Wits & Wagers Party Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 5 and up (publisher suggests 8+)
  • For 4 or more people (team play)
  • About 25 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading & Writing
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Cooperative & Team Play
  • Betting/Gambling

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • You don’t have to be a genius to play this game, but you do have to be a really good guesser

Endorsements:

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

Overview

Think you know the answer to everything? Doubtful and not even needed in this game, Mr. Smartypants! All you have to do is guess what could be the right answer! But your brain isn’t done yet! After you make a guess, you’ll be asked to review all the guesses and determine which one is the best! Maybe the right answer is there before you or maybe not. Doesn’t matter! You just need to determine which guess is the closest without going over the correct answer. That’s a lot of guessing! Smarts aren’t needed here; just really good hunches.

Wits & Wagers Party, by North Star Games, is comprised of 125 Question/Answer cards (double-sided, 2 questions per card for a total of 250 questions) 6 Answer boards, 6 dry erase markers, 50 plastic Poker chips, 1 Poker chip tray,and 1 Elvis Impersonator board (double-sided). The dry erase markers have an eraser on one end which makes it very easy to clean the Answer boards after each round. A nice touch.

Getting Ready to Party

To set up the game, first divide the players into groups as evenly as possible. Each team is given 1 dry erase pen, 1 Answer board, and 2 Betting tokens that match the color of their Answer board.

Find the Elvis Impersonator board (easily found, as it is the only board with an image of Elvis on it…yes, I’m assuming you know who Elvis was) and place it on the side with the “1” face-up in the center of the playing area.

Now choose a player to be the Question Reader (guess what they do) and have them draw 7 Question cards at random. After that, choose a player to be the Banker (their role should be obvious by the title) and give them the tray that contains all the Poker chips. When playing, the Question Reader and Banker will play in the game as “normal player”, but have specific role in the management of the game.

That’s it! Let’s party!

Getting Witty and Wagery

The game is played in 7 rounds (1 round per Question card) and is completed in 5 steps. These steps are as follows:

Step 1: The Question & Guesses

The Question Reader will select the top Question card and read one of the two questions on it out-loud to all the players. The teams will discuss (quietly) what they think the answer is and then write it on their Answer board using the dry erase marker. Once they are done, they place their Answer board face-down in front of them showing the rest of the players they are awesome. The Question Reader should help their team but make sure they don’t flip the Question card over until the end of the round.

Note that I wrote “guess” and not “answer”. There’s a reason for this. It is doubtful (although not completely impossible) that a person or team will know the answer to the question. The idea here is to guess the correct answer, or better yet, guess an answer that sounds right. You’ll see why in a moment.

Step 2: Sorting the Guesses

All of the Answer boards are now flipped over, revealing each team’s guess. From left to right, sort the guesses from the smallest value to highest value, with the Elvis Impersonator board being first (unless someone guessed zero or less). If two or more guesses are the same value, they are stacked on one another with both values showing.

Step 3: Gambling on Guesses

Each team will now place their Betting tokens on the Answer boards. Teams can place their bets on two different Answer boards (one token per board) or place both tokens on one Answer board. The goal is to bet on the board that has a guess that is closest to the answer without going over it. For example, if the answer was “42”, selecting the guess “43” would be terribly incorrect. By placing a Betting token on two Answer boards, the teams can reduce their level of risk of not getting any points this round.

Teams are welcome to place their Betting tokens on their own Answer boards if they think they have the best guess.

Step 4: The Right Answer and Payment

Once all the Betting tokens have been placed, the Question Reader reads out-loud the answer. The team who wrote down a guess that is the closest to the answer without going over it is the winner for this round. The Banker now distributes the Poker chips as follows:

  • Poker chip given to the team with the winning guess
  • Poker chip to each team for each Betting token they placed on the correct guess

Step 5: Clean Up

After the Poker chips have been handed out, all teams collect their Answer boards and Betting tokens. The Answer boards are erased while the Question Reader discards the question they just asked. Once everyone is ready, the next round begins with Step 1 and a new question.

The Final Question

The final question is asked in round 7. For this round only, all teams may include their hard-won Poker chips while betting on guesses. Any used Poker chips are placed under the team’s Betting tokens. When Step 4 is started, a team will be awarded 1 Poker chip for each Poker chip under their correctly placed Betting token, including the Poker chip they would have won with just their Betting token. For example, if the player placed 5 Poker chips under their Betting token on the closest guess, they would be awarded 6 Poker chips (5 chips + 1 correctly placed Betting token = 6 chips).

