Product Type: other board games
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Come n 'ave a go if you fink you're 'ard enuff
Member Name: xadoc
Date: 06/04/03, updated on 06/04/03 (248 review reads)
Advantages: Good Party Game, Variety of Challenges
Disadvantages: Teams need to be well matched, Your team can get "stuck" if you're not good at one of the categories, Rules sound really complicated when you read them the first time.
Can you spell "rhododendron" without writing it down, or "psychology" backwards on your first attempt? How about getting your teammates to guess the word "platform shoe" by modelling with play-doh, or "sleeping bag" by drawing it with your eyes closed? Do you know whether a cockroach can live for a week or not without its head, or who narrated Trumpton and Camberwick Green? Can you do an impression of Eddie Izzard, or mime a lava lamp? If you can answer yes to these questions, then maybe Cranium is the game for you. Maybe you said no to most of them, but fancy the idea of having a laugh anyway. Good for you.
I bought this as a gift this Christmas for my parents. I tried shopping around for it, as is my custom, but there seems to be an element of price fixing going on as everywhere was selling it for £29.95, so no bargains to be had, even on the internet. There is also a booster pack to give you twice as many cards, which is around £15. It recently won Toy Of The Year, and is rumoured to be the fastest selling game since Trivial Pursuit. I’ve heard good things about it, and as our family likes to play party games at Christmas, thought it might make a good present.
The premise is similar to many other board games – you split into teams, throw the die, move around the board and complete the challenges/questions on the cards to advance. There are a few twists though, and the first time you read the rules it sounds impossibly complicated. It isn’t at all, but just sounds like it.
Firstly, the die doesn’t have numbers on it. It is ten sided, with two sides coloured yellow, red, green, blue and purple. These correspond with the colours of the spaces on the board. Each of the first four colours relates to a deck of challenge cards. The purple relates to the special "cranium" spaces; more about them later.
The four decks or categories are as follows:
These are for the lexicographers. You may have to nominate a member of your team to correctly spell a difficult word first time without writing it down, spell a word backwards first time (again without writing it down), or you may have to unscramble an anagram or fill in the blanks to find a well known expression like on Wheel of Fortune.
Creative Cat (Blue)
These are for those people with a more artistic leaning. Here you may have to undertake Pictionary-style drawing challenges to express a thing or concept without letters or numbers, draw objects blindfolded, or model objects with the included “"cranium clay", which is like purple play-doh only it doesn’t smell so nice.
Data Head (Red)
These cards are for fans of quiz shows and Trivial Pursuit. There are General Knowledge questions, True/False questions, or Call My Bluff type questions where you have to decide from the multiple choice (multiple guess) definitions provided which is correct for the unusual word on the card.
Star Performer (Green)
These are for the thespians. You may have to do impressions of celebrities without naming any names or places, you may have to mime an object or expression in a style similar to Charades, or you might be required to make your teammates guess a song or theme tune by humming or whistling it.
All of these challenges have to be completed within one turn of the egg-timer provided. If you are successful, you get to throw the die and move. Your turn always ends after one challenge, which is nice, as it means one team can’t hog the whole game, as sometimes happens in Pictionary if you play by the proper rules.
The winner is the first team to reach the centre and successfully complete five challenges there – one from each of the decks and one chosen by the opposing teams.
An interesting twist to the game is provided by the addition of the fast tracks and scenic
s. These connect the four purple "cranium" spaces. You land on a cranium by either throwing purple on the die, or by throwing a colour that takes you past the cranium, in which case, you must stop on the cranium. Here you can choose from which deck you would like to play. Successfully completing the challenge means you travel on the fast track, which has approximately half as many spaces as the scenic route.
Failing, and thereby taking the scenic route is not as catastrophic as it may sound, however, as on your next successful turn you may throw purple anyway and be boosted straight to the next cranium. Fortunes can change very quickly in this game.
The "Cranium Challenge" cards provide another twist. If you pick one of these cards on your turn, it does not count as your real turn, which you take immediately afterwards. Instead, all teams have to take part simultaneously, which can be very amusing if everyone is miming or drawing or humming together, and also mean that your team can still win the challenge, even if your nominated team mate doesn’t know how the William Tell Overture goes, as you can listen to one of the other teams instead! Whoever completes the Cranium Challenge gets an extra throw of the die and then the game resumes with the team who picked the Cranium Challenge card taking their turn.
Tips for playing:
If you have bad spellers in your group (two of my family are dyslexic) make sure they aren’t all on the same team, as they will become woefully depressed on the Word Worm puzzles.
With a "sculptorades" card (the one where you have to model with the clay), start by splitting the clay into three lumps. One third is more than enough to model with, and means you have plenty to add if you need to, and won’t have to remove your model cow’s leg in order to give her udders…
If you’re on a "sensosketch" (drawing blindfo
lded), use the h
and you’re not holding the pencil with to provide reference points on the paper, or better still, try to draw with one continuous line. It’s amazing how lost you get when you can’t see what you’re drawing on and you lift the pencil from the paper; you draw a circle for a face, and the eyes end up somewhere completely different.
If it's a "gnilleps" (spelling backwards) you've got to do, take your time and take care as the first attempt counts. Spell the word forwards silently allocating one letter to each of your fingers, then work your way backwards out loud, silently spelling forwards every time you get stuck.
Decide how you are going to play the impressions cards. With my family, it was decided that impressions were too difficult and describing the person was allowed, but when I played it with friends they were adamant that you should only be allowed to impersonate. (It is more fun if people do the impersonations but if someone just stands there saying "But I can’t do this person… I can’t do their voice" it’s no fun).
Although a game of American invention, it has been nicely anglicised for the British market – the general knowledge questions are “British” general knowledge, the impersonations are British celebrities, and the spellings are British spellings.
I’m not sure if this will become the game of choice at our family Christmases, as Pictionary has reigned supreme for many years, and my brother and his girlfriend don’t like Cranium now, since when we last played it they were stuck for a long time on a Data Head space.
Perhaps a rule saying that if you are stuck for more than three turns on one space you can choose to throw the die and move *backwards* to the coloured space indicated… that might appease them. I think I’ll suggest it next Christmas…