Crappy Birthday Game Review


The Basics:

  • For ages 5 and up (publisher suggests 8+)
  • For 3 or more players
  • Approximately 20 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • It’s better to give than to receive, especially in this game


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


Remember blowing out the candles on your cake and making a birthday wish? Of course you do. I’ve always wished for the original G.I. Joe U.S.S. Flag Aircraft Carrier. Sadly, no matter how many candles I blow out, my wish never comes true. That’s OK, because it’s the thought that counts, right? Well…sometimes. The idea that there is no such thing as a “bad gift” is thoroughly explored and repeatedly debunked in this gift-giving party game of hilarity.

Crappy Birthday, designed by Brian and Amy Weinstock and published by North Star Games, LLC , is comprised of 200 Gift cards that represent some of the craziest, off-beat, horrible, and most awesome of awesome gifts a player could ever hope (or fear) to receive. And believe it or not, that’s it. Well, there’s the box it comes in, which also looks like a gift. Nice touch! Other than that, nothing else is included.

Birthday Set Up

To set up the game, first take the 200 gift cards and shuffle them. This is a bit harder than it sounds because the Gift cards are lager than your standard playing card. Do the best you can; I know you can do it. I believe in you…

Second, deal 5 Gift cards to each player, face-down. Players should look, read, and laugh at their Gift cards but SHOULD NOT let their opponents see them…ever! Place the Gift card deck off to one side and face-down.

Third, randomly pick a player to be the Birthday Judge, a neat title given to the individual who will be given all the crazy gifts for a single round of the game. Everyone else in the game are the “Gift Givers”.

That’s it for game set up! Let’s get to the birthday bash!


The game is played in turns with no set number of turns in a single game. A typical game turn is summarized here.

Phase 1: The Selection of Gifts

All players, except the player who is the Birthday Judge, will look through their Gift cards and select one to give. The Gift Givers should be selecting a gift that will either be viewed as the WORST GIFT IMAGINABLE or THE MOST AWESOMEST GIFT IN ALL OF CREATION!  Or both, if they believe the Birthday Judge could go either way with it. Once selected, the Gift card is placed in the center of the playing area, face-down.

Phase 2: The Giving of Gifts

The Birthday Judge now collects the Gift cards and shuffles them so they do not know who gave what horrible/awesome (or horribly awesome) gift. Then they are revealed, one at a time, and read out loud to the table.

Phase 3: The Judging of the Gifts

Each player can now take a turn in educating the Birthday Judge why some gifts are better than others. Only one player at a time can do this, and no one should verbally agree or disagree with what the player says. Note I said “verbally”. Body language, such as shaking ones head sadly or raising a shaking fist to the Heavens in rage is permissible.

Depending on your personal taste, both of these could be really cool gifts

Depending on your personal taste, both of these could be really cool gifts

Once every player has had a chance to give their highly subjective opinion about the gifts, the Birthday Judge must determine which gift they like the most and which gift they like the least. When determining which two gifts get the prestigious awards, they should consider each gift in turn and base it on actual usage (even if the use of said gift is not possible). For example, if a player is given a Yard Gnome, and doesn’t have a yard, they should still consider the value of the gift based on if they had a yard large enough to support a free-ranging Yard Gnome to begin with. In short, it’s the “thought that matters” the most here.

Awwwwwww, that’s nice…

Phase 4: The Reveal

Once the two gifts are revealed, the owners of the Gift cards take them and put them in a score pile face-up in front of their sitting position. All the other Gift cards are collected and placed in a discard pile. All players should promise to never speak of the trashed gifts again. Feelings will be hurt…

Phase 5: New Gifts!

All players are now dealt 5 new Gift cards (except for the Birthday Judge who still has their 5 Gift cards from the last round) and the next player in turn order now has their Birthday Party and becomes the Birthday Judge! Yeah!

Birthday Wishes Really Do Come True…

The game continues until 1 player has collected 5 or more Gift cards. They are the Birthday Boss and win the game!

Birthday Variant

When playing with 3 or 4 players, have each Gift Giver select 2 Gift cards to give. The Gift Givers can select one that they think is the best and one that they think is the worst, or improve their odds of getting a point by selecting two Gift cards that are the best or the worst. The rest of the game is played as normal.

To learn more about Crappy Birthday, visit the game’s web page.


Yes, Crappy Birthday is like Apples to Apples. But it’s also like DixitCards Against Humanity (I keep being asked to review this game), Wordneror any other party card game where playing to a specific player’s likes and dislikes is a major component to the game play. To suggest that Crappy Birthday is doing anything new would be blatantly false, but it’s a refreshing new take on a very familiar party game theme. Extra points for being about gifts, too.

For the Child Geeks and the Parent Geeks, I think Crappy Birthday will produce a lot of laughs and thumbs up all around. The game is easy, the gifts are outrageous, and the game is sure to spark some interesting debates over what is “good” and what is “bad”. I think the Gamer Geeks will be mixed on the game, at best. I know that there will be some Gamer Geeks who will trash the game simply because it uses the same game mechanisms and playing style as Apples to Apples. But there are also going to be Gamer Geeks who will really enjoy the light game play and fun social interaction.

