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Subject: Articulate Your Life: Fixing a game that was never broken rss

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Adam Rau
Australia
Adelaide
South Australia
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The girlfriend, myself and friends alike thoroughly enjoy the original Articulate, so when we saw the new version (Articulate Your Life) on the shelves, my girlfriend begged me to pick it up. What we found, while enjoyable, doesn't live up to the simple, solid rules of its predecessor. The new rules have not been well thought out at all, and the game itself feels like it was produced quickly to arrive before the Christmas season.

The Predecessor

For those that aren't aware, the original Articulate is effectively a faster paced, verbal version of Pictionary, with few notable differences. Alike Pictionary, you are given a word to describe to your team mate from a list of categories on cards you draw. The space you are currently on dictates the category you must select from the card. Unlike Pictionary, however, rather than drawing the topic on the card, you must describe it verbally, by using words and gesticulation within certain restrictions (cannot use part of the word, cannot use "rhymes with" or announce the number of letters, etc.). Further, where a team will stop after one answer in Pictionary, within Articulate you can continue to answer more and more words until the time is up: the more words answered, the further you move around the board. This ultimately makes the game much more exciting and fast paced than Pictionary, and the verbal nature of this game generates more laughs than Pictionary with the absurd ways words are described.

Words on the card may be marked with a symbol to indicate the player must describe the word to everyone rather than just their team mate, and should another team win, they assume control and take their turn, even if out of turn order, to give them a better chance of taking the lead. Should a team land on certain points on the board, they have the chance to spin the arrow in the middle of the board, and depending on the outcome, may gain additional spaces.

Articulate itself is a solid game with simple rules, which is an excellent social game to play between drinks. The game itself will never be a Spiel des Jahres contender by any means, but it holds its own, and is in effect, the game Pictionary should have been.

Articulate Your Life: The Basics

Articulate Your Life is a variation of the original Articulate with new categories. In place of Articulate's selection, which included Action, Object, Nature, Person, World, and Random categories, Articulate Your Life offers categories such as Working Life, Social Life, Sporting Life, Entertainment, Home Life and Getting Away. While the original Articulate offers more traditional answers (historical persons, events, etc.) Articulate Your Life has modern answers that will cater towards a much more casual crowd. Some answers we've encountered in AYL include Ikea, Microsoft, Shane Warne, and All-You-Can-Eat Buffet to name a few. While I prefer the subject content of the original (even the ridiculously difficult 'People' ropics that came up from time to time), I can see the appeal of this game to those that may not be as good with general knowledge content.

Opening the Box

Those that have played the original Articulate will immediately notice some changes upon opening the box: namely, a dice with sides numbered 3-8, and an electronic timer. Opening the board up, the control spaces have been replaced with "Max Timer" spaces, and the other spaces replaced with the aforementioned new categories. The production of this game seems markedly inferior to its predecessor, however this on its own was not enough to put me off the game as we have thoroughly enjoyed the original.

However, the rules themselves have also had some changes to the original: and this, my friends, is where things go downhill.

The Rules and Changes

First of all, the addition of the electronic timer. While clearly gimmicky, I would not have had an issue with the timer if it had simply kept the time consistently. However, upon reading the rules, we immediately obtained the egg-timer from the original Articulate rather than use this useless device. Why, you ask? Two words: random timer. On each team's turn, the timer randomly selects a countdown timer that lasts either 27 seconds, 32 seconds or 37 seconds. If the problem with this isn't clear to you, the issue is that some teams will have a clear advantage over others, as they will have more time to answer questions. Teams will not know how long they actually have on their turn until the timer begins ticking, indicating they have 8 seconds remaining. The result is adding randomness to the game that has immediate effects upon the game's overall fairness. The button can be held down for two seconds to select the maximum time (used for "Max Timer" spaces), so it is possible to make the game fairer by doing this on each turn; but holding the button for two seconds makes this method slower than starting the round with a traditional egg-timer.

Landing the Max-Timer spaces simply means holding the button on the timer to select the maximum time, and choosing the category of your choice. However this brings up another disappointing change: the removal of Control (effectively "All-Play") from the game. The board and cards alike no longer offer the occasional challenge to describe the word to the entire table, and risk losing the turn to your opponents if your team-mate is not the fastest to answer. A clever player could describe to everyone, yet provide a description only their team-mate would make sense of, such as using personal experiences, knowledge about each other, etc. The control topics enhanced the game with a healthy share of risk and excitement, and it is disappointing that this has been removed. This was the only form of player interaction (outside of one's team, that is) within the game, so it seems absurd that Drumond Park felt the need to remove this entirely.

While we never found the spinner to greatly change the stakes of the game (rather, a welcome bonus), the spinner has been removed and replaced with a dice that is rolled before each team's turn. The number it lands on (between three and eight) indicates the number of words the team must correctly answer to gain two extra moves around the board. The idea of a target for teams to aim for is solid enough, but the fact that this number is changed for each team makes the game much more random and unfair. While the spinner did create chance, the potential to earn bonus moves was equal for each team. Using the dice to select the team's target they must meet to gain bonus moves, places some teams at a distinct disadvantage, made worse by the random timer. The dice appears to offer targets that are too high at times. While my girlfriend and I have played quite often and consistently wipe the floor with our opponents, obtaining 8 words in a turn is almost never heard of. For a social game, this will surely cause frustration for teams that have particularly unlucky rolls.

The questions themselves have also caused frustration with players also. While I understand this was produced in the UK, it was clearly intended to be distributed worldwide. That said, some of the words are British terminology that those outside the UK will not understand. While in the previous Articulate there were words you simply did not know the meaning of (and consequently the fault could only lie in your lack of trivia/general knowledge), in Articulate Your Life you feel ripped off when terms you know are not recognisable because of cultural terminology.

Conclusion

All in all, while new topic material is certainly welcome, Articulate Your Life appears to be poorly thought out, and a classic case of fixing what wasn't broken. The rule changes make the game unbalanced and consequently unfair, the overall winner not necessarily the best at describing and answering, but rather the luckiest with dice rolls and timer selection. House rules and the use of an egg-timer can make this game playable (and still enjoyable), but Articulate Your Life will never be the solid, consistently enjoyable game we found in its predecessor. Ultimately Articulate Your Life appears to be a hastily thrown together game (complete with electronic timer to bump up the price) to cash in on the Christmas season.



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Jeremy London
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Dianella, Perth
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Good review. I too have had the original Articulate for many years and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Your review completely matches the expectations I held when I first learnt about the new version. So far I've only played a half game of the new version and it confirmed my fears about the new rules.

On the other hand, because the new rules add randomness, it makes the game more casual so friends who would previously be reluctant to play might be more willing to do so. At least if they lose they can blame the randomness instead of their lack of skills. Not that that point makes it a better game.

I suppose we can always use the new questions with a sand timer and use the Max Time spaces as Control Segments by using a dice to select the word to describe, though that's a bit fiddly.

Incidentally, I haven't played with the spinner in the original Articulate for years because I thought the randomness detracted from the game.
 
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