Friday, January 13, 2017

Fun for the Whole Family.... Er, We Mean, Your Rowdy Drinking Buddies!

I was recently introduced to a game that's a real textbook example of the power of branding.

Wonky is a Jenga-esque game in which players are each trying to play out their hand of cards first. Each card (with varying degrees of specificity) instructs a player to take one of nine cubes (of different sizes and colors) and stack it atop a growing communal tower. The cubes are imperfectly shaped on purpose to add to the challenge. If you knock the blocks over, you draw multiple cards to bloat your hand, and the tower begins anew.

Thanks to BoardGameGeek, I learned that Wonky was originally released in 2015 as a family game --  complete with an over-excited nuclear family grinning on the back of the box. But the version I played, rebranded and released in 2016, was Wonky: The Unstable Adult Party Game. A tissue-thin fiction had been draped over it all (something about being scientists working with unstable elements).

More significantly, the entire thing had been turned into a drinking game. Knock over the tower, and you take a drink. Also, you flip over a "new rule" card affecting the entire group -- no using your dominant hand, everyone has to talk in a silly accent, and so forth. As a maximum of three such rules accumulate, the game can get increasingly goofy.

Wonky isn't much of a game, to be sure. But if you're simply measuring it as a "drinking game," the evaluation is rather different. The simplicity becomes a feature. The stupidity leads to drinking, which leads to laughs. The only problem really becomes that if you all get too sloppy drunk, the game could conceivably never end. That is, assuming you even care about "ending" it "by the rules" at that point.

Maybe even as a drinking game, it's not tops. I think I'd rather have Happy Salmon with my shots, for example. But Wonky made for a reasonable diversion on New Year's Eve night. I'd call it maybe a B-. Probably, most people either fit in the category of "don't need a game as an excuse to drink and have fun" or "gaming is the fun, not the accessory to drinking." But there's a certain Venn diagram in there somewhere that might enjoy Wonky on its own (redefined since original release) terms.

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