The Game of Things (Full disclosure, I was given a comp copy for the purpose of review) is intended to be a party game for four or more players and, in my experience, it fits that bill perfectly. I play-tested my copy at a get together with three generations of my family and we had a blast!
The basic concept is that one player draws a card in the theme of “Things that …” and reads it aloud. All the players write down such a thing anonymously and then players take turns guessing who wrote what. There is some strategy involved. You don’t want to write a common response or it will increase your odds of being fingered as the writer – but you don’t want to write something too outlandish or too particularly suited to your own eccentricities or you will again be easily guessed – so the goal is to pick something amusing and off the wall, but not TOO off the wall unless of course you’re the player that no one will suspect of writing bizarre “things” or you think you can mimic the style of another player well. Here are a few sample cards:
You can even play a stripped down mini version of the game on their website by typing in your “things” and submitting them for the internet to see.
I did have a few small moments of confusion interpreting the rules and how play proceeds around the table, but this is NOT the type of game where a strict adherence to the rules is a big deal. If something is vague to you (and maybe I was just being dense, who knows?), house-rule it and move on. The only other possible problem is that the game is clearly designed for a larger number of players. The box suggests 4 or more. We played with 7 and that number seemed about right. Too small a group and the game wouldn’t be nearly as much fun (though when I first got my copy, I pulled out the cards and started reading them to my wife and daughter and the three of us just shouted out responses and we still had a lot of fun with it, so even without optimum players the game still has merit).
The game’s production values are high with 300 color cards, a snazzy well made wooden box, premade perforated double sided writing sheets, scorecards and even a set of golf pencils. However, with that production quality comes a mid-range price tag: $39.99. It’s too bad the game doesn’t have a “just cards” version for those who are willing to provide their own pencils and scrap paper, but given the quality the price isn’t unreasonable. You can pick up a copy from their website or from various big name stores like Target and Barnes and Noble.
Fun game aside, here’s the real reason I wanted to review and tell you about The Game of Things: It’s an excellent GM’s resource. With 300 cards full of random ideas, any time your idea well is dry, all you need to do is grab a few cards and look them over. Bam! Instant inspiration! (As a side note, this also makes the game a great tool for all you aspiring writers out there) Let me give you a few examples using only the 4 cards above:
The first thing that jumps out at me is the card “Things… you wish you didn’t know. Clearly my adventure is going to have a Lovecraftian “things… man was not meant to know” vibe. (As an aside, if that’s not a card, it totally should be. Are you listening Game of Things staff?) The other three make me think of squicky inappropriate office behavior so maybe someone at the office is using eldritch magic to take advantage of the other office workers before they indoctrinate them (or as a means to) in some sort of mythos cult.
Using the same cards, I’m reading this as the “TMI guy” we all know and “love”. He has no filter, no sense of privacy and he’s always over-sharing. He’s quick with quips and stories that no one really wants to hear, but won’t shut up or get the hint and the PCs need him for something – or worse yet are hired to keep him safe or escort him somewhere.
Again with the same cards, but let’s take this a different direction. The ick factor this time comes from some kind of toxic spill, so we have a factory or plant of some sort and there’s a dangerous situation inside. Maybe it’s just hazardous waste, but depending on the game it could be a zombie plague or an epidemic level disease and there could be civilians trapped inside!
Of course you don’t have to use the same handful of cards for everything you put into a session. You could instead pull a few cards for each element. Or you could draw a couple cards to pick an overarching “theme” and then add a few different cards for each element. Whatever helps get your creativity flowing again.
Should You buy it?
The big sticking point of The Game of Things for me is the price. At $39.99 I never would have just picked up a copy to try it out. It is a lot of fun as intended and it’s also a useful tool to keep in your GM’s utility belt. I think the crucial point is whether or not you reliably have a large and creative enough group to play. As long as you have a big enough group of the right mindset to play The Game of Things on a regular basis, the game is worth the price on it’s own merits and the added functionality as a GMing tool is icing on the cake.