It’s been a very long, and lonely summer. It was a year where not only was I ridiculously busy, but so was everyone I usually party with. “Party” tends to be a relative term, but “game night” often doesn’t do bigger gatherings justice either. But the point here is it’s difficult to properly play games labeled for a larger group without a larger group. So it took a frustratingly long time to get The Game of Wolf onto a table, in this case, a coffee table. As I pointed out no less than 3 times over the night, no not WEREwolf.
I’m going to try to pick out the positive points in the game, but at the end of the day, there’s no way to sugarcoat this. The best reaction this got from the group was “meh” and it’s one of the few times I’ve had players say they were fine with not playing anymore. I hate having to say that.
How the game works is that one player is “The Wolf”, the player to their left will draw a card and read the subject at the top. The Wolf can then choose another player (or two players in larger games) to be in their Wolf Pack, or attempt it alone for double points. The remaining players work together to answer the questions. There are five questions on each and a numerical tiebreaker. The Wolf/Pack and the remaining player compare answers with the most correct answers winning the round. This should be a great game.
The problems started when every card that came up involved identifying pictures on the card. Because we were all sitting around a living room, that meant people kept having to get up to look at or pass around the cards. At least half the time there was discussion over how specific an answer needed to be, in order to be counted. After the game, someone looked through the cards and discovered that all the picture cards were printed and packaged together. None of us could think of a comparable game where the trivia cards required vigorous shuffling, but make sure you do.
We took a break, other people’s games ended and new players joined in. While I don’t like house ruling a game I’m reviewing, we removed all the picture cards (and shuffled the rest) in the hopes of a more enjoyable experience. Within two turns all the returning players agreed it was infinitely better. As we played through that game the next issues slowly became apparent. The majority of turns were decided on the tie-breaker questions. The actual questions, regardless of the topic, were not overly challenging. It got to the point where The Wolf would always play alone unless they had absolutely no clue, in which case their Pack just answered entirely for them. The tiebreaker questions, on the other hand, are all incredibly obscure and we may as well have been flipping a coin instead of just guessing.
The last issue I had with this was the dry erase boards. Through random luck, I’ve played several games in the past week that use dry erase markers. We actually used the placards from another game we had played to communicate with each other rather than paper. Even though this game had less playtime than any of those other games, the boards were very hard to get clean, came out much worse for wear than similar games.
I really appreciate what The Game of Wolf was trying to do, it just didn’t seem to hit any of the marks. It’s labeled as 4-12 players, with anyone past 6 becoming teams of two. A team of two “Lone Wolves” just runs counter to the whole theme, but that’s another discussion. Honestly, a four-player game around a kitchen table might work brilliantly, but stretching it to anything more than six quickly starts to feel “off”. It recommends ages 14+ which is also reasonable for a trivia game. Over the evening we had around a 20+ year age gap across the players, starting at University age and, as I mentioned, it wasn’t especially challenging for anyone.
It is not only possible but entirely plausible, that with a different group in a different space, this might have been a more enjoyable game. My problem is the group I played with covered an even broader range of demographics than I usually have, and the experiences were fairly consistent across all of them. This is a game that should have been right up this groups alley, and it just wasn’t.
I want to step back from this specific game for a moment to say how much I appreciate Gray Matters Games, as a company.
They proudly donate a meaningful portion of their profits to Alzheimer’s research. It’s the sort of thing I wish more companies would do, and the ones that do would be louder about. As a community, we all need to support our communities in meaningful ways. So a big thank you to them.
While this wasn’t the game for me, it may be the game for you. You can also look at the other games that Gray Matters Games has to offer online at www.graymattersgames.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/graymattersgames.