By June 24, 2008

Electronic Catch Phrase game review

Some games are labeled as group games, and some games are REALLY group games. You can have four people in a Cranium game and still have a good time. But there are some games that are only fun with a big group of people — and become even more fun as you pile on more bodies. If you are looking for a game for ten folks or more, Hasbro’s Catch Phrase is about the most fun thing you can do in a group and still keep your clothes on.

I first played Catch Phrase well over fifteen years ago. Paper cards were entered into a plastic disc, Viewmaster-style. A separate timer started the round, and teams tried to guess whatever word or phrase was displayed on the plastic disc. The disc was passed to the opposing team once the word/phrase was successfully guessed. The timer would randomly stop and the buzzer would sound. The team holding the disc would lose the round, and the opposing team would get a point. Sort of like “Hot Potato” meets “Taboo.”

There were a few problems with the game, all related to the “hardware:” the timer’s buzzer was sometimes drowned out in the din of frantic guessing or we’d exhaust the 72 words on a card mid-play and have to go around again. There was also a separate paper scorepad to keep track of how many points each team had.

The electronic version takes care of these things so you can focus more on yelling “WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE BABY??” over and over again. 10,000 phrases and words are stored on the disc. The timer and scorekeeping are all managed on the disc, which makes it easier to keep track of the buzzer and how badly grandma is kicking the shit out of you.

The game is a lot of fun. I recommend playing it with at LEAST six people. I think we had a dozen playing at one point and it was a hoot. The more the merrier, for a few reasons. I think any performance-oriented game has a tendency to frustrate the performer. “What do you mean you couldn’t get ‘Balcony of theater?'” Add enough people, and Mr. Grumpypants has a chance to relax before it is his turn again. Plus you are more likely to get a correct guess with more people.

The game instructions recommend sitting opposing players side-by-side. This is a must, as it makes it easier to hand the disc back and forth. The old game suggested sitting across from each other. Someone got hurt more than once by a flying disc during the last few frantic seconds of a round.

The only problem with the opposite seating arrangement is that you need even teams for it to work out. I haven’t found a suitable way for oddly-numbered teams to participate in this way. Maybe have the odd-person out not guess for the game? Doesn’t seem like fun.

Anyway, the game is an outstanding value at $25. You will earn that back in laughs and goofy-ass clues in the first hour of play. Players last weekend ranged from nine years old to 80s and everyone participated and had fun.

Strongly recommended.

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