Product Type: other board games
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WARNING! You may actually laugh so much it hurts!
Member Name: bagel
Date: 06/04/03, updated on 06/04/03 (1321 review reads)
Advantages: Hilarious!, Wide variety of questions, Short game (about 1 hour)
Disadvantages: Not cheap, What do I do when my clay dries up?
Cranium is best described as a mix of pretty much every fun board game you can think of. Except Monopoly. And Scrabble. Oh yes, and it not like snakes and ladders either. It's a little like trivial pursuit though, but not a lot. Anyway, it's basically a mix of many noisy games like Charades and Pictionary. Cranium is played by up to four teams, who have to draw, act, sculpt clay, and be generally clever to get to the middle of the board first.
I bought this game based on recommendations. I noticed the iwantoneofthose.com catalogue raving about it, and if they rave, it's normally something pretty special. Granted, their reviews are normally hyperactive, but this one grabbed my attention. So, off I went to trusty dooyoo, and the reviews here were quite literally raving too. Must be good, I thought to myself. I couldn't wait for next day internet delivery, so off I went to my local Woolworths store to pick up a copy. Bad news though - my local shop doesn't stock it, and neither do any stores in my town. I got it from iwantoneofthose.com in the end, who as always delivered on time and in perfect condition. I believe the game is also available from Virgin and Starbucks.
HOW TO PLAY
1. Find friends (these can normally be found around your house or workplace, or in your phone book). You'll need at least four of these, but the more players the better (Cranium has been played with 40 people). If you need new friends, invite acquaintances over. Once they've seen you acting out 'streaker', humming TV themes and sculpting 'beans on toast', you'll have some new friends.
2. Clear a space, then open board up and position four piles of cards in colour coded corners. You could opt for the traditional dining room table situation, although the board is only a small part of this game, so you could quite easily play on the beach, in a field or besides the campfire (or in a meeting room at work).
r>3. Place the tub of Cranium Clay in the middle of the board. Let friends peer inside the tub, but take it off them before they play with the clay all evening. Promise them that their time will come later.
4. [optional step - get some alcohol. This may improve the game, however is not recommended for first time players as you need to read a fair bit of text. And reading through beer goggles is not easy]
5. Explain the rules to the gathered masses - you move clockwise round the board. Get a challenge right, and you can roll the die to tell you which colour square to advance to. Get it wrong, and you stay where you are. Either way, you only get asked one question, and your turn ends after that. The colour square you landed on (or stayed on) at the end of the previous turn determines which type of challenge you team has to complete next turn. I won't go through the rules in full detail here, as they're contained in the box.
PLAYING THE GAME
There are four categories of challenge - Star Performer (R), Data Head (R), Word Worm (R) and Creative cat (R). Almost everything in Cranium (R) has a little US-style 'Registered Trademark' symbol next to the item. Even down to the sub-categories of question in each of these main categories.
If you landed on a green space on your previous turn, for example, you get a Star Performer question, which generally involves standing up and making the rest of your team try to guess what you are doing. There's a straight copy of Charades in there, along with impersonating famous people and humming/whistling tune. In the box is a sand timer, and each challenge has to be completed before the sands run out (about a minute, I would guess). This category is obviously suitable for the extroverts in your group, or the introverts with secret ambitions of stardom, or introverts who get pushed into performing by the extroverts.
Data Head is a selection of 'general knowledge&
#39; questions, although some are pretty 'unusual'. Word Worm is generally word puzzles, like filling in the blanks, spelling a complicated word (sometimes forwards, sometimes backwards), unscrambling anagrams and so on. Data Head and Word worm are a mixture of team activities (conferring) and single person games. These two categories are great for people who are maybe a little more reserved, as they don't involve standing up and performing.
Which leaves Creative Cat, probably my favourite category. Cards in Creative Cat include 'cloodle', where you have to make the rest of your team guess an item or phrase from clues you draw, and 'sensosketch', which is like cloodle, but you have to play with eyes closed. Even simple clues become immensely difficult to draw with your eyes closed. Which leaves the 'piece de resistance' the sculptorade, where you have to make your team guess an object by sculpting it out of special cranium clay. This is very difficult, but great fun. This must be the only challenge that will have each team member saying 'me! me! I want to play this challenge!'.
Some are the challenges are of the 'Club Cranium' variety, where all teams compete simultaneously for a bonus roll of the dice. This could have each team, for example, electing a member to sketch with their eyes closed, or act like a famous person. Although, possibly the most amusing type of Cleb Cranium is the team tune-humming round, which will have each team's representative trying to hum/whistle over the other teams attempts.
Cranium takes about an hour to play with good sized teams, but my first game took over two hours as we only had teams of two (and the first play inevitably takes longer). Many of the challenges are of the 'get your team member to guess' variety, and with only one other team member, answers are often guessed wrong.
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO PLAY?
I have only played tw
ice so far, but I've had a lot of fun. On every turn, you get to nominate a team member to compete the activity, so this allows you to leave quieter team member to the drawing and wordy questions, while the extroverts stand up and perform. Or, alternatively, your team can decide the most amusing way to play. I am not much of a performer, but got nominated for a 'star performer' question. I had seen previous questions, and though it couldn't be too bad. When the opposing team (reading out the question) burst into fits of laughter, I knew I was in for trouble. I think my reaction what along the lines of 'oh fiddlesticks' when I found out I had to act out 'streaker'.
Cranium should be suitable for most people, although it is not aimed at people below teenage years (the spinoff, Cloodle, fills the gap). Cranium is great with a group of friends, although I can imagine it working out very well as a family game.
I can't remember the last board game that has made me laugh so much. Actually, it was probably Trivial Pursuits, but that was more to do with the company than the game itself (Q: Which order of monks takes a vow of silence? A: Alphabetical).
Cranium is a very good game, and when played with good company, Cranium is elevated to a truly superb game. I am already thinking what to do when I run out of supplies. I can get new pencils and paper, but I'll need to buy some more Cranium Clay as it will inevitably dry up, and the booster box of questions (Cranium comes with 800 questions to start with). If you have friends and enjoy a good laugh, I would certainly recommend this game. I plan to introduce as many people as I can to it - it should be a basic human right for everyone to play Cranium at some point in their lives.