Do You Know Your Neighbors? Game Review (prepublished version)

Please Take Note: This is a review of the game’s final prototype. The art, game bits, and the rules discussed are all subject to change. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the game’s Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review!


The Basics:

  • For ages 8 and up (publisher suggests 12+)
  • For 5 to 12 players
  • Approximately 45 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading & Writing
  • Memorization
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Cooperative & Team Play
  • Hand/Resource Management
  • Bluffing and Misdirection

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Trouble is brewing in your neighborhood, but it’s your neighbors you really need to watch

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek rejected!

Overview

While the neighborhood street might look calm and serene, there is trouble brewing behind locked doors and pulled blinds. Gossip, manipulation, and dirty politics are about to explode onto the quiet streets and change the lives of everyone from one end of the block to the other. In order to control the neighborhood you must first control the neighbors. Find out what motivates them and then use it to your advantage. The King or Queen of the Block will be the best player who can trick the others into thinking they are harmless. When the dust settles, all the houses will still be standing, but the dynamics of the community will be changed forever.

Do You Know Your Neighbors?, by Cray Cray Games, is comprised of 25 Neighbor cards, 40 Situation cards, 144 Action cards, 118 Clue cards, and 1 First-Turn token. Not included in the game, but necessary to play, is a pen or pencil and pad of paper for each player. As this is a review of the prepublished version of the game, we will not comment on the game’s components. It should also be noted that the final inventory of what is included in the game is somewhat dependent on how well it does on Kickstarter.

Example of possible final game board for the game

Game Set Up

To set up the game, first place the game board in the middle of the playing area.

Second, hand out to each player a pen or pencil and a piece of paper. Note that a player mat is mentioned in the current rules but is not part of the of the game’s current inventory. If it is included, one player mat would be given to each player at this time.

Third, separate and shuffle the Clue, Situation, and Action cards. Deal to each player 7 Action and 3 Clue cards, face-down. Players should look at their cards but keep them hidden from their opponents at all times. Then place the remaining Clue, Situation, and Action cards on their respective spots on the game board, face-down. Like the player mat, the game board is mentioned in the current rules but is not part of the of the game’s current inventory.

Fourth, take the Neighbor cards and separate into three piles: Kind, Wicked, and Fickle. Shuffle these three piles and then draw a number of cards from each to create one new Neighbor deck (the number of cards drawn is based on the number of players in the game). The remaining Neighbor cards that are still in the three piles are removed for the duration of the game. Now shuffle the Neighbor deck and deal 1 to each player, face-down.

Fifth, give the First-Turn token to a random player and begin!

Who Are the People In Your Neighborhood?

If you now have the song of the same title above in your head, you are super, super cool. For everyone else, time for you to become cool. You can thank me later.

The game is played in rounds which is further divided into five sequential phases.

Phase 1: Preparation

In this phase, all the players will complete one action simultaneously  There really isn’t any reason why players cannot take turns around the table, however, and might be the best option when playing with a large group. What is important is to keep any cards drawn hidden from opponents at all times. The actions include:

  • Discard any Clue cards from their hand (face-down to the discard pile) and redraw cards up to a maximum of 3 Clue cards in hand
  • Discard any number of Action cards and draw an equal number in return (for example, discard 2 Action cards, draw 2 Action cards)

Phase 2: Get a Clue

In this phase, all the players get to find out something about their fellow neighbors, but in secret.

The player with the First-Turn token draws 1 Clue card from the Clue deck, reads it to themselves, and then passes it to any other player they like. That player now reads the clue to themselves and answers “Yes” or “No”. This is recorded by the player who gave the Clue card and the used Clue card is discarded, face-down. Now the player with the First-Turn token gets to go again and uses one of their Clue cards from their hand. Again, the targeted player who was given the card reads it to themselves and answers it with a “Yes” or a “No”. Note that the second Clue card must be given to a different opponent. Then all the other players, going clockwise, get to pick one of their Clue cards (if they have any) and get to learn something about one of their neighbors.

Two important points to make here. First, players can never, ever lie and their answers should be based on the Neighbor card they were dealt. Second, cards are always discarded face-down to ensure that no other player gets an opportunity to read the card. Note that there are cards in the game that allow a player to avoid answering any questions during this phase.

