While RPGs, board games and card games are like bread and butter for many geeks, we also have to show some love for party games. Quick and easy to play, with room at the table for lots of people, party games are an essential part of any game collection.
At our game faire earlier this month, I was introduced to two new party games – well, one that was actually new to the market, and another that was just new to me. Both were tons of fun and I knew as soon as I played them that I’d want my readers to know about them.
Crappy Birthday just hit the game market this summer, and our FLGS loaned us a copy to demo at the game faire. It’s a super simple game that plays a lot like Apples to Apples. Each player is dealt a hand of 5 cards, each showing a crappy birthday gift – like a pet tarantula, or a thatched roof for your house. The players all take turns being the birthday boy or girl, and everyone else gives you a card with the gift they think you’ll hate the most. You go through the gifts, pick the one you’d most resent receiving, and the person who gave it to you gets a point. The first player to 3 points wins.
The game is a hoot! It’s easy to play, even for kids, doesn’t involve much thought or work, and takes only minutes to play, so it’s a great way to kill a little down time between other games or activities. There were only two problems with it that we found. The first is that a number of the supposedly crappy birthday gifts are actually really cool, and it was sometimes difficult to pick a gift that the recipient would hate. So we almost immediately houseruled that on each player’s turn, they could declare whether they wanted everyone to give them crappy gifts or good gifts.
The second problem was that the deck of cards is quite small, and because the game is so quick to play, we burned through it in short order. By the end of the weekend I had no desire to play anymore because I’d seen every card in the deck multiple times. Hopefully there will be expansions for the game in the near future to add some replay value to the game.
I’d heard of Pit before the game faire, but had never played it before. I thought it was a few years old, but I was stunned to learn in my research for this column that it was first released by Parker Brothers in 1904! We played one of the more modern versions (a deluxe set that comes with a bell to ring!). My little brother literally ran downstairs to get this game for us to play, and after just a round I could see why.
Pit is a stock trading game. For every person playing, you add a commodity – like coffee, oranges, or soybeans – to the deck of cards. Each player is dealt 9 cards, and the goal is to be the first person to come up with a hand of all 9 cards of a single commodity. How? By trading! You can trade up to 4 cards at once, so long as they are all of the same commodity, but the kicker is that you don’t share what commodity you’re trying to get rid of. And trading is not done quietly or politely. Just like on the floor of the stock exchange, you get loud and wild, like this: “Two! I’ve got two! TWO! TWO, DAMMIT!” As soon as you get your hand of nine, you ring the bell and gloat as everyone else curses your name. You get the point value of your winning commodity, and keep playing until someone hits whatever you’ve decided is the winning point total, or whoever’s in the lead after a set number of rounds.
In addition to the commodity cards, there are Bull and Bear cards that are an optional addition. The Bull is a wild card that you can use to complete your commodity, or it can double your points if you have the Bull plus all nine cards of the commodity. The Bear is bad to have, as it subtracts from your point total if you’re stuck with it at the end of the round.
As a warning, if, say, your husband is running an RPG a few tables over, you may get the evil eye for playing such a loud and disruptive game. (I said I’m sorry, Robert!) You can play by whispering, or even silent bidding (holding up 2 fingers if you have 2 cards to trade), but that’s not nearly as fun.
One of the best things about both Crappy Birthday and Pit? They’re affordable! Both of them are available for under $20, whether at your FLGS or on Amazon (click the link to the right to help GDG when you go shopping!).
Crappy Birthday is produced by North Star Games, for 4 to 8 players, ages 12 and up – though we had a younger boy playing with us who did just fine! The latest Deluxe Pit is from Winning Moves Games, for 3 to 8 players, ages 8 and up – and we had a 2nd-grader easily hustle us, so the age frame is right!
Have you played Crappy Birthday or Pit? Do you have any fun houserules for either game?