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Jul 06

Wits and Wagers: Description and Review

Wits and Wagers, by Dominic Crapuchettes, is a trivia based party game that asks players questions to which they most likely do not know the answers, and then has them bet on which player’s guess is the best.

The game includes: a wager mat, seven dry erase boards with markers, a deck of question cards, an egg timer, and a set of betting chips.  Wits and wagers can theoretically be played with any number of players from two on up.  In fact, the first time I ever played it, there were probably 40-50 players divided into teams of four.  Whether playing as a team or by yourself, each team or player takes a dry erase board, marker, and two marker chips of the matching color.  At this point play is ready to begin and the first question is asked.  Example question from the box:  How many pounds does an empty Boeing 747 (model 400er) weigh? Don’t know?  Of course you don’t know!  Only the engineer knows, and even that might be iffy without him looking it up.  So what is a would be trivia god to do?  Write down your best guess and toss your dry erase board face down on the wager mat.  When all players have done so, the boards are revealed and the answers ranging from lowest to highest are placed from the left of the wager mat to the right.  This varies a little based on the number of player, but is basically the procedure.

These are seven answers to the question regarding the weight of a 747.  Which one do you think is the best?  At this point all players have thirty seconds on the timer to place their colored marker chips on the answer that they think is the closest to the real answer without going over.  If any player believes that all of the answers are too high they may place their bets on the space all the way to the left labeled “All answers too high” that pays out at 6 to 1. Once all bets are placed the real answer is read from the backside of the card.  The correct answer is 406,900 pounds!  This means that the best answer on the board was all the way to the right at a mere 200,000 pounds.  At this point a player who has been elected the banker proceeds to remove the incorrect wagers and pay out the correct ones.

According to the wagers in this sample picture the blue board had the best answer, and for that the player would receive 3 chips from the bank.  However, only the green and red players had enough faith in that answer to bet on it, and now each receives payment at 5 to 1.  Once the winners are paid, all players receive their marker chips back and it is time for a new question.  This process is repeated a total of six more times and the player at the end with the most chips wins.  Interestingly enough, the players who gained extra chips may now bet more than one in a total of two places by putting their chips under the markers.  If they pick the best answer they will be paid odds on the entire wager according to the mat, but if they pick wrong all chips bet on incorrect answers are lost.  As a result of this, I have often seen massive leads disappear as quickly as they were acquired.  This risky environment creates a lot of excitement as players try to cling to leads by being more cautious and others take long odds trying to pull off miracle comebacks.  While there is no replacement for knowing the correct answer, it is so rare that the real skill in this game comes down to betting strategy.  Players have to consider things like: which player is likely to have some idea of the right answer, which answer gives the best spread of numbers, what are the pay outs for the answers they like, and what is their chip position relative to the other players.  Based on these factors players try to make the best decisions they can and hope for the best.

My Review

I must confess that I am generally not a big fan of party games.  For some reason I am not wired that way, and I would prefer to be playing something heavier and more strategic.  That being said, I absolutely love Wits and Wagers!  I am a bit of a trivia junkie, and so one would think that not knowing the answers might frustrate me, but quite to the contrary I find it exciting!  The strategy of how to bet and manage your chips is more similar to poker than to a traditional trivia game, and generates similar excitement.  I can honestly say that I have never played Wits and Wagers with anyone who did not enjoy themselves.  Groups ranging from the most hardcore gamers, to kids and relatives at family functions have all loved it.  I give  Wits and Wagers an 8 rating out of a possible 10, but would qualify that by saying it is hands down the best party game I have ever seen!  I would go so far as to say it is pretty close to a perfectly designed game.  Simple rules, basic components, a unique experience, and enjoyed by all, is pretty high praise for any game.  Honestly if it were not for the fact that my tastes tend in a different direction, I am quite sure I would rate it even higher!  You might say, that it scores an 8 out of a possible 8 on my party game rating scale, and will likely remain my gold standard of party games for a long time to come.

This the part where I would normally discuss the negatives of a game, but that is difficult to do with Wits and Wagers.  Quite frankly it is a perfect expression of what it is attempting to do and if you keep that in mind you will not be disappointed.  Don’t play it if you want to play chess.  Play chess if you want to play chess!  If you want an exciting social game, with strategy and laughs play Wits and Wagers.  If I had to make any criticism at all it would simply be that the game can struggle a little when played by super cutthroat gamers.  We had to remove the timer for placing bets and simply create a rotating betting order similar to Texas Holdem to adjust for this fact.  The good players would simply wait until the last second to bet basing their decisions on the actions of others more than what they thought to be the right answer.  Now we have a player read the question and the player to his left places one of his two bets and this continues twice around the table in clockwise order until all players have bet two times.  On the next round the player who bet first will now be the question reader and place his bets last.  This no doubt conveys an advantage on the player who bets last, but at least all players are aware of the situation and can adjust accordingly.  It is a small gripe, and arguably an unfair one.  To expect a party game to deal with the evil machinations of hardcore gamers is a bit much.  After all, us hardcore gamers are well aware that nobody can kill fun faster than us, and understand the need to protect the game from our dirty tactics.

In conclusion, all I can say is, “Buy this game.”  It is an absolute winner.  Unless you are completely dead inside, and I have been accused of such, you will enjoy Wits and Wagers immensely!  I am sure that I will review games in the future that I give a higher personal rating, but I honestly do not know if there is another game that I would recommend to absolutely everyone besides Wits and Wagers!

 

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Wits and Wagers please consider Gryphon Gaming.

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