will be? This would result in all but one or two generally picking the same 'safe' option, even if it's not what they personally feel. I imagine that you'd quickly end up with a unanimous vote in most rounds, resulting in a bland game.

Did you experience this?
 
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Randy Cox
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I don't think the unanimous vote problem comes up often. Because there are 10 answers out there, I often see one and say, "Oh, there's only one" before I realize that there's another one or two that could be the 'natural' answer. So, no, I wouldn't say it's common for everyone to agree or even come close. In fact, we often have splits like 2-2-2-1 in a 7-player game. All but one person moves forward (a good thing, keeping everyone in contention for winning) but there is not much agreement.
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Thanks for your reply. That makes me really want to buy the game!

Unfortunately, the only places that sell it seem to be in the US so I might just cobble together a version with A2A cards. Sorry Mr. Designer - if we do end up playing it a lot, I promise to pay the delivery cost later on.
 
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M Hellyer
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Bezman wrote:


My one concern that remains un-adressed - wouldn't it be a simple matter to work out what the most popular vote will be? This would result in all but one or two generally picking the same 'safe' option, even if it's not what they personally feel. I imagine that you'd quickly end up with a unanimous vote in most rounds, resulting in a bland game.

Did you experience this?


Some of those I play with try to match the others answers to move forward and I don't think they win any more often. There are enough split vote situations during the game, plus people do make different associations with things so having a strategy of trying to match the most likely answers will not guarantee victory. Also, if everyone does that, you will still have enough split votes to keep things open and fun.
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PlayMe1 wrote:

Some of those I play with try to match the others answers to move forward and I don't think they win any more often. There are enough split vote situations during the game, plus people do make different associations with things so having a strategy of trying to match the most likely answers will not guarantee victory. Also, if everyone does that, you will still have enough split votes to keep things open and fun.


I was basing my hypothesis on the photo - 90% of folk I know reasonably well would DEFINITELY pick 'soul mate'. If all question/answers were equally 'obvious' then the other 10% would easily be able to guess the majority.

From what you say, it sounds as if the Q/A combos tend to not be so 'obvious'. :-)
 
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M Hellyer
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Bezman wrote:
[q="PlayMe1"]

From what you say, it sounds as if the Q/A combos tend to not be so 'obvious'. :-)


Consensus is a very fun, fast-moving game that generates laughter and some interesting light-hearted (usually) discussion as players see things differently and bring different values and perspectives to the game. One example might be if you are trying to match the word "Scary" to one of the 10 word cards showing on the board at that moment. One person might match "Scary" with "Flying" and another might match it with "Politicians" and another might match it with "Mother-in-law" and so on. You can try to guess which match others might try to make, but often you'll guess wrong.

My family and friends enjoy both Apples to Apples and Consensus, with Consensus hitting the table a little more often because it seems to have a little more structure and objectivity in matching to one another rather than relying on the arbitrary decision of a judge as in A2A.
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Pete
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Bezman wrote:
PlayMe1 wrote:

Some of those I play with try to match the others answers to move forward and I don't think they win any more often. There are enough split vote situations during the game, plus people do make different associations with things so having a strategy of trying to match the most likely answers will not guarantee victory. Also, if everyone does that, you will still have enough split votes to keep things open and fun.


I was basing my hypothesis on the photo - 90% of folk I know reasonably well would DEFINITELY pick 'soul mate'. If all question/answers were equally 'obvious' then the other 10% would easily be able to guess the majority.

From what you say, it sounds as if the Q/A combos tend to not be so 'obvious'. :-)
I don't know...if ESSENTIAL is the adjective and COFFEE is an option, it's hard to pass it up.

Pete (runs on that stuff)
 
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M Hellyer
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Hi Marshall,
Our group thoroughly enjoys playing Consensus, it's the game we play most often. We're even taking it on vacation this year. Any chance a new set of noun/adjective cards might be coming out? (Not counting the Jr., Music and Films specialty sets.) Would like to see some new words added. Thanks for a great game!
 
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