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Knowing about my piqued interest in courtroom drama after a bout of jury service I was gifted a board game (although it is more of a paper game since there is no board to speak of) entitled "You Be The Judge" over the recent Christmas festivities. The game comes neatly packaged in a container that was clearly a biscuit tin in a former life with your very stereotypically stern judge on the front looking like he's had the pleasure of sending one or two men to the gallows in his time. Inside the container you get the instructions, a dice numbered with 2x1-3, a small pad of 30 scorecards plus 200 case cards which I must confess to counting for quality control and can confirm the accuracy of the manufacturer's claim...hah of course I'm not really that anal (I totally did it).
The instruction sheet is very clear but practically redundant since the rules of the game are so incredibly simple. Basically you can have either 2 players or 2 teams of no apparent upper limit pitting their wits against each other. Player / Team A is decided by the fickle toss of a coin (the manufacturers are assuming you have access to hard currency in these tricky economic times) and they begin by selecting a case card at random, reading it aloud and then silently reading the verdict before Player / Team B are allowed to begin their discussions / cogitations to determine the correct verdict (looking at the case notes again if necessary). If they successfully reach the correct verdict they roll the dice and mark the same number of boxes on the scorecard with an X. If inter-team squabbling or an ignorance of the law brings about the wrong verdict then the turn simply ends. The player / team that gets to 12 boxes first (hmmm that's the number in a jury...significant?) wins. Yay.
===Twelve Angry Men?===
To be honest, this game should really be called "You Be The Jury" rather than Judge (although admittedly that has less panache) since you only get to deliver a verdict after a majority decision has been reached and sadly don't get to do the fun part of dishing out cruel and unusual punishment on an escalating scale of severity to naughty criminals but that pedantic little grumble aside this is a fairly fun game to play, although it does really only have a novelty factor on its side - even the makers only expect you to play a maximum of 30 times before you having to resort to using your own paper.
I would definitely recommend playing this game in teams rather than one on one as the real entertainment value of this game lies with the debating between team mates especially when there are two dominant personalities with opposing views at work and on the odd occasion things can get pretty heated when this clash leads to the wrong verdict so have your popcorn at the ready. Overzealous combativeness aside, the discussions / debates themselves can be fascinating as teams try to apply every bit of logic and scrap of knowledge they own to unfamiliar situations. One issue with this game is that some of the cases are very quick to reach a verdict as they are a little too obvious plus with lucky rolls of the dice along with consistently correct answers the game can be over very quickly - teams would only need to get four cases right if they rolled a 3 every time.
You do get a mixed bag with the 200 real life cases and genuine jury verdicts, some from as far back as the 17th Century all the way up to modern day which have had names and places renamed for legal reasons to protect those involved, so tragically you won't discover that your next door neighbours were tax cheats or serial flashers which may be a source of disappointment - in fact the majority of the cases actually refer to petty misdemeanours and squabbles so you don't delve into any grizzly, macabre stuff making this game suitable for 12 year olds plus, but for me this was potentially a missed avenue for spicing up the game a little (but I have a dark mind). Though to be fair, each case style is for you to determine if someone should be found culpable for a proven act rather than trying to determine guilt based upon evidence so gruesome murders are right out.
Some of the cases are more interesting than others especially for those interested in the law, although with the quick-fire nature of the questions there is very little opportunity for expanding your legal repertoire, and for me it is the historical cases that are much more appealing especially those set before changes in laws and exploring what was then socially acceptable. Some of the cases are amusingly ridiculous such as a woman trying to sue a fortune teller when her predicted future didn't come true, a psychic suing a hospital after a CAT scan caused her to "lose her abilities", an avid fan of blue movies suing over the amount of screen time the "leading lady" had, but unfortunately the majority were silly, mundane things like "oh you left the door unlocked and we got burgled" or "you opened your garden gate with wild abandon and hit me in the face" - basically a lot of stuff falling into the "have you had an accident that wasn't your fault" category.
There were quite a few instances where upon casting the wrong verdict the teams proceeded to complain that there was insufficient detail in the case notes thus hindering any chances to ever reach the correct answer and I would have to agree that due to the succinctness of the case briefs a certain level of ambiguity did indeed creep in on a few occasions which was a tad annoying. That aside the case notes were all easy to read and as far as I can tell mistake free so there is little complaint about the quality of the product to be had, other than the dull nature of some of the cases.
"You Be The Judge" suffers a little for me as a game with no real longevity - after a few games it gets a bit repetitive and obviously once you've gone through all the cards there is little point in playing again (though to be fair 200 is a fair old number) so in my experience this is the type of game that will be played a few times until the novelty wears off and then may be consigned to the back of a dusty cupboard. Very few of the cases merit any real in-depth discussions as most are just common sense and more often than not a little dull (though there are a few stumpers falling into a big old grey area dotted about or jurors just being unpredictably silly with their verdicts), but sporadic heated arguments can spring up without warning which has good entertainment value as long as violence is forestalled. The fact that you only need 12 boxes to win makes the game over all too quickly sometimes, and I found in the course of playing on a few occasions we stopped bothering with the scoring and just began reading the cases out randomly.
So, for my final parting shot I'd say this is a good party game, perhaps for when people are starting to get a bit merry as it is a very easy game to play and good for getting people talking and debating, but is not overly taxing so will never be a go to game for those cerebral times. Still, being available at under £10 you'll easily get your money's worth before the novelty wears off so may well be worth a punt if the law is your bag.