Monday, January 10, 2011

Review: Wits & Wagers Family

So, it's about that time of year to blog about the games we got for Christmas! Today, I'm talking about Wits & Wagers Family, a simplified, family-friendly version of Wits & Wagers. My wife and I like the standard edition of Wits & Wagers quite a bit. It is a simple and fun trivia game that you don't really need to know trivia to play. The way this works is that each player (or team of players) has a card, a wet-erase marker and a pile of poker chips. A question is read aloud, to which the answer is a number. Each player or team writes down their guess on their card, and then all the cards are arranged from high to low on a felt play mat. Position in relation to the median bet determines the odds and the payout for a correct answer. And then everyone bets on what they believe to be the correct answer with their poker chips. Then the answer is read, the correct guesser is given a small payout, and then correct betters are paid out according to the odds. There are seven rounds, and all but the last round have betting limits. Pretty simple, right?

The standard version of Wits & Wagers is fairly simple for adults, and, as per the box, can accomodate up to 21 people (assuming seven teams of three, since there are only materials for seven). As with any betting game, it favors those who play the odds and are somewhat savvy to those kinds of systems. It is a great game for adults. We can get non-gamer friends to play this and enjoy it every time. But it isn't the best for kids.

Wits & Wagers assumes an understanding of risks versus payouts that most people of age teen and above are likely to have acquired, but not younger kids. Also, when you bet chips and guess wrong, you lose them. In a trivia-based game, kids are already at a bit of a disadvantage for not having the breadth of knowledge an adult does... so losing your cool stuff on top of that can seem mean to the younger ones. Those reasons, as well as the nature of the trivia questions themselves, make the standard version somewhat inaccessible to kids. Enter the family version.
Wits & Wagers FamilyWits & Wagers Family streamlines this. The questions are things children are more likely to have encountered, but still challenging to them and adults. Betting is simplified to using meeples. Each player has a large meeple and a small meeple, and there is no odds track with different payouts. The game plays as above, but you score one point for a correct answer, one point for betting on the correct answer with your small meeple and two for  your big meeple. So you will score 0-4 points in a turn. The score is tallied on a score track, and the game ends when a person gets to fifteen points. Much simpler.

I personally favor the family version of Wits & Wagers over the standard version. It is far more accessible to children, and we have successfully played it three times already with our five year old daughter, Katie. She has had a blast, and was able to be competitive. The questions are still challenging, and there will still be a range of answers each question. I highly recommend this game. Even for adults. Quick to learn, quick to play. Even for non-gamers.

And, as an aside, I need to mention Northstar Games' customer service. After we started playing the game, we noted that one of the wet-erase markers would not work. I contacted the customer service department through the email listed on their site and received very prompt service. As a matter of fact, in addition to receiving a whole set of the markers, they threw in a couple extra cards for the standard edition, possibly a convention-only thing. I was very impressed. I like it when a game company takes their customer service this seriously.

Katie says: Wits and Wagers Family? It's awesome! I like that you get to have you card and write different numbers based on the questions. Our whole family can play! I like ot keep score for myself by making X's.

Angie says: I think Wits and Wagers Family takes all the best parts of the original Wits and Wagers game, simplifies it so that kids and non-gamers can enjoy it without losing the charm, and adds an interesting mix of questions that are a little more accessible to a range of players. A question about how many Disney Princesses there are had us all scratching our heads and counting them up, while Katie smiled as we discussed a favorite topic of hers. Although some of the questions were pretty easy, it's fun to know stuff and be right so I don't mind. Plus there's always the uncertainty and consideration when other people answer differently... did I remember that right? Who should I bet on? We were able this game to play this game at a busy family gathering and had various family members of all ages joining right in and playing along, without any hesitation or confusion about the rules. Answer the question, place your meeples, mark your points. Easy, streamlined, and fun. Love it! There aren't as many questions as the original, but I can't see why I would ever go back. I think we could use the original game questions with the user-friendly scoring from Wits and Wagers Family and extend the length, but honestly I'll probably be keeping my eye out for an expansion!

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