WBG Score: 8
Player Count: 4-11
Published by: Cheatwell Games
Designed by: Kedric Winks
I was instantly drawn into Psychobabble. It made my top 5 game games from indie publishers from UKGE2022, which you can see here after I was first attracted to their stand by the striking and gorgeous art. Just look at it.
And having now played the game multiple times, with various groups, I can safely say I am a fan of the game too. The game will feel very familiar to anyone who has played Dixit and The Chameleon. It feels like a mix of those two games to me. But crucially, it takes the good bits from both, and drops the bad parts. Let's get it to the table.
Getting Psychobabble to the table is so easy. Simply take the two decks of cards out of the box. there are four different decks of dream cards clearly marked by the colour on the back of the cards. Lay out a four-by-four grid of random face up dream cards using the large deck. Taking four cards from each of the four different decks, using the same four cards from each deck for each row. Then place the small deck into four separate piles, face down, in their corresponding groups or A, B, C, and D piles. The small deck shows all the possible combinations of a two dice roll, linked to a four-by-four grid. Someone decides to be the Psychiatrist, and they will take small cards from one pile, enough for everyone playing minus one, and one card from another. They will then shuffle these cards and hand them out face down to each other player who all act as patients in the game. One player will have a different set of numbers to everyone else, but will not know. They are the insane person.
The Psychiatrist must now roll the two dice. Each player must find the roll on their card and then determine which dream card represents their collective dream from last night. For example, if a one and a five was rolled, the dream card on the bottom left is your card if you hold the above small card, so will start to study the card showing four prawn type creatures on the bottom left of the four-by-four grid.
You must also look at all the other cards to start to get an idea of one similarities and differences that exist within the 16 cards. This is so you can offer vague clues as to which dream card you have, and guess which dream cards other players have.
How to Play.
Then in turn, starting with the player sat to the left of the Psychiatrist, the first player will then give a one line description of their dream. They want it to be specific enough so that other players do not think they are the insane person, but not so specific that the Psychiatrist can guess exactly which card they are referring to. It is hard to get this balance right for some people. Especially on the first game. So, I encourage people to just go with their first instincts for game one as they all learn the nuance. But to be as vague as possible.
Once each player has given their one line description of their dream card, each player can then ask one question of any other player. They are trying to find out who the insane player is. The insane patient is trying to remain hidden and cast doubt over other players. Although of course, they may not have identified themselves yet. More than one person may think they are the insane person. Or, no one may think this! The Psychiatrist then has the chance to ask each patient one question to try and determine the dream card they were referring too. Patients can lie at any pint when answering questions or giving descriptions. But of course this may encourage other players to assume they are the insane patient. You need to asses how close to guessing the correct dream card the Psychiatrist is, and how close to identifying the insane patient all the other players are.
Once this is done, the Psychiatrist must then make a guess as to which card was the common dream card. If they are correct, they win the game. Hence, all the other players needing to make their descriptions vague. If the Psychiatrist is wrong, then all patients cast a vote as to who they believe the insane player to be. All players then reveal their card to reveal who has the odd one, and is the insane patient. That player may have already worked this out for themselves, and has been casting suspicion onto other players to try and divert the attention from themselves. Or, they could be completely unaware of their true roll. If the majority vote chose the insane patient then all those players win the game. If not, then the insane patient wins alone.
Playing Psychobabble is a delicate mix. You want to prove to your fellow patients that you are not insane, but you don't want to make it too obvious to the Psychiatrist which card you are referring too. You also don't want to make it too easy for the insane patient to work out which card you are talking about as they then themselves, can also start talking about that card.
But if you are too vague, then everyone may start to suspect you! But the great thing with the game is the line of questions that follows the first phase. If you are too vague to begin with and cause other players to doubt you, then you can always claw your way back when asked about something by another player or the Psychiatrist. However, other players asking you questions, doubting your own sanity, are never 100% sure of their own sanity either!
I find it is best to assume you are insane in this game. Don't think you are the sane one, rather start the game with your head focused on trying to find out if the other players have any similarities with each other or yourself. Thinking you are the insane one, and being as vague as possible with everything you say. Often, I find that in the first game of Psychobabble, players are too obvious with their descriptions, trying to prove they are not the insane patient, when they don't know if they are or not, before the question round has even begun. This makes it too easy for the Psychiatrist to guess the correct card.
But as players learn how to play the game, and how to read each other, something special happens. It's not dissimilar to games like The Mind when you start to get in sync with each other. Players begin to understand each others little clues and tells. The descriptions get more vague, but players playing as the patients start to understand and trust each other more, and the game begins to get a lot harder for the Psychiatrist. This makes for a much better and funnier experience.
It is satisfying for the Psychiatrist to get the card right for sure. But not if it is too obvious and easy. They want a challenge. But the games where I have seen the Psychiatrist have no clue at all are often the ones that create the most laughter.
All the cards are incredibly detailed and have multiple things going on. You find that despite them all looking very different and quite unique in their detail, common ground can be found between a lot of them. Ships, or modes of transport. Monsters, aliens, or animals or some sort. Describing one in a vague way, could be interpreted for describing many others. And this of course, if the entire point.
Many games of this nature require one person to be "it". One person who is randomly selected to be the Werewolf, Chameleon, or whatever the chosen person in that game is. Some people find this pressure to lie to others too much. The genius in this game is that if you are "it" you won't immediately know. And if all patients play the game well, you may never know until you reveal the cards as the end of the game. I have seen games when all players are convinced that one particular player is the insane patient, the suspected person included. But when all patients reveal their cards, another person was the insane patient all along. And even they did not know. You don't lie in this game, you just play the card you were given as vaguely as possible.
Now of course, there are some occasions when you can work out quite quickly that you are the insane person. And then, you may have to lie. Or least be very vague or deceptive. But even then, it's not like other games where you are desperately trying to work out what the correct card is, and which dream all the the patients are tlkaing about. Panicking that you will easily outed. The cards are all so random, and have so many similarities, then even if you have no idea which the real dream card is, you can till play the game well, simply by being vague.
As such, this game has to come very highly recommended from WBG. It plays as good as it looks. Can be set-up and taught to any group within minutes. It does not cause the usual anxiety games like this can bring to the table. And always delivers a huge amount of fun, laughter, and will be a real favorite of mine for many tears to come I am sure.
You can find more about this game at the product page:
And also at the site for the designer here:
And of course on the BGG page here: