On The Spot Games

Yesterday I got a bunch of games from On The Spot Games. All the games are designed by James Ernest and Mike Selinker, and aimed towards somewhat mass-market crowd, I’d say — they are very simple games, some definitely aimed for the party game audience, others for couples or families.

I already tried Kotsuku, which is a word game for two players. The game is played on a grid (typically 5×5), with few letters already placed. Players take turn to add letters to the grid (each letter can only be used once). First one to create a three-letter (or longer) word, wins.

I didn’t like it. The game sounded a bit daft based on the rules, and a quick game confirmed that. The problem is simple: once you put two letters close to each other, your opponent can strike in and create a three-letter word. The game becomes one of avoidance: you use the hardest letters possible as far from each other as possible to prevent your opponent from creating a word. First one to make a mistake loses, or the one with a wider vocabulary of three-letter words (so your opponent thinks a word cannot be created with the letter he plays, but you know better and score a win).

Maybe someone enjoys that kind of game, but I found it frustrating, pointless and annoying. Won’t play again, and neither will Johanna.

Trendsetters is a pure party game — it doesn’t even have winners or anything. Unfortunately the game has a maximum of four players; I think the game could use more players. Players are asked multiple choice questions (things like “which is the best movie?”, “which would you most like to drink?”) and players answer in secret using voting wheels. Players try to predict what others will answer: if you’re not in the majority, you get a strike. Five strikes, and you’ll have to do a penalty (rules suggest singing a Barry Manilow song).

Sounds fun enough, though I wonder how this works with just three players. Even four sounds like not enough, as there are six alternatives to the questions. What if everybody chooses a different answer? Well, you can expand the game to more players, if you ditch the voting wheels, and I think that’s probably a good idea even though the voting wheels are pretty neat.

Zero In is a game of guessing celebrities. Each card has four celebrities, and five clues for each. You get five points, if you guess the celebrity with the first clue (always the profession and the initial letter of the celebrity’s last name), four for the second clue and so on. The goal is to collect 12 points.

It’s a simple concept, and as the game is mechanically so obvious, it all boils down to the quality of the questions. I guess they’re decent, though some of the celebrities involved are probably a bit too American for international use. There are 200 celebrities in the 50 cards, so it takes a while to go through them all. While you don’t really need the game to have fun with this kind of activity, it definitely helps to come up with good questions. I think this is probably the most interesting game of the bunch.

Letter Hold’em is part of the Poker craze. It’s a regular deck of cards, but each card has a letter. You play Poker using the regular rules, but with an additional restriction: you can’t use the cards in your winning hand unless you can spell a word using them.

I’m not sure why I would want to play this game; to me, the concept of combining Poker and word games just doesn’t sound attractive at all. But, who knows, maybe there’s demand for something like this.

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