I really wasn’t supposed to review this game. This is not my kind of game. I certainly wasn’t supposed to laugh. I was supposed to have zero fun. I was wrong.
Celebrity Name Game (PlayMonster) was sent to us to review, and when I opened the box, this is what I thought: “This game doesn’t look like it should’ve come out in 2016, it looks like it’s from the early 90’s.” Also: “I really don’t think this game needs to be reviewed; I mean, you are either going to know what this game is about already, or not care.”
Don’t get me wrong, I like Craig Ferguson – I think he’s hilarious, always have. But two things stopped me from diving in immediately like I do with most games: 1) this is not a game for gamers, this is a game for very casual party-going game seekers and 2) I’ve never seen the show that it’s based on.
So before I even opened the cards I read the rules – then I went online to watch one of the episodes. Okay…it’s funny. But it’s a game show, and all the game show board games I’ve ever seen have been awful. I didn’t really even want to play it.
But I did.
Okay, so the rules are very unclear. Most of the time a game like Password or Family Feud will give you rules and restrictions as to the clues or words you can use or say. This one did not. It just said “give clues.” So, I watched the show and then I quickly understood how to play.
On your turn, one of your team members gives clues and the rest of your team guesses. That’s it. The only restriction is that the “clue giver cannot blurt out part of the answer, say the number of letters in a word, what the answer rhymes with nor spell out the word” (I got this from Wikipedia because it wasn’t in the written rules).
There are 10 names on each card. In each round, your team gets to try to guess as many names as possible from the card. For every right answer you get 1 point. Then the other team gets to go.
In Round 2 the names are worth 2 points. In Round 3 both teams give clues at the same time, and each answer is worth 3 points. Round 4 is all play so anyone can shout out the answers at any point. 5 points are awarded for each correct answer.
The cards each have ten names on them. The normal cards have a category at the top of them (something that all the answers have in common). The Final Round cards do not, they may or may not have anything in common.
The game components are just the cards, some chips to keep track of correct answers, some score pads and the most clunky-looking 90’s timer I have ever seen.
So how does it play?
At it’s heart, Celebrity Name Game is a party game, and the point of any party is to have fun, right? Well, in that it succeeds. This game is ridiculous. Not in its design, but in the players’ reactions, the personal nature of the clues they give, and in the silly clues that they resort to in order to get the guessers on the same page.
Here’s what I mean: I am rubbish at celebrities. I don’t know half the names on the cards. So when it’s my turn to give clues, they are weird and ridiculous and hilarious to my teammates. But it’s even worse when I have to guess, especially if I’m on a 2 player team. I get about 2/3 of them but the others I just end up saying “I don’t know who that is” when they tell me the ones I missed. So, it turns out being up on pop culture is required to play this, but it’s actually funnier if you’re not, at least funnier to everyone else. Sure, there’s the sense of accomplishment and joy of winning when you do well in a round, but the real fun and laughter came from when I was awful at the game.
Examples of my ineptness: I only know one actress from Sex and the City. I only know one Golden Girl (the wrong one, apparently). I gave no clue who James Franco is. I confused Vin Diesel and Ving Rhames (don’t know how).
But, I did get Godzilla from the clue “big tall lizard guy.”
The game relies on shared experiences and inside jokes. It thrives and feeds on lack of knowledge and wrong answers for its mayhem. And, it forces tension into the mix with the timer. Where on the TV show much of the humor is provided by the host, in the board game, it comes from making fun of your friends. I’m sure if you added drinks to the mix, or played this at the end if the night when everyone is tired, it would make it even funnier. Plus, every group you play with will make it completely different.
This game was certainly not designed with gamers in mind. It was designed to sit on retail shelves at a price point of about $20 and entice fans of the TV game show to want to play the game at home. In that, I think it succeeds 100%. But it is also not half bad as a party game that casual gamers can enjoy, even if they’ve never seen the show. You’re never going to convince the D & D crowd or the “Catan only” crowd to play this one, but that’s okay. There will be plenty of other folks who will.
Bottom line is this: I was wrong. This is a game I should play. I’m not going to lie and say that I would personally go out and buy this one and put it into my rotation. But…if I’m at a party and someone said, “Hey, let’s play this one,” I wouldn’t mind jumping in. The game is very simple, but can be rather fun, as long as you’re willing to laugh at yourself, or at least laugh at me.
PlayMonster Games provided us with a copy of the game in exchange for an honest review – no other compensation was provided.
Jeremy Davis from gamegeek.ninja is a game fanatic. More than happy to play games for more than 12 hours at a time, he loves new games and is always on the lookout for his next favorite. He's a bit crazy, but that adds to the fun of his opinions. Also, Ninjas sometimes help with the reviews, so there's that.