Phase 3: The Situation

Up to this point, the game has consisted of nothing more than drawing cards and answering a yes/no question or two. Thematically speaking, all the players are being nosy neighbors. But now a situation has arisen that will impact the entire neighborhood, and depending on what type of neighbor the player’s are, they will want to influence its outcome in a very specific way.

The player with the First-Turn token will now draw a Situation card and read it out-loud to the table. Two neighborhood task forces will now be created. The leader of the first task force is the player with the First-Turn token. They will hand select half of the players to join them. If there is an odd number of players, the player with the First-Turn token can choose to have one extra or one less individual on their task force. Any players not selected are part of the second task force. The leader of the second task force is the player who was seated next to the last player selected to join the first task force. The leader of the second task force draws a Situation card and reads it out-loud to the table.

At this point, knowing who your neighbors are is a very good thing. You will not, for example, want to bring on a group of wicked neighbors if you are playing as a kind neighbor. But, at the same time, unrevealed neighbors do not want to give away any information about themselves, so it is beneficial to add a mix of neighbors to keep everyone at the table guessing!

If a player thinks they know what Neighbor card their opponent has, they are welcome to shout out-loud that they have uncovered the player’s secret and announce who the player’s Neighbor is by name. If they are correct, their opponent must reveal their Neighbor card which remains visible for the duration of the game, but they also get to add one randomly drawn Situation card to add to the score pile that matches their  now revealed Neighbor card’s personality (kind, wicked, or fickle). If they are incorrect, the player has outed themselves and they must reveal their Neighbor card, but they receive no bonus Situation card to be added to the score pile.

Interestingly enough, it is perfectly reasonable for a player to purposely out themselves or another player who they know (or think they know) is on their team. If they do so, they can draw a Situation card to add to the score pile. This could lead to the endgame condition being triggered.

Phase 4: The Response

Starting with the first task force and the player with the First-Turn token, each player will play 1 or 2 special Action cards to help address the situation their task force is assigned. These special cards show an image of 1 to 2 thumbs-up (noting a positive response) to 1 to 2 thumbs-down (noting a negative response). These cards are placed face-down in a pile in front of the Situation card. Once every player has played 1 or 2 cards, the task force leader will take the cards, shuffle them without looking, and then reveal them to all the players.

This is repeated as noted above for the second task force. If a player does not have an appropriate Action card to play, they can play 1 of any type of Action card to address the situation. This card, however, does nothing to influence the situation’s final outcome.

Any player who played at least 1 card to address the situation can now draw 1 Action card to add to their hand.

Optionally, players can guess another player’ neighbor at anytime during this phase as they could in phase 3.

Phase 5: Scoring

The Action cards are now scored for each Situation card. Each Situation card has a number value that indicates the number of points it is worth and by how much of a difference a total of  Kind or Wicked responses must be included for the Situation card to go a certain way. For example, the “Mediation” Situation card is worth 2 points and requires a difference of 2 or more for one side to win. The total number of Kind and Wicked responses are worth 1 point per thumb. A “Wicked Deed”, for example (which only shows 1 thumbs-down) is worth 1 point towards being Wicked.

Depending on the total number of Kind and Wicked Deeds for the situation, one of two things will happen.

  • If the total number of Kind or Wicked Deeds is equal to or greater than the total difference noted on the card, this card is placed in the scoring box for that group, face-up.
  • If the total number of Kind or Wicked Deeds is less than the total difference noted on the card or a tie, this card is placed in the “Fickle” scoring box, face-up.

Thematically speaking, the dominant personalities of each task force have won the day. The more wicked neighbors there are in a task force, the higher the odds of the situation’s outcome ending in a wicked deed. The same can be said for kind neighbors. Fickle neighbors are just that. Fickle. They don’t really care one way or the other and don’t see what the big deal is.

Game wise, this lets each player secretly influence the outcome of their Situation card to win points and win the game for their team.

Optionally, players can guess another player’ neighbor at anytime during this phase as they could in phase 3 and 4.

This ends the round. If the endgame condition has not been met, pass the First-Turn token to the next player going clockwise and begin a new round.

