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[Review] GiftTrap

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Joined: 03/23/2011

I recently went to visit my parents in America, and while there, determined to buy them a new party game. I knew that they already had Apples to Apples, and we're tremendously delighted by it, so my hopes were high. I went to the local gaming store and scanned the party games section for another good one to get them. And sadly, I came up with nothing; for while I know about many good party games, there were very few there. Really, most party games available are merely okay, and only a few dozen stand out amongst the rest. When I arrived home from my trip, however, I found GiftTrap (GiftTrap Enterprises, 2006 - Nick Kellet) in the mail - a new party game about giving gifts. So I thought to myself that my choice for party game had been determined for me.

And happily, GiftTrap was a blast, and a roaring success with all those I played it with. There are a few minor problems - some of the cards are too risqué (they can be removed), and the players should have at least some knowledge about one another; but the overall package was very nicely presented and was a unique, refreshing take on the party game genre. Basically, players had to guess which of nine gifts other players would like the most. An unscrupulous person could wreak havoc in the game, but played properly, I give GiftTrap a high recommendation.

A board is placed on the table, with nine numbered spaces in the middle, as well as the "get" and the "give" scoring tracks. Each player (there can be up to eight) is given nine "give" tokens, corresponding to the spaces on the board; four "get" tokens ("great", "good", "ok", and "no way"), a marker for each scoring track, and some strategy cards (used only in optional play). Four decks of two-sided cards are shuffled and placed near the boards. Each deck shows a variety of gifts, with the four piles containing cards that have relative value (one deck has incredibly expensive gifts, another has cheap gifts, etc.) One player is chosen to be the first dealer, and the game begins.

In a round, the dealer chooses one of the four decks and deals out cards onto the numbered spaces equal to one more than the number of players in a game (i.e. A five player game would have six gifts dealt). All players then look at the gifts and decide which gift they will give to the other players. Players must give one gift token face down to each other player, using the numbers on the board as their guide. Each player must be given a gift, and each gift can only be given to one player.

Once all players have given gifts, players take their get tokens and place them face down on their three favorite gifts ("Great", "Good", and "OK" respectively), and their least favorite gift ("No way"). Once all players have placed them, the reveal phase begins.

Starting with the dealer, each player reveals their four get tokens, and then reveals - one at a time - the give tokens they received. For each token, both the giver and the receiver will score points:
- Three points if the gift was "great".
- Two points if the gift was "good".
- One point if the gift was "OK".
- Negative one point if the player put no token on the gift.
- Negative four points if the gift was "No Way".
Players move their markers on the respective tracks; and while markers can never go lower than the start space or higher than the final space, they can still lose points when their token is on the final space.

After all players have been scored, the next player becomes the dealer, and play continues. The first player who has BOTH tokens on both scoring tracks to reach the final space is the immediate winner!

Some comments on the game…

1.) Components: GiftTrap comes in a cube box, made to look as if you were giving someone the stereotypical gift in a box. The board actually folds into nine sections and fits in a "U" shape into the box. However, the board, the box, and the tokens are of the highest quality. Each set of tokens and markers comes in a little gift bag of the same color, and the entire package is almost overproduced. The cards have nice photographs on them, although the cardstock is a little thinner than I would have liked. Can't argue with such pleasant bits, though!

2.) Cards: The four decks of cards (each a different color background - black, blue, yellow, and red) represent a different price range. For example, the black cards include a genuine fine Persian rug, seeing the opera in Sydney, and free groceries for a year; while the red cards include theatre tickets, kickboxing lessons, and a slot machine. The level of equality is pretty good, although each person playing will have definite opinions as to which of the gifts is the best. The game comes with 640 different gifts, which is quite impressive.

3.) Sensitivity: The rules mention that there is a small selection of gifts for an adult audience, and an envelope is provided to place cards that are removed for purposes of age or sensitivity. And indeed, I removed several cards for various reasons - mostly because they were not for a family environment. This wasn't a big deal, although I was a little annoyed that I pulled the entire card out of the game when only one side of it would have caused any problems. You may pull fewer or more cards (or none) depending on your personal tastes and preferences.

4.) Rules: The games eight page rulebook, which is in a colorful, folded pamphlet, is fairly well done, with nice formatting, although the order the rules are given caused me to have to read them twice to make sure I didn't miss anything. Given the natural theme of the game - the giving of gifts, most people I teach it to pick it up quite easily.

5.) Scoring: At first, a few people were a bit annoyed that poor gift givers would cost the other players points. But I found that the game is fairly self balancing in that regard, as players also lose points if they give the wrong gifts to people - so why do it on purpose? I suppose that there is a low life segment of gamers who would deliberately lose points to hurt another player, but these people shouldn't be playing party games anyway. Still, it's quite amazing when you watch the gifts that people would take. Sometimes the gift that a person OBVIOUSLY wouldn't take is the one they put "great" on. For example, a large diamond turned up in one of our gaming sessions, and I put "great" on it. Everyone looked at me in askance afterwards, complaining about my dislike of jewelry, but I had merely been thinking of the price I could command when selling the diamond. Which brings me to my next point…

6.) Knowledge: Players who know each other will undoubtedly do well in the game, although I've seen husband and wife argue over what one or both of them REALLY want, as opposed to what they picked. I've played the game with a group of friends and one casual acquaintance, and they didn't do quite so well - not having as much knowledge about the other. Still, the game claims to do well in groups of strangers, helping them to get to know one another - and that might also work well.

7.) Fun Factor: It's a lot of fun to rank gifts against each other (in a game, of course!), and trying to figure out what the others will choose. Sometimes you are forced to give a lackluster gift to one person, because the gift that you would have chosen for them has already been given to someone else. And when the gifts are revealed, there are laughs and yells (and sometimes good natured arguments) about the choices a person has made. I suppose that a case could be made that GiftTrap helps a person know what to get for someone in the future; although with only a small selection of gifts, I doubt it would be conclusive.

I really liked GiftTrap - if only for the discussions and laughter it provoked. People with loud, vocal opinions did fairly well - if for only the fact that people tend to know what they like/dislike; but since the game requires a person to be a good giver, also - this balances out. With lavish production values, and enjoyable, quick gameplay (our games lasted about 45 minutes), GfitTrap is an interesting party game that I think most folk should check out.

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games"

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