Examplary Game Review

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The Basics:

  • For ages 8 and up (publisher suggests 12+)
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • Approximately 5 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Hand/Resource Management
  • Imagination
  • Reflex & Speed

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Think of examples as quickly as you can to win the game!

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek mixed!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

The human brain learns by example and association. Something new is put in front of you and your brain immediately starts to think, “oh, this is like (insert thing here)!” This is how we learned NOT to pet saber-toothed tigers and to avoid  hiding underneath mammoths. In short,we learn through observation. The more we observe and experience, the more we can personally relate to the world around us. Time to test how closely you’ve paying attention!

Examplary, a self-published game designed by Brenden Winger, is comprised of 26 Letter cards, 43 Topic cards, and 3 Effect cards for a total of 72 cards. The cards use the same cardstock found in most card games and the illustrations on the cards are cartoonish and well done, complimenting the game’s theme and game play.

Game Set Up

To set up the game, first sort the cards into two different decks. The first deck will only contain the 26 Letter cards and is referred to as the Letter deck. The other deck will contain the 43 Topic and 3 Effect cards. This will be the Topic deck. Give both decks a really good shuffle and then set them face-down in the middle of the playing area within easy reach of all the players.

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From left to right, an example of the Letter, Topic, and Effect cards

Second, each player now draws cards from the two decks. A total of 4 from the Letter deck and 4 from the Topic deck, giving each player 8 cards in their hand. Players can look at their cards, but should keep them hidden from their opponents at all times.

That’s it for game set up. Time for some quick thinking and quick card plays!

Real-Time Quick Thinking

Examplary is a real-time card game. This means players do not take turns and everyone is playing at the same time from the very start. The game begins with one player flipping over the top Topic card from the Topic deck and playing it to the center of the table, face-up. All the players now do the following as soon as a legal play is possible.

Play a Letter Card

The first card that MUST be played is a Letter card. Where the first Letter card is placed on the table is where all future Letter cards will be played. When playing a Letter card, the letter on the card must be the first letter in the name of the “thing” that would be considered a legit example of the current Topic card showing. A player can play a new Letter card, overlaying the previously played Letter card, at anytime during the game.

For example, if the current Topic card is “Bug” and the player has the “C” Letter card, they can place the new Letter card down and shout “Caterpillar!”. The same player can immediately play another Letter card if they can use it to name a new “thing” that matches the visible Topic card. Of course, so could the player’s opponents.

Play a Topic Card

A new Topic card can overlay the previously played Topic card, but only if the player can immediately provide an example of a “thing” using the currently visible Letter card.

For example, if the current Letter card is “B” and the player has the “Objects in this Room” Topic card, they can place the new Topic card down and shout “Bowl!” as their example. The same player can immediately play another Topic card or a Letter card if they can use it legally. And yes, so can the player’s opponents.

The 72 Topic cards cover a very wide range of topics, including (but not at all limited to) “Musical Instruments”, “Presidents and Leaders”, “Flowers and Weeds”, and my 6-year-old’s personal favorite, “Prehistoric Creatures”.

When playing Topic and Letter cards, a few rules must be followed, along with any others the players at the table decide upon prior to playing.

  • The words used must all be from the same language or verifiable using the same language. For example, the player can say something in Latin, but it must be a Latin word that can be found in the English dictionary if English is the language of choice.
  • All words must be real words. You can’t use “Kerpumfilicious”. I’ve tried.
  • Any words derived from a fictional topic must be from a published or well-known work, be it a book, comic, movie, or cartoon.
  • Last names and nicknames are allowed, but they must be from well-known individuals and recognizable without further explanation of the nickname or the last name.
  • Unofficial descriptions do not count as legal.
  • Ignoring all articles, such as “a”, “an” , “the”, and “Mr.” or “Ms.” is perfectly legal when it comes to using titles. For example, you could use the “T” Letter card for “Mr. T”.

Not included with the short list of rules of play is the obvious proper words of choice that are acceptable for the audience at the table. Players should feel free to penalize a player if the word used is not considered appropriate for the “General Audience” (G-Rated) if the game is being played with the family. Of course, if playing with adults, anything goes.