Teams are welcome to place all, some, or none of their Poker chips on the seventh round. Any Poker chips included with a Betting token that is not placed on the closest guess are lost.

Victory!

The team with the most Poker chips wins the game at the end of the seventh round. If there is a tie, the tying teams pick one team member each to engage in a fist fight.

No, no, no. Ha! Can you imagine? That would be crazy! Probably criminal, too…

In case of a tie, the victory goes to the team with the youngest player. Just one more reason to play with little geeks, folks.

Game Variant

There are three game variants provided in the game rules that can be used instead of the basic rules.

Double Payout Elvis

The Elvis Impersonator board is double-sided. On one side are the words, “Pays Double!”. Use this in your game and any Betting tokens (or Poker chips on the seventh round) pay out double, but only if  “1” is the closest correct guess.

Bonus Points for Being Super Lucky

If a team should happen to correctly guess the real answer to the question, they are awarded 2 extra Poker chips. The rest of the teams should then accuse them of cheating.

A Fool and Their Money

All teams are allowed to use their Poker chips during all seven rounds instead of just the seventh and final round. Think very carefully before you place those chips, folks.

To learn more about Wits & Wagers Party, see the North Star Games web site.

Prediction

Knowledge-based games are difficult to play with little geeks. While the game mechanisms and rules are easy enough to demonstrate, what is needed and not quickly learned is the amount of knowledge required to play trivia and knowledge-based games well. For example, teaching Trivial Pursuit will only take a minute or two, but  to win a player must have extensive knowledge of random facts. For little geeks who are still learning how to read, write, and do math, these games are clearly not well suited.

Wits & Wagers Party is different. It isn’t asking or expecting the players to “know it all”. In fact, the point is not in the “knowing” but in the “guessing”. Guessing the answer right is nice, but the players are rewarded for how “close” they are and how many other players think they are correct. This greatly reduces the level of specific knowledge the player needs and puts more emphasis on logical thinking.

The team play aspect of the game also makes Wits & Wagers Party more welcoming to little geeks and any players who would be intimidated playing a knowledge-based game. By allowing players to group together, the burden of guessing correctly is removed from an individual’s shoulders and is shared by the team. This also allows for some excellent social skill developement, as well as communication.

All of this makes Wits & Wagers Party look like a real winner just by reading the rules. It isn’t a cakewalk, but it certainly isn’t a marathon, either.

This is a very easy game to teach. I put emphasis on “guessing as close as possible” versus “guessing correctly”. This was, for some, a surprisingly difficult concept to grasp. They wanted to know if the game penalized a player if they knew the answer. I made sure they knew the game certainly did not, but it rewarded the correct answer just as highly as the closest answer.

For my two oldest little geeks, ages 5 and 7-years-old, they had no issues or any questions after I explained the game. They understood what was expected of them (which is to say, contribute to the team discussion and think of a really good guess) and how the game could be won. We did a few trial questions and they both did very well, demonstrating the ability to logically think through the question and then being team players by engaging in team conversation to help their group come up with an answer. And so, as I set up the game for our first play, I asked them their thoughts.

“I really like how I don’t have to know the right answer and I get to be part of the team. A lot less stressful!” ~ Liam (age 7)

“This game makes me feel really smart, Daddy!” ~ Nyhus (age 5)

The Question Reader has been selected, the Banker has the chips, and all the teams have a marker. Time to play and see if this game is the life or the death of the party.

Final Word

It is important to note that this game does require a player be able to read and do math, but not all of them. This allowed my 5-year-old to play just as much as the adults. When playing with your little geeks, absolutely let them be the Question Reader or the Banker, but they can play the game just as team members, too, and have just as much fun.

My little geeks loved the game and really liked the feeling of being part of a team. They both worked well with others and, most importantly, listened. When you engage in a team activity, it is difficult sometimes to realize that you are no longer an individual, but part of a larger collective. You must give way to other individuals and find compromise where needed for the good of the group. My 5-year-old was a bit disappointed at times that no one thought his suggestions were good enough to use, but he was just as vocal as the rest of his team members. The same could be said for my 7-year-old who was bold enough to tell some adults they were wrong.

