Help scatological words find common ground
We can’t discuss Open Relationships without first revisiting a little-known gem called Puns of Anarchy. When we initially reviewed Puns, we lauded it as a hilarious party game, but decried it for limited replayability. But over a year later, Puns of Anarchy has proven to have remarkable staying power. It’s popular with the family and at picnics with friends, and it spent a month delighting a cabin full of 14-year-old boys at summer camp. My only complaint is that I wish there were more cards in the box. (Who will join me in petitioning Very Special Games for an expansion set?)"
So naturally, we were quick to pledge to the Kickstarter campaign for Open Relationships, the next dry erase marker-based game from the same designers. The rules are as simple: turn over four cards with random words on them. Set them up in a diamond formation on your table. Then, think of elements common to any two adjacent cards. Write your ideas on fill-in-the-blank answer cards, and place them between the two concepts. Puberty and the Subway? I’m disappointed when it comes too late. Skeletons and Priests? They both prefer to stay in the closet.
The plusses: I can teach you to play this game in 10 seconds. Once you get in the groove, the game highlights little bits of creativity and makes the players look smart. There is no real arc,, so you can play for as long or as short a time as you feel. And, unlike Puns of Anarchy, there are literally billions of permutations of words, so you will never need an expansion set. The scatological and sexual themes will appeal to mature children or childish adults. If your group enjoys Cards Against Humanity but finds that it doesn’t allow you to flex your creative muscle enough, Open Relationships will fill that void.
The real downside of Open Relationships is that it... just...isn't...Puns of Anarchy. A winning entry in Puns of Anarchy is laugh-out-loud, tears-rolling-down-your-cheeks funny. In Open Relationships, a really strong entry will evoke an appreciative nod, rather than convulsive laughter. You’ll look at it, and think, “Well done. That’s very clever,” and move on. The game delivers on chuckles but falls short of guffaws.
The only design flaw with Open Relationships is that half the word cards have white text on a bright yellow background. It seems like using contrasting colors for text cards would be a no-brainer, but they found a color scheme they liked and ran with it.
There is a mechanism for scoring points, but it just involves everyone voting for their favorite card. Which means people can just vote for themselves. If you are truly competitive, you will find this frustrating. The designers seem to recognize this, and essentially encourage you not to keep score. We agree.
We have spent a couple hours playing Open Relationships, and we’re not sick of it yet. I enjoy it as a mental exercise. Perhaps playing Open Relationships will make us smarter or prevent dementia, but it leaves us longing for that bit of gut-busting, laugh-until-you-weep, out-and-out hilarity we still get from Puns of Anarchy.
The concept of coming up with clever Venn Diagrams is fun. I wasn’t very good at this, at first, but after about 15 minutes, I was able to train my brain to think that way. The game is great when the relationship between two words is funny, but the best and most clever answers are usually not that funny.