Teaching the game is so simple you could write the instructions on the back of a matchbox and still have room to draw a picture. Honestly, I went into WAY MORE detail than what was probably necessary in the overview section of the review. All the players need to know is that they are attempting to get their Gift card picked. Either as the best or the worst gift. Do it five times and you win. Very simple. The only aspect of the game play that might need a bit more discussion is the selection of said gifts when it comes to voting. We handled this by simply telling all the players to “select the gifts that make the most sense regardless of the circumstances.” Actually, that’s what we told the Parent and Gamer Geeks. We told the Child Geeks to simply pick what they thought was the “coolest” or the “dumbest”.

After teaching the game to my two oldest little geeks (you don’t have to read the Gift cards to play the game, but you do need to be able to read the Birthday Judge), everyone was eager to start playing. I let my Child Geeks go through the Gift cards prior to playing the game so they knew what to expect. This created a lot of buzz around my house. After everyone was calmed down and in their chairs, I asked my Child Geeks their thoughts on the game so far.

“Really funny gifts, but you know, there are a lot shown that I wouldn’t mind getting as a gift.” ~ Liam (age 8)

“Some of the cards are really strange, but a lot of them make me laugh.” ~ Nyhus (age 5)

Both of my Child Geeks are right. Some of the gifts are really, really cool. And lots are really, really strange and hilarious. Let’s play Crappy Birthday and see if it’s a game worth keeping or we’ll be re-gifting it as soon as possible.

Final Word

Crappy Birthday met with great success with the Child Geeks. Little geeks as young as 5-years-old had no problem playing the game without any help. They might have been at a slight disadvantage because they couldn’t read the card text that accompanies each gift, but the wordage is really only there to help establish what the gift could be used for. The images that depict the gift are so outstandingly wonderful and bizarre, any player should be able to look at them and quickly decide if the gift has a shot of being selected or not. The Child Geeks laughed and groaned throughout the entire game, having a wonderful time from start to finish. By far, the most popular role to play was the Birthday Judge and the Child Geeks basked in the glow of their supreme gift judging power. When the game was done and the cards put away, all the Child Geeks said that Crappy Birthday was a game well worth keeping.

My oldest little geek makes his case to his grandmother

My oldest little geek makes his case to his grandmother

The Parent Geeks also had a great time. With the family, Crappy Birthday was found to be a very casual social game full of fun. At a peer level, Crappy Birthday took on a decidedly more “adult theme” and the debates between competing gift givers were much more heated and sarcastic than they were with the Child Geeks. To me, this showed the game had depth of social play and the Parent Geeks recognized this fact, too. According to one Parent Geek, “this is a game I can play with my kids and then with my friends and get two different experiences with it.” Very true, but really all we are talking about here is a shift in the social setting. With the family, the game was fun but “family-friendly” and with just the Parent Geeks, the game was much more adult. The same game played the same way, but enjoyed on different levels depending on the social circle it was played in. All the Parent Geeks voted to approve the game without a second thought.

The Gamer Geeks were mixed, as expected. For those who didn’t care for games like Crappy Birthday, the oddball gifts amused, but not the game play. According to one Gamer Geek, “this isn’t really going to keep my interest for very long. After I see all the gift cards, I’ll be done with it.” But we also had Gamer Geeks who really enjoyed the game. According to one very happy Gamer Geek, “you know what makes this game great? Not the cards; it’s the people you play it with. I can teach this game to non-gamers and gamers alike and play it with them at the same table.” A solid mix of both approved and rejected, much like the many loved or hated gifts the game contains.

I really dislike Apples to Apples. I am all kinds of burnt out on it. But I really enjoy Crappy Birthday. I know why, too. Crappy Birthday lets me be imaginative and laugh out loud at the player choices and my own. I very much enjoy the aspect of attempting to match a gift to a player’s preference and that makes each Gift card highly replayable, too. I’ve heard a few players suggest that Crappy Birthday will quickly lose any fun value once the players have seen all the cards. I do not agree. Each card is a potential gift that might or might not be liked by the Birthday Judge. Picking a gift that will really irritate or highly enthrall the Birthday Judge will always be a different experience because you never know what your opponents are going to select. And, yes, I do recognize that some of the gifts depicted will always be seen as horrible or awesome, but that doesn’t mean the Birthday Judge will always select them. Both the gift giver’s and the gift receiver’s personal likes and dislikes will always play a role in the final selection of the Gift card.

I also recognize that the love for the game might not be long-lasting. Crappy Birthday is very simple, and because of its simplicity, the lack of challenge will make it forgettable for some players. But as a party and family game, I think Crappy Birthday does a great job delivering what it intended: a fun and casual experience with lots of laughs and outrageous gifts.

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.

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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 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 Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....

2 Responses to Crappy Birthday Game Review

  1. Ben Haskett says:

    I think I would be willing to engage in fisticuffs over a leg lamp! The cinematic history there is golden!

    • Cyrus says:

      Just make sure you know whose leg it is you are fighting for before you start swinging, Ben. That might be Ethel Smith’s leg…

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