IanTheCool's Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

Balderdash: The Pinnacle of Party Gaming

Party games are a great way to get a group of people engaged, but they are also a mixed bag. There is a wide gamut of party games from the truly fantastic to the despicably horrible. Some party games succeed only at creating awkwardness or boredom, while others generate laughter, fellowship and great memories. Balderdash, fortunately, is on the high end of the spectrum, sitting at the top of the party game pile.
The really great party games are those which are able to include everyone and to create situations which lead to humour and good-natured fun. Balderdash does this while also tapping into a player’s creativity and wit. Using imagination to create humour is what the real advantage that Balderdash has over other party games. And because people strive so hard to find better and more creative ways to make their friends laugh, a game of Balderdash can leave everyone with long-lasting and hilarious memories. My friends and I still remember some of the crazy definitions from a game we played over six years ago! It takes a truly great party game to be able to create such a memorable gaming experience.

Gameplay

Balderdash has a great premise which feels both classic and intelligent, as though it came straight from the game parlours of the late 1800’s. The game revolves around players creating definitions for obscure words and trying to fool the others into believing it is the correct one. Each player takes a turn choosing the word and entering the true definition among all of the fake ones. This player than reads the definitions out loud, which s the core of the game since this is when the humour comes through, and players must guess which they believe true.
So why is this premise so great? Because it allows for players to let their creativity and imagination flow as they are able to formulate their own concoctions straight out of their head. For people like myself, who have too much imagination running around in our heads, this is our bread and butter. However, the instructions to define a word, explain a movie, or describe an anagram also gives restrictions in which the players must work. This provides the challenge to go along with the creativity. This can pay off massively when players strike just the right mixture of wit and absurdity.

Components

Balderdash comes with a sleeve of cards which has word definitions which the ‘dasher’ chooses from. Newer versions also give a choice of not only word but obscure movies which players must write a plot out,line for, strange laws which exist in the world, acronyms which you must say what they stand for, and people who you must say what they are notable for. These provide more options and more diversity tot he game.
The board is a simple track which players move across as they score points. It is really quite inconsequential and is only there to provide some structure. But usually no once cares about winning or losing; its simply a method to keep track of when to end the game. The pawns for each player are also pretty basic, but again, the components are really not the focus of this game.

Conclusion

As a fan of both board games and movies, I tend to relate party games to overall board games in the same way I relate comedies to all other movies. Comedies can be highly enjoyable for the moment you are watching them, but have a very difficult time reaching ‘great film’ status. There are many comedies I enjoy, but none which I would consider to be among the great films or to be anything more than a fun time for two hours. Party games are similar in nature; they can be a lot of fun during the time you are playing them, but usually don’t have quite what it takes to be considered one of the great games.
However just as there are some comedies which do break out into the realm of movie greatness; such as Dr. Strangelove, Spinal Tap and Wayne’s World; there are some exceptions to this rule for party games as well. Balderdash is certainly an exception and is one of those few party games which can be considered among the great board games. It has all of the necessary party game elements such as accessibility, opportunities for laughter, and the ability to involve the whole group. Yet it also has the added qualities of playing off of the creativity, imagination and wit of the players involved. These extra qualities of the game really speak to me and encourages me to declare Balderdash as one of the great games and the best of the party game genre.

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