In my quest for gaming fun with various different groups of people, I have used my Noggin (see what I did there) and come to a startling discovery. Okay, maybe not startling, but a discovery: there is a huge cross-over between family games and games to be played whilst drinking ‘responsibly’.
Now if we were to Venn diagram the whole thing we’d see that there are definitely games that do not belong in the intersection – Cards Against Humanity and Porno Charades should NOT be allowed in the intersection (and I’ve warned you about that) but a lot of family games could be allowed in. Super Rhino Hero Battle is hella fun for 6 to 8 year olds but also hilarious for ‘lubricated’ 20/30/40 somethings; Codenames is fun for all the family, but even more fun for those with no sense of propriety. You get the idea, and that’s before I even mention Big Potato Games.
Big Potato Games have been the big boys when it comes to family/party type games up until now, and for good reason. Their games are bright and colourful, simple to grasp and a hoot to play. But hold up, you massive spud – there’s a new challenger in town and they’re down to clown…
Have You Heard About The Word
Noggin is a fast-paced, fun and frustrating word game from new game designers Format Games. Format Games is the brain child of Laurence Emmett and Matt Edmonson (he of Radio 1, for all you hip young things), born of lockdown frustration and a ‘what the heck’ attitude. They have three games out so far, all having a family/party flavour to them. The most recent is Noggin. See opening line of this paragraph.
After you have rescued yourself from the dialectical loop that I may have accidentally set up (sorry), a bit more about Noggin. It can be played by 2 to goodness knows how many players and is all about using letters to make words according to various conditions. The player who makes the most words by the end of the game wins.
Each player begins with a pile of cards dealt in front of them. Players then take it in turns to play a card from their pile to one of three piles in the centre of the table. Each card played will have either a letter or an ‘action’ on them. Whilst there are only letters on the table, everything proceeds as normal. When an action appears on the table, covering up one of the three letters, players then try to be the first to complete the action using the two letters visible on the table.
Everybody Knows That The Word Is A Bird
Though the majority of the cards in the game will be letters, Noggin is all about the actions. They are:
- Bookend: use the two visible letters, in any order, to start and finish a word. For instance, with F and G, you might say ‘filling’ (or ‘Gandalf’ if you are accepting proper nouns – it’s your game, after all)
- Middle Letters: say a word that has the two visible letters in the middle – note, they don’t have to be together OR exactly in the middle. So, F and G might be used for ‘nightfall’
- Initials: use the letters as the initials of the name of someone known to the group, fictional or someone famous, for example George Foreman (I don’t think you could get away with Grandad Frank, but hey, worth a try)
- Word Association: say two words that are associated by some kind of tenuous link (like Gold and Frankincense – they’re linked, okay?)
- Word Disassociation: say two words that are not associated by any kind of tenuous link (like Grenade and Furby, though someone is bound to say that they are the same thing…)
- Describe: the card with the Hairy Gorilla! You don’t have to say ‘hairy gorilla’, just an adjective and noun using those letters – Frilly Garters might raise a few eyebrows but would be correct.
- Neither Letter: my favourite one, because you have to say a word that contains neither letter and my stock response is always ‘cow’. Cow.
The game ends when all the cards are dealt and the winner is the player who has gained the most action cards. But there are two other rules to bear in mind too that can stir things up a bit.
Firstly, you can’t use a word more than once for an answer. If you do, the action you would have won goes into the pot and will be won by the next person who gives a correct response to an action card.
Second, when laying out the cards you might, just might, see a three-letter word appear in a clockwise direction. If you are the first person to shout out the word, you get to steal one of someone else’s action cards. Sneaky? Very.
Words… Don’t Come Easy… To Me
To quote Dragon’s Tomb, Noggin is a blast to play. The cards are colourful yet functional, the play is fast and accessible and the turn over between games is very quick, as is the play time. And the chances are you will want to play this more than once in a session as, whether you are responsibly drinking or hanging out with the family or both, each new game will throw up even more ridiculous and/or questionable responses. Case in point: in the last game I played, I managed to win an action card with the response ‘Saucy Nans’ – please don’t ask me where that came from.
There may come times in the game where you end up getting stuck (let me tell you, there are not many famous, known or fictional names with the initials U and G – Uncle George does not count), but you can move the action card around (let me tell you, there are not many famous, known or fictional names with the initials U and A – Uncle Andrew also does not count). In short, this is not completely insurmountable as this is not the most serious of games (okay, Uncle Andrew does count as I met him at your wedding).
As well as being a definite hit for gamers and non-gamers alike, a certain amount of appreciated thought has gone in to the design as well. It does come in a double-cassette size box (ask your dad/grandad/great grandad) for the cards and instructions, but the cards themselves come in a a handy card deck size box with the words ‘TAKE ME WITH YOU’ printed on the the bigger box underneath it – a nice touch. But the important thing is that this is a game that will be played and will be played a lot – the last people I played with had bought a copy before the end of our third game.
So use your Noggin and get Noggin-in. Quickly.