Draw Cards

A player can draw more cards and add them to their hand whenever they like, but are never forced to. The one exception is the “Draw 2” Effect card explained below. It might seem counterintuitive to draw cards when the entire goal of the game is to get ride of them, but keep in mind that this is a game that can only be won if you can play cards. Some players might feel stuck with a card and having more cards might assist in naming examples. Additionally, the Effect cards cannot be the last card played to win a game (as explained below). When a draw pile is exhausted, its discard pile is not reshuffled to create a new draw deck until the end of the game.

Remember! When additional cards are played, they overlay the previous played card of the same type. In this way, there is always only 1 Topic card to play to and 1 Letter card to play to at anytime.

Effects

Included in the Topic deck are three Effect cards. These cards can be played at anytime by the player who has them and against any opponent. Note that the Effect cards cannot be the last card played to end the game. Players will need to draw cards if the only card  they have left to play is an Effect card. The Effect cards are as follows:

  • Freeze: This Effect card “freezes” an opponent. When a player is frozen, they cannot play any card until after the opponent who froze them plays a card. However, the maximum length of time a player can be frozen is only 30 seconds. After 30 seconds has past, the player can once again resume playing regardless if their opponent who froze them has played a card or not.
  • Bomb: This Effect card, once played, allows the player to take and remove from the game one card from anywhere. This could be a card from their hand, a visible Topic card, or a visible Letter card. BOOM! The card is gone.
  • Draw 2: This Effect card forces one opponent to draw 2 cards. The cards drawn can be from the same deck or 1 from each deck.

Winning the Game

The first player to play all their cards wins the game. An average game length is only about 5 or so minutes. As such, a single playing session usually consists of more than one game and the “winner” is the player who has won the majority of the games played.

To learn more about Examplary, visit the game’s website or visit the game’s web page on the Game Crafter.

Prediction

Word and language games are often time swell received by our Child and Parent Geek groups. They tend to be mostly miss with our Gamer Geeks. Examplary has two things going for it that might cause the Gamer Geeks to approve it. Specifically, the game is fast and creative. Emphasis here on the “fast”. Most Gamer Geeks I have played with can tolerate just about anything if it plays in less than 10 minutes. The average game play length of Examplary is only about 5 minutes, putting it well within the usual tolerance threshold of our gaming elitists.

But a quick game does not a good game make. Players need to be challenged and engaged. I think Examplary will do fine in both cases. Real-time game playing forces all the players to focus in and participate. It’s like being caught up in a flood. It doesn’t matter if you want to go swimming or not since you are being swept away by the current.

Right off the bat, I see a few possible issues that will cause the game to be rejected by some of our players. The first is the need to read and recognize letters. Played Topic cards can simply be read out loud, but a player keeps their own Letter and Topic cards secret. This allows them to manage their hand and play a card when the timing is right. For those younger players who cannot read or cannot read fast, they will be at a serious disadvantage or will simply not be able to play. Second, a player’s vocabulary and knowledge is the rocket that will send them flying over the finish line. Any player who has read more, seen more, and knows more will always have an advantage over younger players. Since this is a game of thinking of examples, the player who knows more will naturally have more examples in mind to use. Third, the real-time game play aspect makes for a fast and fun game playing experience, but it can also cause a lot of emotional heartache and stress. I have no doubt that a few of our younger players will be feeling left behind or be too flustered to keep up.

Teaching the game is very easy. Simply play a quick hand and everyone at the table will understand how the game is played. A minute or two should be spent explaining what words can and cannot be said, ensuring everyone understands and agrees. Players should also feel free to add in their own rules as needed.

After teaching the game to my 8-year-old, I asked him his thoughts on the game so far.

“Quick and easy. Sounds a little bit like the game we play in the car, too.” ~ Liam (age 8)

The game my little geek is referring to is one we made up. A parent shouts a word and the highly bored little geeks in the back attempt to shout back another word that is “like” the first word provided. Let’s play Examplary and see if it amuses or disappoints.

Final Word

The Child Geeks had a lot of fun with Examplary, but only by those who could read. We attempted to pair up younger Child Geeks with older Child Geeks and Parent Geeks, but this didn’t allow the younger Child Geek who could not read to do anything more than cheer their team on. The recommended age for the game is 12-years-old and older, but we found that any Child Geek who could read well played well. According to one Child Geek, “A neat game that made me think fast. But now my brain hurts.” The majority of Child Geeks we played the game with enjoyed themselves, with only a few suggesting the game was not a good one. For those few who didn’t like Examplary, their reasons included “stress”, “too fast”, and “I couldn’t’ think of a good example.”

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My little geek groans as I “freeze” him with an Effect card long enough to take this picture

The Parent Geeks really liked the game and thought it worked well at both their family gaming table and as a party game with their peers. Although, I disagree with the Parent Geeks’ suggestion that Examplary is a party game, it can certainly be played in a party-like atmosphere. One Parent Geek thought the game was “much better than Apples to Apples”, which honestly isn’t that big of a stretch. Another Parent Geek said, “What makes this game fun is that it is always different. The topic could be anything and there is no telling what Letter cards I have in my hand.” To which I took as a hint that the game was highly replayable. And replay it they did. With a typical game only lasting about 5 minutes, the Parent Geeks were able to put in about 5 games before they considered thinking about playing something else. And when they did, they all agreed to play Examplary again, finding it to be a fun game to play with family and friends.

The Gamer Geeks were very much split down the middle when it came time to give their endorsement. Half of the Gamer Geeks thought the game should be approved due to the speed of the game and the social fun it provided. According to one Gamer Geek from this group, “This is a fun game to play with a group of friends as a game opener, a filler, or whenever you just want a silly word game. I like it very much!” The other half was not nearly as gracious when it came to their thoughts on the game. According to one Gamer Geek from this group, “This game is repetitive by design. With each game only lasting about 5 minutes, you have no choice but to play multiple games in a row. There are only so many letters and so many topics. I got tired of the game super fast.” In the end, the Gamer Geeks who enjoyed light games that required its players to think fast and be creative approved Examplary. Those Gamer Geeks who thought the game was too short, to repetitive, and just not very interesting rejected Examplary.

Examplary is going to be a game that will incite a “like it or dislike it” kind of response from the very start. None of our groups went super crazy over it, but the majority of individual players enjoyed their time with the game. It’s well designed, colorfully illustrated, and plays exactly the way the designer intended. Which is to say, quickly. It’s the speed of the game that will turn off some players. A single playing session is lightning fast. Too fast for some and sometimes too fast for me. I observed players lock up and just stare at the gaming table with wide eyes because they couldn’t adjust to the game’s speed.

I think Examplary does a pretty good job of challenging players to think fast. The learning curve for Examplary is exceedingly easy. You can write the rules for the game on the back of your hand and still have room left over. The Effect cards are a nice touch, too, but don’t seem to play that big of a role in the game overall. In the end, it’s all about speed, speed, speed, and thinking slightly faster than your opponents. A player need not be creative, however. This is why I shy away from suggesting the game is a party game. It does little to bolster the party atmosphere other than being playable at a party. Players tended to shout out very mundane and typical “things” rather than trying to add entertainment value to the game by providing outrageous examples. A pity.

I would recommend Examplary to families first because the game play is perfect for a family gaming table setting. From there, I would suggest to Parent Geeks that Examplary is a good choice for the non-gamers or very casual gamers. I wouldn’t recommend the game to Gamer Geeks. It’s just too fast and lacks much in the way of depth. Still, worth a try, especially if you and those you play with like fast games where speed of the mind and lips needs to be just as fast as the cards played to the table.

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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2 Responses to Examplary Game Review

  1. Ben Haskett says:

    I’m a fan–like you said, very easy to understand, and it plays fast. What won me over at first were the colorful, quirky illustrations on all the cards. What I like about it is that it really does challenge me to think of super obscure stuff. I play it now mostly with my wife, although it does make a few appearances at game nights. I agree with what some of the gamer geeks said about it being almost too short–a “game” feels much more like a round. We usually play 3-4 rounds.

    I also agree that this is definitely not a party game! I think it’s limited to 4 player to purposefully nip that notion in the bud! 😀 Not only would it just be complete chaos, but to borrow your words again, it really is about saying anything at all that applies rather than saying something that might get a laugh. I think a good party game that has a similar feel to Examplary, while encouraging players to think out of the box, would be Scattergories.

    Great review, Cyrus! I added this game to BGG recently, if you’d like to leave your review there as well.

    • Cyrus says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read and to leave a comment, Ben. Much appreciated!

      I’ll be sure to copy/paste this review over at BGG when time allows.

      …I find it ironic that I have to “make the time” to “find the time” to do things nowadays…

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