Game Name: Wits & Wagers Deluxe
Publisher: North Star Games
Designer: Dominic Crapuchettes
Artist: Jacoby O’Connor
Genre: Betting and bluffing trivia game
Players: Four to twenty players
Playing time: 25 minutes
Captioned as “The Most Award Winning Party Game in History,” Wits & Wagers stirs things up in the somewhat stale trivia genre. As opposed to the straight forward right or wrong answer to a single question approach of other trivia games, W&W encourages – nay, demands – ballpark guesses and risk taking in order to win. Guessing the answer to a particular question is just the beginning as players stake points on which guess is the closest to the answer, without it going over; every answer happens to be a numerical value. This additional level of game play keeps everyone involved in the proceedings and having a great time. Don’t be surprised to hear your friends cajole you to play “just one more” before you close the box on the evening.
Simply enough the game plays out by each person attempting to answer a question and then everyone bidding chips on which player guesses they think are the closest to being right. Be sure not to go over the magic number – all answers are numbers – because those guesses are automatic losers! The answer doesn’t have to be correct, just the closest. Chips are awarded to those who bet wisely.
Each player has a dry-erase whiteboard, a dry-erase pen, two betting tokens to mark their bets on the board, and a pool of chips that they’ve won – each game begins with two chips per player. Sitting between everyone is a felt cloth board with a linear series of spaces on it, giving the setup a bit of a casino feel. Each space has a payout value ranging from 4:1 on both edges and 1:1 in the center. Aside from a sand timer, and a deck of trivia cards, that’s what’s in the box.
The game lasts seven rounds and starts off with the designated Question Reader who draws a card and asks a trivia question. The Question reader is also playing bets as well so there’s no peeking at the answers! Every question has been phrased so that there’s a numerical answer — some of the questions are things like “In what year did MTV play its first music video?” or “How many points did Michael Jordan average per game?” Many of these questions are real head scratchers while still allowing people who toss out a wild guess to have a realistic chance of coming close to the answer. This is really part of the major appeal the game because even the most jaded trivia experts will have a tough time knowing the exact answer. This creates a very level playing field.
Players write down their guesses on their own personal dry erase board and then hand them in before the 30 second timer expires. The answers are then sorted into a line of ascending values by the Answer Wrangler. The Wrangler tends to be someone with the best math skills. The one answer that sits in the middle of the pack of the ordered answers is center for the ratio payout spaces on the board. It’s placed on the 1:1 payout ratio space since it’s most likely the safest bet. The other answers are then spread out on the board from there, with the answers above the middle guess being placed on the 2:1 payout ratio space, then 3:1, and the 4:1 above the middle guess. The lower numbered answers are laid out the other way to the left on track along another series of 2:1, 3:1, 4:1 payouts. Therefore the further each guess is from the middle, the higher the payout will be if that answer turns out to be correct. There’s even a space that allows players to bet a catchall of “Every Guess is Too High” at 5:1 odds.
Players can place two different bets using their bet markers and may wager up to 10 chips of their winnings. This part is also timed and players can move their bets around up until the point when the 30 seconds expire. This is a mechanic that leads to a lot of the fun of Wits and Wagers as players might try to trick each other into laying a bet on an answer that very likely is wrong because bets can moved as long as there’s still one sand in the timer. These last second bet moves lead to a lot of laughs and smack talking.
After the payouts have been made and the chips have been raked-in, the game goes through 6 more rounds for a total of seven rounds. In the final round the ten chip limit is lifted and any player can bet all of his/her chips for a last ditch drive to win the game.
Before it begins to sound as if I’m just going to hand over the crown of greatest party game ever, I’ll point out a couple of problems (although relatively minor) with the game. First, sometimes the game can have a runaway leader after only a couple of rounds that simply puts the game out of reach for the other players. This isn’t a big issue simply because that tends to be the nature of just about all all trivia games. It’s also not a deal breaker because you can finish a game in less than 30 minutes so you’re off and running with a new game quickly.
My second concern with the game is a little more substantial and drops the game a notch in the overall final score. This is due to the components. The only word I can use to describe the feel of the components, outside of the very nice felt betting board, is “cheap”. I’m not saying that anything is horrible but it would have been nice to have something other than standard dime store poker chips for the betting especially when the game carries a $29.95 MSRP. Maybe I’m just tired of poker chips being included in so many of the games on my current review list. The rest of the components are simply alright in my book.
Yet the good (and great) truly outweighs any of the bad!
Wits & Wagers very successfully puts together a trivia game with a sometimes manic betting element and ties it all up into an excellent party game. Downtime is nonexistent since every player is active in every portion of the game and the game’s somewhat cheap components can be forgiven since the sheer fun shines through even on the first play. After your first experience with Wits & Wagers it’s easy to see why, even with my minor quibbles, this is a multiple award winner!