Jabber Jaw is a party game by Clarendon Games in which teams compete to describe, or mime, as many phrases as they can. It’s also a race - the team that makes it around the board fastest wins.
Place the board in the centre of the table. Split players into teams; there can be as many as six teams. But it is recommended that fewer but larger teams are better than many small ones (two teams of four are better than four teams of two).
Each team chooses a counter and places it on the start space. All cards are shuffled together and placed within reach of all players, along with the sand timer.
At the start of each turn, one player in the active team is chosen as the describer. This must be a different player each turn to allow everybody a chance to describe phrases.
Once a describer is chosen, the sand timer is flipped and the describer draws the top card of the deck. Each card has four phrases, next to a different shape. The describer uses the phrase that is next to the shape of the space their counter is currently occupying on the board. For example, the start space is a circle, so they must use the phrase next to the circle on the card.
The describer must now get their teammates to say the phrase they are describing, but they cannot say any of the words on the card that are alliterative - this means any words that start with the same letter. For example, if the phrase is “the duck is downstairs”, the describer cannot say the words “duck” or “downstairs”.
They must find a way to describe these words so their team can guess them (“the quack-maker is on the bottom floor”, perhaps?)
If the phrase is guessed correctly, the card is kept face down by the team and the next card is drawn from the deck. This continues until the sand timer runs out.
Once time has run out, the active team looks at the cards they have kept. Each card has either “Jab”, “Ber” or “Jaw” written on the back. For every set of three cards, they have that spell the phrase “Jabber Jaw”, they discard those three cards and move their counter along one space. Any other cards are kept for future use.
Some spaces on the board say, “All Play”. When a team starts their turn on one of these spaces, they play as normal, but all teams try to guess the phrase at once. In this round, every correct answer allows the team that guessed it to move one place along with the board, regardless of what cards they have collected.
When a team lands on the finished space, they must play a final “All Play” card. If their team is the one that guesses the phrase, they win. Otherwise, they wait until their next turn to try again.
Like most party games, Jabber Jaw is good, simple fun. It has almost no complexity to it, making it a game equally suited to a family game night or a get-together with drinks.
Anyone who has played a game such as Articulate or Obama Llama will see similarities here, but for those who haven’t, it can be most likened to Charades. The gimmick here, however, is that each phrase contains alliteration. This makes for some truly absurd phrases (“Measure the mushrooms!” is offered as an example on the back of the box) which can be extremely challenging to describe.
There is a certain unfairness to this that arises quickly. Some phrases are clearly more ridiculous than others, so one team can easily breeze through five cards on their turn only for the next team to be faced with “he mocked the moron” and be completely stumped.
This inherent unfairness is where the fact that this is a party game steps in. This is the sort of game that is at its best when it isn’t played to win. With every group, I have played this with, at some point the board and the sand timer have been put aside and the group has had great fun just playing a free-for-all version of the game.
If your group is competitive then the board and the timer add an edge to it that you will surely enjoy. However, if your group is more laid back and just wants to play games, or just wants to have a drink and a laugh, then this is the beauty of a game as simple as this one. It plays just as easily, and just as well, without any restrictions.
Something else that became apparent was that age presents little to no barrier in this game. There is a special rule for players aged twelve and under that allows them to use rhyming clues and say which letter is alliterated to make it simpler, but for the most part, this rule was not needed. If anything, the children took to the game best and ended up being the best describers.
Whenever a player has struggled with this game, the issue has always been difficulty understanding what alliteration means. For anyone who isn’t aware, alliteration is when multiple words in a sentence begin with the same letter.
The rules offer a definition that helps deal with this problem, but some players struggle with understanding what it means. For those players, there is little fun to be had.
One criticism of this game is the artwork. It is pretty bland; the big blocky text is easy to read which is a plus, but the colour scheme is almost entirely black, yellow and white. There is little about the box art that makes it catch the eye, and it offers little table presence when it is being played. It’s not ugly or anything, but it is far from exciting.
Plenty of fun was had with Jabber Jaw, and I can see it hitting the table again in the future. It has no place in a game night with serious gaming hobbyists, but for families and friend groups who want a quick, chilled out game to have a laugh with, it is perfect.
It is the sort of game that fits in any collection because at one time or another, it will turn out to be the ideal little ice-breaker or warm-up for an evening.