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The new online portal from Big Potato Games is amazing. I am not an avid fan of online board gaming. I don't use or like TTS or other such equivalents. But there is something special about Game City, and I will tell you why.
How To Set Up Game City
To set this up, simply connect your TV to your laptop or phone. Only one person needs to have paid for the games. You can buy one game for £7 to £10 each or packs of three for £17. Connecting is quite easy with most modern TVs or through Google Chromecast, your laptop's Connect feature, or a good old-fashioned HDMI. It's pretty simple, and once you are up and running, the rest is a breeze.
Simply click 'Host game' and ask everyone else to click 'Join game.' People who join can vote on a game they want to play on their phones or tablets.
The host can then choose a game based on the votes or just what they want, and away you go. The software does the rest for you.
There are currently seven games set up in the system. I have access to six of them, four of which I also have the board game version of, and two that I had not seen before. Each offers its own little moment of magic. Here they are ranked in my own personal preference.
Number One: Can Of Squirms
This game came out in 2017 and passed me by. I sense that as a board game, it may come across as a little cheap and simple. However, as a video/mobile experience like this, it works incredibly well. This opens up a whole new debate about how this concept can develop and shows me why a party game publisher like Big Potato has done something like this over, say, CMON. It suits their catalogue a lot more.
The game works by putting two players against each other with simple questions such as "Who is the best dressed?" or "Who is most likely to make you sick with their cooking?" The two players selected this round then have to choose if it is them or the other person that best fits this question. The players not playing that round have to guess who will get the most votes or if the two picked players will disagree with each other and get one vote each. All players then score points for right guesses, but let's face it. This game is about those brilliant, hilarious, potential friendship-ending moments when people disagree. Both players are incensed, and utter joy is created.
This game works perfectly with the video-style game system, allowing players to see things on their own devices when other players should not, and revealing easily to all players when the time is right. This could be done with paper and pen, but who has that nowadays, and it feels wasteful to throw it away after each play. A brilliant rendition of an okay game that creates a fantastic experience.
Number Two: Draw Along With Dave
In 'Draw Along with Dave,' players take turns being Dave. When you're Dave, you're presented with something simple to draw on your device. As you draw each line or squiggle, you need to describe what you're doing so that the other players can try to replicate it. For example, 'I am drawing a vertical line in the middle of the screen from the top to bottom, with a small circle at the top...' and so on. This continues until the player acting as Dave finishes. They then hit 'finish,' giving the other players a few seconds to complete the last instruction. The player as Dave gets to see all the drawings sent to their device and chooses the best one. All drawings are displayed on the main screen for everyone to laugh at before revealing the winning drawing(s).
This setup works exceptionally well. While paper and pen could also work, there's something slick about playing this game this way. It keeps everyone involved throughout, and the simple joy of having your works of art displayed on your TV feels special.
Number Three: Scrawl
Scrawl is a highly popular board game that has seen various versions. I recommend it as a party game all the time. Initially, playing it on the TV seemed superfluous to me. How wrong I was. While it's a bit trickier to draw on a phone than on a card with a pen, there's no clean up or wiping afterward. Plus, you can simply hit a button to send it to the next person rather than passing it physically or, heaven forbid, having to actually get up and move!
The game works simply, with all players active simultaneously, selecting something to draw from two options. Each player then draws what they choose. This picture is sent to the next person chosen at random, who must describe with words written on their phone what they think the picture is of. This description is then sent to the next person, who now, without seeing the initial picture, has to draw, as best they can, the description they have been sent. This continues so that each player is involved in everyone else's sequence, either drawing a description or describing a drawing. When it gets back to the initial player, they can then, with their device, share the process of their initial picture and then each subsequent description and drawing on the main TV screen for all to see. They then choose their favorite drawing or description to award a point to, and the next player takes the group through their sequence. That's it. It's so simple, but hilarious fun and can work with most ages.
Number Four: Herd Mentality
Herd Mentality here works much like the board game version where all players are presented with a question on their device that they have to type an answer for. The idea is to give an answer that you think at least one other player will also give. If you provide a unique answer within your group, you'll be given the Pink Cow, and you don't want that. It works very well, is a slick conversion, but I do miss the physical pink cow foam toy that comes with the hard copy. Throwing that around and giving it to the losing player each round is hilarious. Now, you can still do this if you have the hard copy too, which we did! But I appreciate not everyone has that on hand, and you will miss out if that is the case. Of course, you could substitute this for something else, and I would encourage you to do so. A physical punishment for picking a unique answer makes this so much funnier!
Number Five: The Chameleon
I love The Chameleon. It works so well and is one of my favourite party games. This version is so slick and works even better than the original board game version, as players can hide a little more when they are the Chameleon. There's something about everyone hiding their faces in a device for a short period as they input their answers that allows you to conceal your emotions when you are selected as The Chameleon. This is something that can sometimes give the game away when playing in person with a tell-tale blush! However, there is one other significant change based on turn order that I'll get to.
The game works by each player being told the answer from a grid of 16 possible answers, all coming from the same theme (e.g., types of food, U.S. states). However, only one answer is correct. All but one player will know the correct answer and must type in a clue that proves to the other players they know the correct answer. The clues cannot be so obvious that the Chameleon, who doesn't know the correct answer but can see all the options, could guess the right answer from them. The Chameleon needs to type in their own clue. The clues are then shown on the screen for all players to decide who they think is the Chameleon. The group can discuss this, and as the Chameleon, you try to deflect and divert attention to another player.
In the board game version, players say their answers out loud in turn, and if you are the Chameleon and are picked to reveal your answer last in the round, you have the opportunity to listen to everyone else's answer before you give your own. Quick thinkers can use this as an opportunity to try and guess the right answer before they give their clue, subsequently providing a better, more informed clue. However, you could also be the Chameleon and be picked to give your clue first, leaving you with nothing to go on, making it a lot harder. In this Game City version, all players type their clues on their devices at the same time, never hearing other players' clues beforehand. It makes the game more fair and less random, but at times, harder for the Chameleon.
Players then vote on their devices for the player they think is the Chameleon. If the correct player receives the most votes, the player acting as the Chameleon must try to guess the word for that round. If they are correct, they still win, which is why other players try not to give too obvious a clue at that stage of the game. However, if the player acting as the Chameleon does not receive the most votes, they do not need to go through this process and still win. Although we still like to ask the player acting as the Chameleon if they have figured out the word by this point. It is a fun part of the game that, although pointless, adds something to the experience.
Number Six: Colour Brain
This works just as well as the physical version of the game, but there is just less choice and chance to adapt the questions to suit your audience. With the hard copy, you can simply discard a card if it doesn't work for your group. Whereas here, you are served up questions you cannot affect. I hope they adapt this and offer a child-friendly version or at least a way to choose what type or level of questions you want because the game is so fun and works so well here.
Players are simply asked a question, the answer to which can be given with a colour or colours. Players then tap the colours on their device to give their answers, and then all player results are shown. You can take away another player's choices of colours at random once per game, which I always find to be odd. Forcing someone to potentially have to choose from a group of wrong colours seems odd to me. But I suppose it can help level it out a bit if there is a question one person doesn't know the answer to, but they know another player does.