Parent Geeks had a wonderful time with the game, both playing with their own age group and their families. More so with their families as they often were not on the same team. Brother competed against sister, husband against wife, and everyone had a wonderful time. The betting aspect of the game was greatly enjoyed and it was a lot of fun to see teams risk it all to win the final round and possibly the game.

Gamer Geeks were very mixed. For those who were familiar with Wits & Wagersthey found Wits & Wagers Party to be bland. They suggested it was a simplified and boring version of the game they loved. Without the more complex and high-stakes betting aspect, they thought the game had little to no real excitement. In sharp contrast, those Gamer Geeks who had not yet played Wits & Wagers thought Wits & Wagers Party was simply outstanding and believed it to be a marvelous party game that felt very much like a gamer’s game. Because of the reason for the split approval, we decided to mark this game as “Gamer Geek approved”, based on real Gamer Geeks liking the game.

As my wife reads the question, my little geeks listen intently

Gamer Geeks, if you have played and enjoyed Wits & Wagers, you will find Wits & Wagers Party to be simple, lacking excitement, and having the ability to risk high to be awarded big points. It will feel like a party game and a pale shadow of everything you love and enjoy when playing Wits & Wagers. If you have not played Wits & Wagers before, you will find this party game to be unique in its way of awarding points to players for guessing the closest answer versus the correct one. There is a strategy here that is very subtle and that is to guess the answer that sounds the best to everyone versus being the most accurate. If you can get other players to bet on your answer, you will gain even more points. The betting aspect and the team play will elevate this game beyond your standard knowledge-based and trivia party games.

Parent Geeks, this is a fun family game that can be played by a very wide age range with an even wider range of experience. Gamer Geeks and little geeks can sit at the same table and play as equals without the need to water down any of the game play. Question are not easy, but no one needs to be brilliant to answer them. The object is to guess the closest and all that requires is some critical thinking. Collect what your team knows and then write down your best guess based on everyone’s input. Then bet on what you think is the best guess. You’ll learn a lot of interesting and random facts, but more importantly, have a lot of fun.

Child Geeks, this is knowledge-based game that you can play right now. You don’t need to be a mom, a dad, a professor, or even a high school student to play. You will need, however, to be a team player, listen to everyone in your group, and contribute. You might not know the right answer to a question, but I’m sure you’ve got some thoughts on what the right answer could be. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, suggest better answers, and disagree with your team members. But most importantly, don’t forget you can’t do it alone. This is a team game and every person is important, regardless of their age or experience. You will be part of and help your team to victory or defeat, while laughing the entire way.

Wits & Wagers Party might best be thought of as the blended version of Wits & Wagers and Wits & Wagers FamilyBut by blending, a little bit is lost from both games from which it is derived. For example, Wits & Wagers has an engaging betting game mechanism that allows the players to wager all their points per question with different levels of payout. For those who like a very strong gambling aspect to their games, where they can hedge their bets and win the game by playing the odds (or loosing it all in a single turn), Wits & Wagers Party will disappointWits & Wagers Family removes all betting and only has the player’s collect points per correct answer. This makes the game play much faster and easier for younger players. For those who like a simple game of just winning points without a chance to lose them, Wits & Wagers Party will feel a bit harsh in the way it penalizes players for guessing incorrectly on the seventh round if Poker chips are used.

So where does this leave Wits & Wagers Party? Simply put, in the middle. It takes elements from both games that came before it and puts them together in a way that is both appropriate for younger players and provides just enough risk and reward for those who like to push their luck. But as my mother always said, you can’t be all things to all people. Luckily, Wits & Wagers Party doesn’t need to be, nor is it trying to be. It is the “middle ground”, not too hard and not too soft. It will challenge and reward, but not penalize to a point where players are left out in the cold. And yet, at the same time, it will allow the players to lose if they are not smart with their betting. The end result is an excellent merger that is fun for mixed age groups and skill levels.

If you are not familiar with the Wits & Wagers line of games, Wits & Wagers Party is a great introduction. For those who have Wits & Wagers Family and are looking for the “next step up”, Wits & Wagers Party is perfect. For those players who already enjoy Wits & WagersWits & Wagers Party will feel very simple. Regardless of your experience level, Wits & Wagers Party is a solid game and one worth playing or introducing to friends and family at your next game gathering.

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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