Playing time: 40 minutes
By: Gaëtan Beaujannot, Alain Rivollet / Repos Production
Rank on BoardGameGeek: 485th
Hey, I haven't done a so-called "party game" yet, maybe because the focus on social interaction rather than game strategy sets these apart and are considered by hardcore gamers to be "lesser". But with the right group, these can be a lot of fun. Besides, there are some really interesting ones out there. Like Concept.
Most "make your team guess a word/phrase" games can be easily created in the home without it being boxed, marketed and sold to the players. Some suggestions in a hat, and you're good to go. Not so Concept. In this game, each card gives you a choice of 9 suggestions, worth 1, 2 or 3 points, and you must make your team guess it by putting tokens on the game board's various icons. Among these, types/categories of things/people, shapes, colors, and directions. The more abstract the suggestion (expressions, for example, can be hard to pin down exactly), the more difficult the puzzle you must create to make your team guess it. But therein lies the fun of this game, I think. I find that players always want to challenge themselves by picking the hardest suggestions, to see if they can craft the perfect rebus, as it were, to make other players clue in. 1-point suggestions are very rarely used, in fact, but I can easily imagine younger players gravitating towards those (points can all be made equivalent in family games). Simple in execution, but complex in play, though things get easier once you get a handle on the board and its many possibilities.
The game is necessarily too abstract for that.
The board is handsome, and the white design makes the icons clear and colorful. The tokens include a principal "main concept" question mark and some "secondary concept" exclamation marks, plus lots of little cubes in the various colors so you can associate concepts together. (For example, "Back to the Future" might have "movie" as main concept in green, but then you might be trying to make people guess "Future" with red cubes, and Back with black ones.) I like the circular tray that's included to store the cubes. The cut-out "points" that look like light bulbs, we've never used. A crib sheet works just as well. I do have some misgivings about the suggestion cards, which allow players to see too many unused suggestions (9 and you pick 1), but that sort of "foreknowledge" of what might be in the cards has never been an issue.
I'll come right out and say it: We've never played the game as detailed in the rules. We took a page from Wil Wheaton's Tabletop and consistently play cooperatively instead. No teams, or rather, just one big team, and we simply try to beat our own high score, or a pre-determined number of points (so at 5 people, giving each 2 turns, that's 10 concepts, let's try for at least 25). Sometimes, we change it up and throw a 10-sided die to determine which suggestion we have to use (10 being your choice), which gives some of the 1-pointers some love.
I don't know if it's a house rule or not, because the rules don't really mention it, but one thing I absolutely endorse is using the cubes as more than just concept indicators. To signify the Empire State Building, for example, I would build a little tower of blocks next to the "building" icon. To make you guess a light saber, I might put a line of cubes coming out of a hand icon. So long as you're not writing words/letters, it's fair game.
In conclusion: Concept puts an abstract new spin on guessing games, creating a more thoughtful atmosphere around the table where most party games are raucous and based on shouting fast answers. It might just bridge the gap between the party gamer and the "serious" boardgamer.