But it turns out, only having to get half the answers right is a lot harder than it sounds.
Half Truth is the new quiz game from the brilliant minds of Richard Garfield (creator of Magic the Gathering) and Ken Jennings (a record-breaking Jeopardy contestant). Magic is one of the most influential card games ever created. As this is such a different genre of game I had incredibly high but at the same time very non-specific expectations; I expected greatness but had no idea what form that greatness would take. I am not disappointed.
The game is played over three rounds with players gaining victory points after each question and then at the end of each round. The person with the most victory points at the end of the game wins. For each question or statement there are three correct answers (truths) and three false answers. You can choose up to three of your voting chips to answer the question, scoring more points the more you get right. But, get one wrong and you score zero. So if you get over confident or desperately behind you can easily be tripped up. Having an English Literature degree, it turns out, does not mean you definitely know which of the six books listed have an opening sentence that is less than six words long. It does mean though that you are overly confident, score zero and then have the ‘Weren’t you an English teacher?’ ‘That doesn’t mean I’ve read every book that exists’ conversation. Again.
Before you answer each question, the die is rolled to determine how many points the question is worth which randomises the value of the questions. One of the symbols on the die rewards risk taking by increasing your points the more answers you go for, while another lets you select between one and three incorrect answers. This gives the game a little variety and changes up how you feel about pushing your luck each turn. Choosing the three incorrect answers for some reason really threw us off, making us think more which was an unexpected twist.
You place your carefully selected voting chip(s) face down in front of you. And if you are me – remove one, add two, swap one then revert to your original guess *ahem* knowledgeable answer while people repeatedly say ‘Ready?’. When finally revealed you place them in the corresponding space on the game board and turn over the question card to find out who got what right! The components are chunky and satisfyingly tactile and hard wearing. This is another important consideration for me as this will clearly be a game that gets plenty of play.
There are 500 question cards which is a massive amount making this an excellent investment and they cover a bewildering array of topics. I’m sure by the time we’ve worked our way through all of these I will have completely forgotten which are legitimate Ikea products and which are just made up words; what is a dinosaur as opposed to a character in Transformers and which characters are from Alice Through The Looking Glass as opposed to Alice in Wonderland.
The volume of questions means that we didn’t worry too much that we had to put some to one side. Our household knowledge of American culture is such that some questions were just beyond us. Best guessing and deducing answers is part of the fun but pure guess work feels a bit pointless.
Half Truth boasts that it is ‘the party game that makes you feel smarter’. I know it wouldn’t be as catchy but more accurately this would read ‘the party game that makes alternating players feel smart while mere moments later questioning everything they ever thought they knew’. Some of the questions are really challenging.
The worst part of it is that they don’t look challenging. With categories like ‘Words in the lyrics of Hey! Jude’, it’s easy to be blase – I definitely know *all* the words to that. Gets ready to confidently identify the three correct answers and score all the points. Cue 6 people sitting round the table singing with diminishing confidence ‘Hey Jude, don’t make it ….bbbbaaaa, da da da da da da da da da-a-a-a Remember to let her into your heart da da da daaa da da da better better better better.’
Erm, yep turns out we all only know some of the words.
After correctly (and smugly) identifying three types of headwear, we flipped the card to learn that the remaining three incorrect answers were types of doll. So, we learned a thing – whether that counts as becoming smarter remains to be seen! Another clever facet of the game is that often the three wrong answers are linked in some way so you could use some unrelated knowledge lurking about in a dusty corner of your brain, recognise that and still win big.
One of the things I enjoy about a well designed quiz game is the discussion it provokes. Many of these answers and the explanation on the flip side found us discussing, debating and swapping stories. We spent a good while comparing the merits of various visitor attractions after we tried and failed to work out which three destinations attract more visitors than Disneyland.
Watching people play games and listening to the laughter and chatter is my favourite part of running games events. I know that this game will provide that connection and that fun for players of all ages. All I need now are some events to take it to but that time will come again once it’s safe. Luckily it will play well on Skype so I’m looking forward to trying it there. Find out more about my online lockdown events here and join me for a game.