Joe Name It Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 12 and up
  • For 2 or more players
  • About 15 minutes to play

Geek Skills:

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

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Moderate
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • None

Endorsements:

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

Overview

Smarts and wits will be tested as the players are tasked to name a random number of people, places, or things. Sometimes, only one player will be put in the hot seat. Other times, everyone can play. Regardless, all the players must do their best to be the first to win the game as the game is also playing against the players! This makes for a strange mix of cooperative and competitive game play that is going to be a lot of fun at your next family gathering or party!

Joe Name It is comprised or 200 cards and 1 six-sided die. The game comes in a very small box making it easy to take to your next party. All the components are of high quality and the text on the cards are easy to read. All in all, another quality game by Gamewright.

Game Set Up

To set up the game, place the six-sided die and the game box that is holding the cards in the center of the playing area. The players should situate themselves around the playing area so that they can roll the die and draw cards.

The player whose name is the closest alphabetically to “Joe” goes first (sorry, Zoe). You are now ready to play!

Playing the Game

On their turn, the player will draw a card from the game box. There are two types of cards that can be drawn:

  • Just Joe: This card type indicates that only the player who drew the card should attempt to answer the card. All the other players should remain silent, but snickering and eye rolling is allowed – heck – even encouraged.
  • Any Joe: This card type indicates that all the players can attempt to answer the card and steal the point from the player who drew the card.

Regardless of the card type drawn, the player who drew the card will roll the six-sided die and then read the question on the card out loud. On the card there is a blank space identified with a solid black underline. The number rolled is used for this space. For example, if the card read “Name ____ type(s) of lettuce” and the player rolled a “3”, the player would read the card out loud as “Name 3 types of lettuce“, replacing the space with the number rolled.

If the card is for a single-player (Just Joe), then the player who drew the card has an unspecified amount of time to attempt to name the number of whatever was asked for by the card. The unspecified time allotted to the player is up to the rest of the players since there is no timer device or tracker included in the game. The group decides but should play it fair and give all the players roughly the same amount of time. More on this in a moment.

If the card is all-play (Any Joe), then all player attempt to name the number of whatever was asked for by the card. If there are ties, the group decides who should get the card.

Once the card has or has not been answered correctly, the player’s turn is over and the next player to the left goes.

How Much Time Is Reasonable?

“Reasonable time” is pretty gosh-darn vague. What is “reasonable” anyway? Two seconds? Five minute? As it turns out, there is actually a mathematical formula provided by the game you can use to define how much time spent is reasonable. Reasonable amount of time for any question is so many seconds more than the die value rolled, but less than the die value rolled in minutes. For example, a die roll of 4 would mean a reasonable amount of time would be more than 4 seconds, but less than 4 minutes.

On a personal note, we disliked this rule and simply added a sand-timer to the game. Worked brilliantly.

NO JOE!

If a card requires a number of whatever that is impossible to provide, then a player can shout out “NO JOE!”. If this is done during a single-play (Just Joe) round, only the player who drew the card can shout it out to be awarded the card.  If this is done during an all-play (Any Joe) round, the person who shouts it out first is awarded the card. Regardless, the group must decide if the card/number combination really is impossible to answer. If they agree, the card is awarded to the individual player who shouted out “NO JOE!”. If another player disagrees and can provide the answer, they win the card instead!

It should be noted that the game rules strongly suggest players use their smartphones or other internet connected devices to determine if card/number combinations really are impossible or not.

Winning the Game

The first player to collect 10 cards wins the game.

Ah, but there’s a catch!

If a player should ever not be able to name the number of whatever was asked for by the card, it is put in a separate pile referred to as “Joe’s Pile”. This pile goes in the center of the playing area. If the Joe Pile should ever have 10 or more cards in it, the game ends and no player wins the game. This includes any player who happens to be named Joe, too.

To learn more about the game and read the rules, visit the game’s official site.

Prediction

Joe Name It is a hard one to predict. On one hand, the game is fast, energetic, and allow a large group of people to play the game. My little geeks love these types of games. On the other hand, the game is knowledge-based which puts my little geeks at a disadvantage. Of course, their disadvantage is the same as any other player’s who might not have any or very little knowledge on the item requested to be named. For example, if I was told to give you $100 or name the Italian word for the number “6”, I’d have to write you a check because I don’t care that much cash on me.

