“Be careful what you wish for, because you may just get it…” ~ Them
I was contacted by the fine folks at Diamond Dust Dreams a while back, soliciting me for a review of their latest game, “Bad Decisions“. Their marketing blurb states, “This game is similar to Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity, except that the age of the content is between the two. It’s more intelligent and humorous then Apples to Apples but not as offensive as Cards Against Humanity.” We adore Cards Against Humanity at the Circus despite it being less a game than a social activity, so I thought we would love it when we agreed to review it. Well, as it turns out, we unanimously agree that their marketing blurb should have one more snippet added to the end: “…and far less fun or interesting than either, most of the time.”
The way it all works is that there’s four types of card, which basically fill in a part of the story – the subject, the predicate, a supporting sentence, and then the card that everyone plays to finish, the “Bad Decision”. The “Bard” is the person who reads and judges the sentences and awards points, just like Cards Against Humanity, but in this one, they also create the first three sections of the sentence, with the other players simply filling in the last section. That’s pretty much all there is to the game.
It sounded like it was going to be a more complex, more interesting version of Satan’s favorite card game, but whilst we were evaluating it, we slowly ended up having the same dour looks on our faces while reading these terribly boring sentence snippets. For example, as I’m writing this, I grabbed a random set of cards and laid them out….
Sadly, literally no permutation of them creates a story that is either compelling, interesting, or fun. “What happened when… The Prime Minister of Canada… witnessed… forgetting the password… They… defended the gender wage gap… of course. Film at 11.” As you can see, it’s not always fun or funny. In fact, most of the time, it’s pretty bad. It’s almost like the design group had one guy with a personality and he wrote all of the decent cards, but the balance of people in the group had almost no discernible sense of humor.
There’s another issue beside the game being really boring most of the time, one that will get the Interwebz really mad, and that kind of hurts the design when The Bard is retelling the story: in the example, there was a change from singular (THE Prime Minister) to plural (They) in there, and you can’t get around that no matter what, meaning there are some grammar problems that happen. I could see past the grammar thing if the game was better, but it’s mostly not.
To be fair, there’s like 12 of each card that is “R Rated”, and they definitely skew much funnier. See the difference in this setup, using the same base sentence…
You’ll notice that while the grammar problems still persist, the story is way more interesting. “What happened when… An Exotic Dancer… witnessed… anti-rape protests shutting down Mumbai… They… set the browser home page to a porn site… of course. Film at 11.” OK, it’s actually not much better. There are a few cards that are really funny, but they are so few and far between that this game really amounts to a random sentence generator, which isn’t fun or even mildly interesting unless it’s funny, which this fails to be in almost all cases.
There are no objective truths in gaming, but even if there were, I’d posit that this game is not an objectively bad game, from a design standpoint. The problem is that they did not hire a comedy writer or, at a minimum, someone with an identifiable personality, so most of the cards suck. It’s just one of those things where you can be a game designer, or inherently funny, but not often can you be both at the same time.
Having 4 moving parts that have to work together, crippled by relatively few options due to hand size, will more often than not lead to really shitty sounding stories, which is a real shame. It is with huge regret that I must relay the Circus’ judgement upon this otherwise interesting game idea: Don’t buy this game, because most of the time, because of the writing, it is not a fun game. I don’t know who would like this game as it exists, to be honest. I always try to see the glass as half full, and try to figure out if there’s some target market. The only one I can identify that might like it would be perhaps a group of anti-social Aspgerger’s patients who like to talk but can never find anything to talk about. Or, perhaps, people who play High Frontier because Helios wasn’t thinky enough.
Why The Bird, Bird, Bird, The Bird Is The Word, And So Is This:
– There’s a huge amount of Fool, Crisis, and Bad Decision cards
– There are some really funny Bad Decision cards
– The “R-rated” cards are much better, on balance
Why Not Hiring A Writer Was A TERRIBLE FUCKING DECISION:
– Oh, my God in Heaven, this game is dull almost all of the time
– Why are there only 50 Story cards but like 200 each of the others?
– This game needed a writer so, so, so, so badly
– Grammar Nazis would chew this game to bits
I really wanted to like this game, and I forced it upon my people, to no avail. We all really hated this game, and it was all for the same reason: the writing wasn’t good. Surprisingly, if you omit the Bad Decision cards completely, making up the answer yourself, the game is a ton better, which is why I’m convinced that this is a writing problem. Sorry, Diamond Dust, and I mean that sincerely. I hate asking for a review copy just to be surprised that the game just isn’t any fun.
I wasn’t aware this was a Kickstarter until I went looking for it..but here’s the campaign: