So friends, this month I have taken it upon myself to share some thoughts on what makes a good movie board game. I love games – grew up playing board games, card games, video games – and even now enjoy a good, old-fashioned “game night” with friends and family. But it’s hard to find good movie-related games. You need something that appeals to a wide range of movie knowledge levels and preferably something with some recent content. Movie trivia games become out-of-date quickly and the more specific they get (i.e. games about a particular movie or franchise), the more obscure and esoteric the questions. For myself, I don’t have fun playing a trivia game that’s way too easy and I also don’t enjoy ones where I don’t know any of the answers. It’s a tricky balance, so I thought I’d share reviews of some of my own game acquisitions over the years and open the floor so you all can share your favourites as well.
I received an interesting addition to my collection of movie-themed games for Christmas this year called Movie Mania: The Trivia Game of Famous Movie Quotes and Questions. Those who know me know this is right up my alley – quotes from movies – I’m all over it! However when we broke out said game to play with the family at Christmas, the required movie knowledge is pretty obscure. It’s a name-that-film game where the sole clues are short film quotes divided into five genre categories: Action/Adventure, Drama, Comedy, Classic/Western, and Science-Fiction/Horror. It’s hard! At least with DVD games that use quotes, you have the actor’s voice or some background noise as clues as well. Also, the developers’ definition of “famous” movie quotes needs to be called into question. Most seemed to be just random snippets of dialogue, which when taken out of context are pretty hard to identify. For example, one we had in action/adventure was “My, that’s a big one”. Now I’m sure many of you faithful readers know immediately that that’s a line from Dirty Harry, but I had no idea and it sounded like a line that could be from half a dozen action movies. Now some were glaringly obvious like, “I’m so sure that you’re Superman that I’m willing to bet my life on it” (although this appeared in the “drama” category and I’d more qualify the Superman films as action/adventure, but whatever!) How about “I’m sailing! I’m sailing!” in comedy? Anyone? Anyone?… Bueller… Bueller…
With Shout About Movies, there is no board. You just pop it in the DVD player (wait – does anyone else still have a DVD player?) and all questions and scoring happen as per step-by-step instructions from a game show host type guide. It’s a series of four DVDs circa 2004 and each disc has three games’ worth of content. Of course, once you’ve played them all, you’ve pretty much exhausted the fun factor. Played in a 2-team format, each game consists of 8 rounds where team members shout out the answers to questions that include name-that-film clips, put-the-following-in-order, and a Final Jeopardy type round. I only have one of the discs and it includes a pretty good range of clips and questions based on films mostly from the 60s – early 2000s. There are also a number of questions that require some knowledge of contemporary history instead of or in addition to movies. Overall, Shout About Movies is a pretty good time, but I think I only played it with a large group once or twice… it’s enjoyable, but not overly memorable.
Another gift I received for Christmas one year was a basic travel movie trivia game from a small toy and game company in Ontario called Home Toy and Games Inc. They have a bunch of themed games that are perfect when you’re on the go – just a deck of trivia cards. For the movie version, you win by correctly answering two questions from each of five genre categories: Comedy/Cartoon, Action/Adventure, Drama/Musical, Horror/Sci-Fi, and Awards. The questions have a good range of difficulty and often include multiple-choice answers, so folks of all knowledge levels can have a fighting chance. I like the Awards category – something a little different from the usual genre selection. As I write, I’m flipping through the cards and here’s a neat question from that category: “What two films hold the title for most Oscar nominations with no wins?” Answer: The Color Purple and The Turning Point. I didn’t know that one. Now I do! And incidentally, they both had 11 nominations, no wins. In case you were wondering…
For something a bit different than the usual run-of-the-mill trivia movie game, you can try Act One. It was made in 1995 so getting a bit out of date now, but of course it’s still fun if your movie familiarity extends beyond new releases. Played in teams, the object of this charades-type game is to get your team to guess the title of a film or TV show. The cards provide a series of lines from the title film or show together with acting “suggestions” like accents, tone, setting, or age of the character. It’s in part a quote-based trivia game and in part a fun opportunity to recreate some famous movie moments. For instance, how far would you go to get your team to guess Jack’s famous “I’m king of the world!” moment from the example card below? You’d want to play this game with a group of friends who not only know movies, but who aren’t afraid of looking a little silly and have some aptitude for accents. It’s fun for a bit, but when I’ve played it in big groups, we tend to tire of it pretty quickly.
Not exactly a movie game per se, Who’s in the Bag is one of my favourite pop culture party games. I’m sure most know some version of this game – it’s basically “Celebrities” where players put a random selection of famous people’s names into a hat and then the other team tries to guess as many as possible within a set time limit. In case you don’t want to create your own selection of celebrities, there’s Who’s in the Bag. As an example, if the clue was Audrey Hepburn you might fire off some of her more famous film titles i.e. “She was in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, My Fair Lady, Roman Holiday, Sabrina”, etc. Things get really interesting when you don’t know who the person is or why they’re famous. Also, it’s amazing the crazy flubs that come out of people’s mouths when racing against the egg-timer… You can also get new cards from time to time to update your selection of Who’s in the Bag personalities.
Director’s Cut is another typical trivia board game, but its questions are a bit different from the usual genre format. There are five questions on each card. The first lists two movies – you need to provide the actor who appeared in both i.e. Q: Gandhi & Carnal Knowledge. A: Candace Bergen. The second is straight up trivia i.e. Q: What is Indiana Jones a professor of? A: Archeology. The third provides the names of two actors and you supply the movie(s) they both appeared in i.e. Q: Mike Myers & Tia Carrere. A: Wayne’s World (1 or 2). The fourth set of questions provides 3 clues and you must name the film i.e. Q: Kidnap, Boss, Parton. A: Nine to Five. The fifth is a description of a person, and you need to name the actor/tress or director i.e. Q: Film fans know me as the Duke, but Mom and Dad called me Marion. A: John Wayne. There’s also some bumps along the board path as well – you might draw a card that tells you “At a premiere, you mistake Jim Varney for Tom Cruise. Move back two spaces and lose your turn” (the game developers seem to have an odd sense of humour). I picked some fairly easy examples, but this game is actually much harder than it seems. It is fun though.
Scene It is a popular movie trivia board game franchise that combines movie clips and puzzle games on DVD with standard trivia cards played on a board you can adjust for game length. There are tons of versions – those with movie content include themes like Turner Classic Movies, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, Disney, and James Bond editions. Apparently it’s now available through Facebook and a number of mobile devices too. Of all of my many movie trivia games, this one is my favourite and the one I’ve played most often. The clips are a good length and the questions are unpredictable. You may be asked to name the actor/actress, or you may be asked what’s the make and model of the car shown in the clip. I find the questions challenging but accessible, even if you’re not a die-hard movie trivia buff. The DVD questions proceed without a “host” but are accompanied by dramatic Weakest Link type music to suitably set the mood. At the end there’s an awesome movie-phone type voice that announces, “You‘ve won the game. You are a winner.” Yes, Scene It, I am a winner. Thank you for noticing.
I hope you all enjoyed my catalogue of movie games. What are some others? I’m always looking to expand my collection!
PS. Oh, and the “I’m sailing!” quote I referenced earlier is from What About Bob. In case you were wondering…