We are living in a new world. The old established champions of the table top (your Milton Bradleys and your Parker Brothers) are being supplanted by a new guard of board and card games with a new business model. An underground model utilizing new crowd-sourcing opportunities to deliver experiences no corporate suit would ever dare allow.
One of my favourite games currently subverting the standard business model is Deck Around. Crowd-funded through Indiegogo, creator Chris Lesinski actually reached his funding goal in only 8 days, reaching their goal faster than even Cards Against Humanity, the internet’s favourite party game. It is a true achievement for an idea so incredibly tied to the drinking of beer and laughing with friends.
I mention the beer thing because the conceit of the game, think Balderdash with Urban Dictionary, is one of those easy “Why didn’t I think of that” ideas that can only come to fruition when downing several pints. The back and forth of ‘You should do it man…‘ ‘Oh I don’t know…’ ‘No dude, you should totally like… (burp in mouth) make some cards up and like totally do it‘. (I am not saying this is how the scenario actually played out, but basically every great drunk idea follows a similar pattern). And so, after many pints, Lesinski put the game up for funding from the net and the world of gaming is better for it.
Earlier I mentioned Cards Against Humanity and that is really the company that Deck Around finds itself in. This is not a game for children. It is not a game for prudes. This is a game built with the express purpose of dissecting and discussing the worst of the worst. It allows you to find out who among your friends has the most demented personality, and it allows for the typically shy to come out of their shell in awesomely unexpected ways. But with Cards Against Humanity, it sometimes feels like little skill is involved and you have many throw away rounds. Not so with Deck Around. Believe it or not, the goal is not to be as gross as you possibly can be, but instead to come up with the most plausible response. Remember, not everything in the Urban Dictionary is sexually explicit. Sometimes it can be actually quite benign. It is this game of subtlety – balancing the graphic and grotesque with the less-explicit exercises of urban speak – that keeps the game fresh. But when this game gets dirty… it gets dirty! What is an Italian hand job? Let your mind go to wherever it needs to.
Much of this is Balderdashes formula to a T, but there is no physical board to Deck Around. This is a card game through and through. The only additional materials required are pencils and pieces of paper for all of the participants, and a somewhat deranged sense of humour. Simplicity is always better than complication, and so it is with Deck Around. In fact, the rules are so simple, they are written in large font on the back of a box smaller than a letter sized piece of paper.
During a recent match at Refined Geekery co-champion Mike’s house, a group of us were able to jump in and play in less than 60 seconds of explanation. I, being the demented individual that I am, won the game although the competition was certainly tight. We had about 6 people playing to a tally of 15 points, and I’d say that took us to about the 90 minute mark and it was pure fun the whole way through.
*Mike’s note: OK, Tom won because his responses were so thoroughly horrifying we thought for sure no one in our group could have written them. This game acts as a psychiatric barometer of who amongst your peers you shouldn’t leave unattended with your pets.//
If I have any concern, it is that once you know a definition, that card loses its shock value and replayability. My hope is that Lesinski and co. can keep the game fresh with supplemental content packs, even if they are just pdfs for printing out on your own card stock.
In the end, it is a strong package. The game itself is free if you want to download the cards from the Deck Around website, and if you want the box version it is going to set you back around $35. That may seem on the steep side when you consider the free alternative, but hey, it is a pretty attractive box and it comes pre-loaded with pads of paper and pencils ‘stolen from golf courses’. Either way, if you are of the correct sensibility, Deck Around is guaranteed to keep you entertained as long as there are new vulgar terms being created by immature adults across the English world. I am happy to see such a resurgence in this genre of tabletop gaming. Being able to spend a night on the cheap, having a few drinks and some laughs is providing an excellent form of social activity for those with a proclivity for the less intense (Can’t go clubbing every night).
You can check out Deck Around here:
Follow Tom on Twitter @thomaskagar