But just because something could be difficult doesn’t mean you don’t give it a try. I sat my two oldest little geeks down knowing full well they were both below the suggested age range for the game. We have played many, many games in the past where my little geeks were not within the targeted age range and they did just fine.

After I explained the game to my little geeks, I asked them their thoughts.

“I like how you have to play against the game.” ~ Liam (age 7)

“Can I be on your team, Daddy?” ~ Nyhus (age 4)

I’m not getting a strong vibe off my little geeks that this is a game they are going to enjoy. Let’s play it and see.

Final Word

My little geeks did not enjoy this game, but not because it was a bad game. The knowledge-base required to play this game and play this game well far exceeds what my little geeks can bring to the table for now. We tried several cards and they were either very easy or too hard. There were very few cards that were what I would consider “middle of the road” when it came to being answerable from any player below 12. For that reason, the suggested age range by the publisher might very well be spot on. Of course, if your child is a super genius and has been going to Harvard on a full ride scholarship since they were old enough to crawl, this game might be right for them. For the rest of us, we’ll have to wait a couple of years.

But waiting is not a problem as this knowledge-base game will not be going stale anytime soon. The questions are vague enough to stay fresh for many years to come. Many trivia and other knowledge-based games cannot boast the same as their questions and difficulty tend to be locked in the current culture or not too distant past. Doubt my words? Go back and find your old copy of the Trivia Pursuit published in the 80’s and sit down with a child born in the early 90’s and see how well they do. Odds are they won’t have a clue what is being asked of them unless the topic areas are asking geographical and science questions. Even then, it’s a solid “maybe”. Joe Name It does not suffer from this as the task at hand asks the player to name current things. For example, take the following three cards I just drew randomly.

“Name a state you can drive to on US Route ____”

“Name ___ monster(s) from Japanese monster movies.”

“Name ___ human character(s) on Sesame Street.”

The three cards are asking for players to name things that are pretty much going to change over time but are not by any means locked by the “here and now” or a specific date. US Routes will be around for as long as we have roads, Japan will never ever stop making monster movies, and Sesame Street is eternal (or so I hope). As you can see, Joe Name It will be as relevant to the players now as it will be most likely 10 years from now with very few exceptions. This, along with the random number of things to name, gives the game an extended life on your game shelf. If you can’t play the game now with your little geeks, keep it until they can and you’ll be just as happy.

Not being able to play the game well, my little geeks started reading me the cards and laughed as they watched their daddy squirm when he couldn't win the card!

Gamer Geeks, this is a trivia knowledge-based game, and as such, I don’t think it is for you. Fun for parties, to be certain, but at a “gamer’s table”? Doubtful. It does have a fun element to it that essentially has the game playing against the players with makes the game all the more exciting. Recall that when a player fails to name the specified number of whatever, the card is collected in the “Joe Pile”. If this pile should ever have 10 or more cards, the game wins, not the players. Such game mechanics should be familiar to the seasoned gamers as there are a large number of games available today where the game plays against the players. For example, Forbidden Island. As a gamer, I give this game a solid nod of approval and will be one of the first I’d suggest we play with adult friends, but I won’t be suggesting it to my weekly game group.

Parent Geeks, if you have older little geeks that are 12 or older, this is a fun knowledge-based game that will have the entire table engaged. For parties and family gatherings, this game is a great one to bring out. It allows for larger groups, and plays very quickly. You’ll also note that a mixed generational group will be a lot of fun. Parents who remember Sesame Street will be shouting out characters the younger little geeks never had heard of! This is sure to spark some interesting side conversations and some wonderful stories.

Child Geeks, if you are less than 12-years-old, this game is not for you. My little geeks tried and universally agreed that the game was good and interesting, but too difficult for them. When you are old enough to play, I have little doubt you’ll enjoy it. It will challenge you and there might very well be items you need to name you have never heard off, but that’s just fine. You’re young, learning, and are not expected to know everything. Heck, I’m in my 30’s and the number of things I don’t know about could fill 10 Library of Congresses.

Knowledge-based games are tricky as they are not a game you can play again and again to get better ate. The player’s strength is completely determined by how much they know and how quickly they can recall versus game mechanics that create a level playing field. Still, knowledge-based games have their place and are well-loved by individuals who enjoy games that require facts and figures rather than die rolls and card plays. Personally, I like them all and have been able to find a place and occasion to play just about every game I have ever come across. I look forward to playing Joe Name It with my little geeks when the time is right. Until then, I will bring it out at parties or with dinners with friends and will have a great time.

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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