And the Sun Sets On the Quiet Neighborhood…

The game can end one of two ways.

The first is by total points. When one of the Kind, Fickle, or Wicked scoring piles has a total of 15 or more points, all the players reveal their Neighbor cards. The players who have Neighbors who are associated with that score pile (as indicated by the Neighbor card), win the game! Interestingly enough, this might be the very first time each player realizes who was and was not on their team.

The second is when a player achieves their Neighbor’s special victory condition, as noted on the Neighbor card. For example, one Neighbor card states the holder of the card wins for their team instantly if 3 Situation cards that deal with “Health” are placed in the Kind scoring pile. When the instant win condition is met, the player reveals their Neighbor card and the game ends.

To learn more about Do You Know Your Neighbors? and read the updated rules, see the game’s Kickstarter campaign page.

Prediction

Oh, what fun! I am a big fan of games where players don’t trust each other and the game is played out on a meta level within the social construct created by the players rather than at the table. Best example of this is Werewolf which is notorious for frustrating and exciting its participants in equal measure. That being said, I can already see where this game is going to have some issues with our groups. First, the game requires at least 5 players. That’s a hard number to get a hold of and organized for game play sessions, but this game appears to be perfect for parties, too. Hmm…might have to throw a party or two to get this game played. Second, the game requires a lot of reading, writing, and subtle thinking that might be a bit too advanced for our Child Geeks.

Teaching the game is not difficult, but explaining the game’s subtly is. Do You Know Your Neighbors? is about correctly guessing and then manipulating the other players to obtain your goals. If this was done out in the open, the game would be significantly easier to explain, but because the game’s high concentration of subterfuge, even after a player’s Neighbor card is revealed, I had to make sure I took the time to explain all the different ways a player could hurt themselves and their chances for winning. There was even more pressure than usual for a player to do well because they were playing for a team and they most certainly didn’t want to spoil the fun or possible victory for their fellow teammates! Never mind they had no idea who they were…

And so, as I set up the game for my family and friends, I asked my little geeks their thoughts on the game so far. Note that I put my two oldest on a team together to play as one neighbor.

“How can I trick you if I cannot lie? This game already sounds hard.” ~ Liam (age 8)

“You told us to never lie, Daddy!” ~ Nyhus (age 5)

Clearly, good parenting is slightly getting in the way of the game’s intent. All it took to clear this up was a minute or two of explaining that players were always required to tell the truth, but they were never forced to provide information freely. This seemed to appease my 8-year-old, but my 5-year-old was more confused than ever. Let’s start playing the game and see if he can work it out or if the game remains a mystery.

Final Word

Let’s focus on the Child Geeks first. This was a game that was very difficult for them to grasp. Not because the game has complex rules (it doesn’t) or because the game is too long (it isn’t). No, this game is hard because there’s a lot to remember and constantly consider. The game may play in rounds, but the game never has a break between them where players can let their minds cool off for a minute or two. On the contrary, the game requires the players to be constantly guessing, writing down notes, and taking into account new circumstantial evidence as it unfolds during the game. This proved to be way too much for the Child Geeks. The noted minimum age is 12-years-old, and that might very well be the case.

The Parent Geeks had no such issue but they did find the game to be challenging, entertaining, and engaging. The only issue they had with it, which they decided did not count against the game, was the level of focus that was required to play it. The game plays casual, plays fast, and demands total attention from its players or they might very well miss some important information. This proved to be difficult at times with little geeks running around, but not such a hardship that is caused them to be unhappy or frustrated with the game itself. Non-gamers had no problem playing this game and even stated that it didn’t feel much like a game, but rather a murder mystery (without the murder, of course).

Gamer Geeks very much enjoyed this game, and once they got over the print-n-play quality of the components, they had a wonderful time. The game requires strategy, tactics, influencing other players, craftiness, and best of all, smack talk. Oh, the smack talk. Lots of it and used in a way most unseemly. But that’s how the Gamer Geek’s roll and they had a great time with the game, despite their colorful language and subtle death threats to each other.

