- For ages 8 and up (publisher suggests 10+)
- For 3 to 6 players
- Approximately 15 minutes to complete
- Active Listening & Communication
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- A difficult task can be solved by a creative mind
- Gamer Geek rejected!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek approved!
American writer and illustrator, Dr. Seuss, said “I like nonsense; it wakes up the brain cells.” Which is to say, when we are confronted with a puzzle or situation where we are forced to think differently then what we are used to, our mental state expands. We grow through creative activities that challenge us to ponder, question, and conclude in new ways. In this game, answers will com easy to a creative mind.
Stinker, designed by Nick Bentley and published by FoxMind, is comprised of 200 Question cards, 141 Letter tiles, 12 “Wild” Letter tiles (orange with a skunk image), 1 card box (that helps organize the Question cards), 1 Score pad, 1 pencil, and 1 cloth bag. The Letter tiles are solid and made of plastic with printed letters and images of a skunk (which indicate the Letter tile is “wild”). The Question cards are thinner than I would like and prone to easily creasing if shuffled too roughly. This does not decrease from the game’s value or playability, but think twice about putting the cards in the hands of an energetic 6-year-old (he said from experience). Not included with the game, and optional for play, is a small object that can be used the track the location of tiles.
Note: As an aside, the word “stinker” suggests that someone or something is foul-smelling. The word is also used to name a difficult tasks or problem. For example, “Solving this math problem is a real stinker.”
What’s That Smell?
To set up the game, first give each player 2 “Wild” Letter tiles, returning any not used back to the game box.
Second, either place the Letter tiles in the middle of the playing area, flipping them so they are face-down, and then randomize them or put all the Letter tiles in the cloth bag. I suggest you use the cloth bag.
Third, have each player select 23 Letter tiles. Give players time to flip their Letter tiles so they are face-up in front of them, along with their previously given “Wild” Letter tiles.
Fourth, shuffle the Question cards and place them in the card box. Place the card box to one side of the game playing area.
Fifth, elect 1 player to be the Scorekeeper for the duration of the game and give them the pencil and Score pad.
That’s it for game set up. Determine who will select a Question card first and begin.
Stinker is played in rounds for a maximum number of 10 rounds per game. A round of game play is summarized here.
Step 1: Draw A Question Card and Read It Out Loud
Players can take turns drawing a new Question card for each round. The player reading the Question does participate in the round (no slacking off in this game). When the Question card is drawn, the player reads it out loud. Afterwards, it’s set face-up in front of them.
Step 2: Creative Spelling
As soon as the Question card is read, all players attempt to answer the question by creating an amusing answer using the Letter tiles they have in front of them. There are no minimum or maximum Letter tile number limits. A player’s response could be a single word, a phrase, or even a complete sentence.
“Wild” Letter tiles can be used to represent any letter and spelling should not be a concern. Nor should grammar. The goal is to create a humorous response as quickly as possible. Having said that, players cannot just throw a bunch of random Letter tiles together and suggest it says something it clearly does not.
Once a player is done creating their response, they shout “Stinker!” At which point they can no longer alter their Letter tiles.
Step 3: Judgement Time
Eventually all but 1 player will shout “Stinker!” The last player to shout (or better put, not shout) is the Judge for the round. The Judge takes the Question card, reads it out loud again, and then asks each player to read their response, starting with the player to the Judge’s left. If a player feels it’s necessary, they can explain their response to the Judge who may or may not require it. Each player is also welcome to explain to the Judge why they think they should win the round. As a courtesy, all other players should remain silent.
After hearing all the responses, arguments, and possible bribes, the Judge declares 1 player the winner. Determining the winner is completely subjective and the Judge’s ruling is final, but the primary purpose for all players was to provide the must humorous and creative answer. This should be taken into consideration by the Judge.
Step 4: Award Points
The player who won the round now counts the Letter tiles used in their answer and gives the number to the Scorekeeper who records it on the Score pad. “Wild” Tiles are not counted.
Step 5: Pass Those Tiles
All players now separate their “Wild” Letter tiles from their other Letter tiles. Then all Letters tiles (not the “Wild” Letter tiles) are passed to the player’s opponent on their left. All players now have new Letter tiles to use. A new round now begins starting with step 1 noted above. The opponent to the left of the player who read the Question card will read the new card, or simply have the same player read a new card.
New Tiles for All
When a player receives their original set of Letter tiles after being rotated to the left when the round is completed, all player return their Letter tiles (not the “Wild” Letter tiles) to the middle of the playing area or back to the cloth bag (depending on how the game was set up). Every player then draws a fresh set of 23 Letter tiles. The game then continues as normal. The game rules suggest tracking the rotation of tiles using a small object like a die or a coin. I personally suggest you do this, as it can become difficult to keep track of where tiles have or have not gone.
