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[Review] Are you Phrazy?

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Joined: 03/23/2011

I have to admit that I wasn't too impressed by my first impressions of Are You Phrazy (Gotta Laff Games, 2004 - No designer credited). I got a copy of it on a bit of a lark, and then was a little put off by the garish box and what seemed to be simplistic, boring rules. The game seemed to be a chaotic form of Uno, one of my least favorite games.

And you know what? The game IS a chaotic form of Uno and is in fact one of the most chaotic games I've ever played. In a chaotic way, I enjoyed the game and so did everyone else I've played it with. But, and this is a heavy disclaimer, the game wears on people quickly. It's the sort of game that you play for ten or twenty minutes and everyone has a great time. Then, a sort of wall descends and you have to get rid of the game, because everyone's grown tired of it. It's a bit odd - it's one of the unusual party games in the sense that while it's a blast to play - it doesn't leave players with great stories that they can tell about the game. It's fun, but only while playing it.

A huge deck of cards (200!) is shuffled, and seven cards are dealt to each player (a maximum of eight players). The rest of the cards are placed in a deck (or two decks) in the middle of the table. The dealer flips over the top card and reads the catch phrase on it out loud, and immediately it is the turn of the player to his left. There are three different types of cards in the deck:
- Green Cards: These cards start a conversation. The first player to play a card MUST play a green card or pass and draw a card from the pile. If the card the dealer flipped over is green, they may immediately play a yellow card. Green cards can only be played after red cards. Examples of green cards include "Wassup?" and "How You Doin'?"
- Yellow Cards: These cards continue a conversation and may be played after green or other yellow cards. Examples of yellow cards include "I pity the fool!", "Don't go there!", and "I'd like to buy a vowel".
- Red Cards: These cards end a conversation and may be played after green or yellow cards. Once a red card has been played, a player must play a green card or pass and draw a card from the pile on their turn. Examples of red cards include "Talk to the hand!" and "Have a nice day!"

On a player's turn, they may play one of the three types of card (if possible), or draw a card from the pile and pass. When a player plays a certain phrase, anyone else at the table who has that identical phrase in their hand (there are eight cards of each phrase in the deck) may "butt in", by playing the card immediately. Play then proceeds from the player to the butting player's left, unless another player butts in. As players play cards, whether on their turn, or when butting in, they must read the phrase out loud; or they keep the card and lose their turn.

When one player gets rid of all their cards, they win the round. Scoring occurs, with each player getting one point for each yellow card in their hand, and five points for each green and/or red. The player who went "out" gets no points. Another round begins. As soon as one player reaches 100 points, the game ends; and the player with the lowest score wins!

Some comments on the game…

1.) Components: The cards remind me of the ones I have in Stupidduel; they simply have a colored background (green, yellow, or red) and a phrase in a slightly difficult to read font. The phrase is on the card three times, but I don't see how using the smaller versions on the side of the cards helps at all. The main phrase is certainly the easiest to read. The cards are of decent quality, which helps as they are slammed all over the table during the game. The cards come in a fairly longish box with a cardboard insert to keep the cards in two different decks. The box is a bit garish with funky fonts showing many of the different phrases all over it.

2.) Rules: The rules are immensely short - shorter almost then my brief description above - only two sides of a small page. However, they really don't need to be much longer; the game is extremely simple and easy to understand. I was able to explain it in less than thirty seconds and everyone quickly got how it worked.

3.) Chaos: The game ends up moving at a breakneck speed. Someone plays "Far out!", and immediately every other player who has "Far Out!" in their hand is throwing on the table, shouting it out. The player who is to the left of the last player to put their card down goes next. As they are just starting to lay a card down, another player belatedly realizes they have a "Far Out!" card in their hand and slams it down. The player to THEIR left quickly throws down "Can you dig it!" and just as all the players in the game frantically scan their cards, the next player throws down "Where's the beef?". Another player stands up and hurls his "Where's the beef?" at the table, and chaos erupts. Sometimes it's hard to keep track of whose turn it is - cards are flying all over the place, but that is the game's main appeal.

4.) Strategy: I don't really see any. The game recommends holding onto green cards; but when playing the game, you should just get as many cards onto the table as fast as possible.

5.) Phrases: The phrases, as well as my limited pop culture knowledge can tell, are all from TV in some shape or form (commercials, TV shows, movies) and are well known to most of the players. (although younger players may go "huh?" at "Watchoo Talkin' 'Bout, Willis?", etc.) Saying the phrases in funny voices - mimicking the actual phrases is fun, but the chaotic speed of the game usually has players just blurting out the phrases as quickly as they can.

6.) Fun Factor: The fun in the game comes from the speed, chaotic nature, and the humorous phrases. This will certainly not appeal to everyone but will appeal to many folk. The problem is that the humor lasts only about twenty minutes, and then the game will exhaust people. Some people will just not be able to keep up and get a little discouraged as their turn rarely comes; since players are continually butting in, and they aren't quite as fast. Others simply sit back and laugh at the chaos erupting all around them.

I really enjoyed playing Are You Phrazy, but the game was exhausting enough that I'm not sure I'd want to play it too often. Games like Time's Up and Why did the Chicken? are great party games because they leave you with hilarious stories and memories. Are You Phrazy doesn't really provide either of these. It's like a quick high that lasts for twenty or thirty minutes of fun, and then you'll be glad to play it next year. Some people, especially teenagers, will love the confusion and chaos. For me, it's only good in small doses.

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games"

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