My two little geeks discuss who they should use their Clue card against while the rest of us scheme

Gamer Geeks, this is an interesting game that plays like a party game, but requires much more of your attention and Geek Skills than most party games on the market. You will need to pay close attention to all the players, see how quickly they react to situations, and note who they pick when they form teams. The game is played in the head and you must be sensitive to even the slightest changes in another player’s actions or body language. If you are a fan of Werewolf, you know exactly what I am talking about. Your peer group gladly approved this game and looked forward to adding it to their collection for epic Gamer Geek party nights.

Parent Geeks, your peer group also approved this game, but the testers wanted me to make sure to tell you that the game takes up a signification amount of your brain to play well. The level of attention you must give the game does not allow for screaming kids in the background. Everyone agreed that this was a game best played when the little geeks were watching a movie or asleep at night. When and if you do get it to the table, your peer group believes you will find the game to be unique, engaging, and best of all, lots of fun with plenty of conversation to go around the table. Expect to tell stories of your neighbors when you play the game, and on that note, make sure you play with neighbors who don’t gossip.

Child Geeks, your peer group was a bit baffled by this game and had a hard time keeping up with all the cloak and dagger antics. At this time in your early gaming career, you might find a game that plays on such an abstract social level to be a bit too difficult to grasp. What you know about another player is sometimes less important than what you don’t know. And if that doesn’t make any sense to you, then you really need to wait to play this game. We have mentioned the game Werewolf several times during this review (oh, look, we did it again!). We suggest you cut your teeth on that game before you sit down at the table with this one. You’ll be much better prepared and have much more fun.

Do You Know Your Neighbors? is one part Battlestar Galactica and one part Guess Who? As strange a mix as that might sound, the game works and works well. You want to know who your neighbors are and what motivates them, but there really isn’t any reason to call them out if you can help it. If you do, you earn that team points! But there is also a tactical benefit of letting others know who you are. This is especially true if you think another player is on to you. But then again, maybe you are on the same team and you’ve been working against each other! It’s enough to make the mind melt as you work your way through all the possibilities. When you have the right group of people who are really manipulating each other, the game takes some creepy turns as players start to make eyes at each other from across the table and mouth the words “Olive Juice”. Or, at least, I think that’s what they were saying.

In essence, this game creates (albeit temporary)  the very definition of Neighborhood Hell. Everyone is eavesdropping on each other, gossiping, manipulating, and being real jerks. There is no trust and everyone cooperates somewhat unwillingly with their own motives playing a major role in their decisions. Yes, even the kind ones. I’ve lived in neighborhoods like this and they are no fun. Lucky for you and the game designers, Do You Know Your Neighbors? is fun and so very much worth your time playing, despite the negative feeling you might have towards other players after the game has long since ended.

If you are looking for a unique party game that challenges a player to deduce, manipulate, hide, and be all polite and cordial with the enemy, do put out your Welcome Mat for Do You Know Your Neighbors?

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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3 Responses to Do You Know Your Neighbors? Game Review (prepublished version)

  1. Phil says:

    I have enjoyed reading and re-reading this review and I’m happy that the Parent and Gamer Geek crowds really got into the spirit of the game that we, the game designers, intended.

    If you still have the game handy, now that your child geeks have aged a couple of years since 2012, I would be thrilled to know how it plays with the slightly-older child geek. 🙂

    • Cyrus says:

      Sorry, the game is no longer in my possession. It met with an unfortunate accident with apple juice at the family gaming table.

    • Phil says:

      LoL. No worries. Apple juice does it every time. 🙂

      The design of the cards was massively updated during the Kickstarter (despite not being funded) and we’ve actually come up with 2 ways to decrease the components (to lower production costs too), one of which simplifies the use of Actions/Clue Cards. But, again, that’s mostly for cost considerations because, as you’ve pointed out that, all audiences picked up the rules and game play pretty quickly.

      The one thing that still poses a challenge for this game is the minimum of 5 players. If you have thoughts on that (that you possibly still remember) we’d be open to experimenting.

      But minimizing production cost and accommodating a smaller number of players were two of the main drivers we kept in mind while designing our newest game, Find It & Bind It. We’d love to send that to you as soon as you’re out from under the backlog of not-yet-reviewed games.

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