Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Arguing the...

I do not own many party games, but after hearing about Who Would Win? from listening to the team behind the podcast, All Games Considered, I decided to check it out. When I found out that it was published by Gorilla Games, who do the excellent Battlestations boardgame, I decided to buy a copy. What I got was a game about debating against the clock the merits of famous people doing incongruous things. Thus, “Who would win at zoo keeping – Frankenstein’s Monster or Evel Knievel?”, “Who would win at a beauty pageant – Spongebob Squarepants or Edgar Allen Poe?”, and “Who would win at video gaming – Christopher Columbus or Godzilla?”.  Unfortunately, it was not until I was UK Games Expo this last weekend that I got to play the game properly.

Designed for three or more players, aged thirteen and up, Who Would Win? comes in a buff cube of a box that contains one hundred and ten character cards, one hundred and ten event cards, a twenty second timer, and a single page of rules. The rules themselves are very short and can be read through in less than a minute. Each of the character cards gives the name of a single well known figure who might be a celebrity, such as Paris Hilton; a politician, like Nelson Mandela; a historical personage, such as Gandhi; or someone from fiction, like Count Dracula. The event cards give activities that range from the mundane like Cooking or Customer Service to the weird, such as Hog Calling or Sword Swallowing.

Play is simple. On his turn, character cards are given to the active player and the player to his left, and an event card is drawn. Both players are allowed twenty seconds to each state why his particular character would win at the activity given on the event card, with the active player given five seconds for a rebuttal. Everyone else around the table gets to vote on the player who presented the best argument. The player who receives the most votes gets to keep the event card. On a tie, no one gets to keep the event card. At the end of his turn, play passes to the player to the left of the active player, who then becomes the active player and debates with an opponent to his left. On his next turn, the first active player will debate not with the player to his immediate left, but the next one along, and so on and so on until each player has had the opportunity to debate with everyone around the table.

The winner is the player who manages to win five of these debates and accumulate five event cards in front of him.

Who Would Win? is definitely a game for older and geekier players. Younger players are not always going to know who the people are on the character cards, even though each person is given a short description. Similarly, not everyone is going to know who a person is on a character card or what an activity on an event is because the game has a strong American slant – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Hog Calling being obvious examples. Nevertheless, the mix of characters and events is good, and with a good shuffle of both decks, the combination of characters and events is endless. Another issue is favouritism when it comes to the voting, but that is outside the scope of the game itself.

Who Would Win? is all about the debate. It is about who can present the best arguments, but when I first ran the game, it was not a success. One player could not see how the scientist Stephen Hawking could beat Superman at hurdles, even when it was suggested that the brilliant scientist had minions who could fit go faster springs to his wheelchair and would know where to find Kryptonite! More recently at UK Games Expo, the game proved to be popular enough for one player to go hunting for copy to buy. The game also plays well as a team game, with players organised into teams rather than playing as individuals.

This game demands the players to come up with arguments that are interesting, ridiculous, or both, but because of the possible combinations, Who Would Win? never gets very far from the silliness. After all, what game has Julius Caesar face off against Donald Duck in a weightlifting contest? Above all though, what Who Would Win? is about the players being inventive.