The Biggest Stinker
When the 10th and final round has completed, the Scorekeeper announces the game is over and calculates each player’s final score. The Scorekeeper then announces the scores of each player. The player with the highest score wins the game.
To learn more about Stinker, visit the game’s web page.
The Child Geeks had two different experiences. When they played with just their group, they did great. Groups who played together tended to be in the same age group, meaning their level of education also tended to be similar. When the Child Geeks played with Parent Geeks or older Child Geeks, frustration began to set in. As one Child Geek put it, “If you are playing with fast players, and you aren’t fast, you always get left behind.” The fact that the slowest player was given the most important job of the round made the Child Geeks feel better, but they also understood they weren’t getting points. This issue, however, was easily resolved by making sure mixed age and skill groups also had as many players as possible. More players meant a better chance of getting a word or phrase done. According to another Child Geek, “Even if you get a word done, you still need to get the Judge’s vote and you only get that if you are funny.” Very true and well put. Being the fastest doesn’t mean you are also the funniest. When all the games were over, the Child Geeks voted to approve Stinker.
The Parent Geeks really enjoyed the game, finding it to be the perfect blend of skill and silliness. According to one Parent Geek, “This game reminds me a bit of Apples to Apples, but you aren’t playing to a judge and your answers aren’t restricted to cards. It’s very entertaining!” Another Parent Geek said, “I was a bit concerned that spelling was unnecessary, but you still have to try to spell your best, which means some really crazy words are created. I can’t stop laughing.” The Parent Geeks also found the game to be very casual, despite the fact that they were all playing as quickly as possible. The smooth game play, easy transitions, and rewarding end of every round made the games go quickly and all Parent Geeks felt that their time was well spent, be it with their families or just their friends. The Parent Geeks voted to approve the game.
The Gamer Geeks are not big on Word games as a general rule, finding them to be lacking much in the way of strategy or tactics and instead focusing on vocabulary and spelling (to which I must say “duh”). They found nothing in Stinker to suggest that they should change their minds. However, they did appreciate that the game focused more on entertainment and creativity instead of language and spelling. According to one Gamer Geek, “This is a Word game I could play with others and tolerate. If you have the right crowd, I bet you could make this game a little bit like Cards Against Humanity!” True, it wouldn’t take much to tell players that the Judge should select the most raunchy and socially deplorable answer (which Cards Against Humanity thrives on). Another Gamer Geek said, “I like what the game designer did. The game plays fast, makes you think, and entertains you. I wouldn’t want to play it, but I would sit down and play it with others if asked.” In the end, the Gamer Geeks all agreed that Stinker was not a game for them and that the game, despite its name, was a game that didn’t stink at all.
Stinker addresses an issue that has always nagged me. When you play games where one individual is the judge, all other players tend to play towards that judge’s likes and dislikes. Which is not a bad thing, but it can stifle creativity and gives any player who knows the judge well a huge advantage over an opponent who does not. Stinker has addressed this by always making the judge of the round a mystery, meaning players must focus on the task of creating a humorous answer versus creating a humorous answer that they think a specific judge will like.
Another aspect of the game I’m every appreciative of is the lack of a sand timer. Sand timers work great, but they also require a player to watch them if they are to be effective. Ending a round based on the speed of the players kept everyone face-down in their tiles, sharp, and made the game play feel entertainingly frantic. You never knew how much time you had left. All you did know is that once an opponent said “Stinker!”, more shouts would quickly follow.
Finally, it was surprisingly refreshing to play a game that required spelling, but not good spelling. I have learned that the very letter you are looking for – the very letter you require to complete you word – is never to be found. This is not an issue in this game. If a player cannot find a letter, they need only to creatively work around it. True, this takes time, but it also allows the player to work around situations that would otherwise stop their creativity in their tracks. Now a player need only slightly detour, and in the process, create something that is very entertaining.
Stinker combines creativity with defined restraints that do not hinder. A masterful stroke, in my opinion, as so many games that deal with language often require a player to come to the table with a dictionary or an English degree. This is an empowering and entertaining game as a result. It’s a Word game that puts emphasis on speed, wit, and problem solving instead of grammar, spelling, and vocabulary. Which is not to say a player doesn’t benefit from knowing a lot of words, having ninja like spelling skills, or counts themselves a grammar wizard. It’s just that these skills are not necessary to compete or play. A fast hand, a fast mind, and razor like wit will beat a spelling bee champion.
Stinker is a game I would recommend to families who enjoy playing Word games who have players at different linguistic levels and skills. Stinker won’t level the playing field, but it does give players a very wide field to play on. Child Geeks will be able to compete with Parent Geeks and victory is not based on vocabulary skills, but on one’s sense of humor. And kids and adults can be really funny. Do play this game when time allows. I think you will find it to be far from stinky.
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.