Note: We were sent a complementary copy of this game to try out and review. All opinions are our own. Want to work with us? Find out contact info here.
Manicdotes – 2017
Time: 60+ min
Rating: 4 out of 5
Quick Roll: A game that looks daunting at first, but with a little confidence, is a fun time for a group.
Manicdotes is party game, but unlike something that’s casually mindless (like Cards Against Humanity) you gotta come prepared to play. I mean, this isn’t a game to play at the end of a night of gaming and drinking; this is the game you use to start the party.
The game plays a little like Balderdash. You get words on a card; you have to make something up. The other players have to figure out which parts are made up and which aren’t. But the true challenge is how the game takes it up a notch. When you start a turn, you are handed two cards. The first is a story starter card, it tells you what the first line of your story will be, as well as the subject of your story. (Oh, you make up stories in this game. Yeah, get ready for that.) The second card has a list of five words you need to use while telling your story. You have 20 seconds to conceive of your story, and then 90 seconds to weave a tale including all five words and the story it must be connected to the story starter card.
As you tell your story, the other players write down five words you used that they think are listed on the card. At the end of your story you add up the points. Each player gets a point for each word they get correct, and the story creator gets points (2-4 depending on how many players there are) for each word the other players don’t get. All the players also get a single point for any words the story creator forgets to include in their story. There’s also a punishment for the creator if they tell a story that strays off the starter card, but we ran into very few instances where that would be possible. Another interesting note is that you can add things to words, like prefixes or suffixes, and you can even use those words as part of a big phrase, but you can’t make the word smaller. Another interesting rule is that homophones are not allowed.
We had our couple of couples over to the house and once we finished reading the rules, we knew we had to start the night with this game, not end it. We sat down at our oval table and broke out the fun mini golf pencils (which totally need the name of the game printed on them), the nice little notebooks of paper to jot down the words, two sets of cards, and a classic plastic game hourglass. Then we figured out who would go first which in the game is the oldest player. I (Charlie) won that award.
I picked up two cards, one from the story starter deck and one from the words deck. My starter card said something like, “I just went to this wedding and…” and my word card had five words, Amplifier, Airplane, Florist, Random, and Create. Since we had never played, my strategy was simple: Think of a few topics that related to weddings which could also use two or three of those words. It seemed pretty straightforward in my mind at first. Weddings need music, so I can drop amplifier in and maybe bring up a few bands including Jefferson Airplane. Then I could turn to flowers, using the other three words. But my 20 seconds was done and I had to start.
I have to admit I’ve never truly been nervous before my turn in a game before. I’ve been excited. I’ve worried my roll won’t be enough. I’ve even been depressed knowing that my turn wouldn’t help me win. But I’ve never been nervous. Like, performing on stage in front of people nervous. So I started…
“I just went to this wedding and it was pretty cool. My friends Brad and Julie had a wonderful wedding. It was a this old country club that was really nice. They had a great master of ceremonies. They had a cool DJ. He was late and had to set up his mixer and amplifier during the ceremony, but once the reception started he played some Beatles, Elvis, and some Jefferson Starship. The florist was pretty good too. She created a lot of centerpieces on the tables with some roses, and lilies, and some other random flowers. So we had a lot of fun, and once the wedding was done we drove to the airport and took a plane home.”
Ok, so not exactly what I said, but it’s close. Unfortunately, while trying to say Jefferson Airplane I accidentally said their other name, Jefferson Starship, which meant I tried to come back to airplane later in my story. Time was running out, so I quickly added the part about leaving the wedding and shortened airplane to plane, which means I still didn’t say it, so everyone else got one point for me not actually saying the word. I got points for two words they didn’t guess, one of which was random. As a group we decided to go around in a circle and say the words we had, sorta like Boggle, which was a lot of fun. That let use see what other words people latched on to. Several of my friends had actually said Starship, so I think if I had said the right band they still would have gotten airplane. I ended my round with 6 points and most of the others had 2. Then play passed to the next player.
We played around the table once, each person getting to tell one story. I ended up in the lead with 15 points after that round. The rules are flexible with how to end the game. You can play for a time or a number of round or even up to 25 points. We chose to do one round because we were going to swim a little. To be honest the game is just stressful enough that one time around the table seems like the perfect game length for six players.
Throughout the game strategies got written and rewritten, which I think makes the game more playable then you might think at first. Every time you come up with a way to trick your fellow players, they learn it, so then you have to come up with a new one. At first you’re like, “I’ll just add the word at the end of phrase as if it’s just coming to my mind.” But then people start to get that, so then you go, “I’ll put the real word in the middle of this list.” After the game we also contemplated ideas of other strategies. You could wait to use your words until the end of hoping people write down a lot of words before you get there. Or you could use all your words early, and then keep talking making people question their previous words they have written down. (Several times I scratched out words once I got to 5 because one seemed more obvious later in someone’s story.)
Playing the game was a lot of fun, if not a little nerve racking when it’s your turn. At first it seemed like the points might swing one way of the other, but it was actually pretty even. For each turn most players averaged two words and the creator averaged one word never guessed. No matter how often the strategy changed, the scored stayed pretty similar. Very well balanced. I do have some friends who perform as a profession or a hobby, most of them in improv, which means they like to make things up on the spot. However, the players who did not have that background had just as much fun and did just as good as those who did. I recommend getting this game when you want something to stretch your creativity because it’s a lot of fun.
The only hiccup in game play for us is the challenge of keeping the story on target. When we played, the only person who had a story starter card that really had a “theme” or “topic” was me and my wedding. The other cards were just vague enough that really no story could violate that last rule of “staying on topic”. Now, the more we play, maybe we’ll find more specific story starter cards. I hope so. I think the challenge of the topic is needed to help make the stories harder (at least for our group of performers).
What a fun game! When Manicdotes came to me asking us to review this game I wasn’t sure what we were getting ourselves into. I was even more unsure when it came in the mail! However, after reading through the instructions I realized how fun a game this could be. It ended up being a great ice breaker type game and a great diversion from our usual strategy focused gaming. My favorite part of this game is how it will be different every time we play and with whoever we play it with. As a former youth librarian I can see how this game would be great for elementary children working on storytelling. I can see teachers having students play the game with a focus of creating a story which has a beginning, middle, and end, as well a character or two, a plot and setting. In fact, I may have to lend it to one to try out as well.