As we approach the holiday season, I am going to start reviewing some of the titles that will eventually wind up on my annual Good Gift Games Guide. But before I begin, let me briefly mention one that appeared on last year’s list.
The official slogan of Wits & Wagers is “The Trivia Game For Everyone!”, but I typically describe it “The Only Trivia Game I Can Stand™” It’s true. Despite my typical enthusiasm for board games in general, trivia games have always left me cold. I always imagine the inventors of Trivial Pursuit sitting around one evening after a few beers, saying “You know what my favorite part of high school was? Taking exams that I didn’t study for. If only we could package the thrill of a pop quiz into a board game, but do it in such a way that 80% of the time you’re sitting around inertly watching other people struggle to answer the questions, we would have a sure-fire hit on our hands.”
Maybe Dominic Crapuchettes feels the same. At any rate, he created a trivia game that not only keeps all the players occupied all the time, but doesn’t only reward those whose heads are crammed full of otherwise useless facts.
Every question in Wits & Wagers has a numeric answer (or possibly a “numerical” answer; I’m sure the grammar cops will let me know in the comments), such as “What was the weight, in pounds, of the largest gold nugget ever recorded?” Each player writes his guess onto a laminated card with a dry-erase pen. Once everyone has done so, the cards are collected, sorted by value, and distributed across a betting mat.
And now, the genius. Before the answer is revealed, players may bet on which guess they thinks is correct (or, in Price Is Right fashion, “closest to correct without going over”). The farther from the median, the more a guess pays out. So if the guesses in response to the “gold nugget” question above were 16, 20, 75, 200, and 500, the 16 and 500 would each pay out 3 to 1, the 20 and 200 would pay out 2 to 1, and the 75 would pay out even money. You can even watch where others put their bets and make your wager accordingly, though you only have 30 seconds to do so. When the correct answer is revealed, the person who supplied the closest guess, and all those who bet on it, reap rewards; all other wagers are lost.
The cards on which the guesses are written are color-coded, so you can see at a glance who submitted what. In other words, you make money not only by knowing the answer, but by knowing who knows the answer. Species of Gardenia? Look to the gardener. Height, in feet, of the tallest skyscraper in 1900? Maybe the architect knows. Best of all, everyone is doing this at once, so there is absolutely no downtime.
I like to play a variety of strategy games, because there are so many out there I enjoy. But party games are more hit-and-miss for me, and when I find one I like, I typically play it until I can’t stand to play it no more. First it was 25 Words Or Less, then Apples To Apples, then Times Up. I played Wits & Wagers for the first time over a year ago, last played it a week ago, and expect it to be in heavy rotation this holiday season. It’s quick, perfect for any crowd, and definitely qualifies as a “two-minute game. If you want to get a head start of your holiday game buying, this is the one to get.