Wild Card Thursday – Wits & Wagers

W&W_Box_Top.inddI have mentioned before that more often than not I don’t enjoy party games; there are always exceptions to the rule, however, and Wits and Wagers is one of those exceptions.

Released: 2005
Designer: Dominic Crapuchettes
Plays: 3-7
EPT: 25 minutes

Wits & Wagers is a trivia party game; though it is not at all like Trivial Pursuit which is the game most people think of when they hear the words ‘trivia’ and ‘party’ in the same sentence.

The goal of the game is to have the most chips at the end of the game. Players begin the game with 2 wager chips of their color, a answer card bordered with their color and dry erase pen.

The game takes place in 7 rounds (with our house rules it takes place in X or 2X rounds where X is the number of players). You begin the game by designating a question reader and handing them 7 question cards; note the reader can still be a player and thus should not look at the answer side of the cards. Each round begins with the reader reads the top question on the card then flips over the game’s 30 second timer. Players have 30 seconds to write their answer to the question on their dry erase board; the question’s answers are always whole numerical making the trivia rather trivial (sorry I had to do it). When the timer runs out or all players have submitted their answers (face down) the answer boards are all flipped face up and arranged on the play area.

The play area in Wits & Wagers is much different than I expected when I first saw it. Rather than use a board the game ships with a felt Betting Mat slightly reminiscent of something you would see in a casino. The mat as 8 rectangle locations; 7 of which are of equal width slightly larger than the answer boards and one on a far end that says something along the lines of “Smaller than available answers” the exact text varies between additions. Each rectangle has a payout listed under it with the center location paying out 2 to 1; then each adjacent space paying out 3 to 1, then 4 to 1, 5 to 1, and finally the space labeled smallest 6 to 1.

When the player’s answers are revealed they are sorted lowest to highest on the Betting Mat with the middle bet falling on the 2 to 1 space and any duplicates sharing a space. If there are ever an even number of guesses than the center, 2 to 1, space is left blank and the answers distributed evenly on either side.

Once all answers are place players place their bets; the first round they can only bet with the 2 chips available; their player colored wager chips. Players can place their wagers on any of the available answers, those given by the players as well as the ‘Smallest’ space. Players can place both their chips on once space or divide them among two spaces. Their goal is to select the space closest to the correct answer without going over,thus f the options are thus 1,2,3,8,9,12,14 and the correct answer was 7 (not an option for wagering) the answer of 3 would be the winner, even though 8 is closer to seven numerically than 3.

Players are than given chips from the general supply equal to their payout, per chip wagered. If orange thus placed on chip on 3 they would be awarded 3 chips as the answer number ‘3’ would have laid in the 3 to 1 payout location. Had they have wagered both of their wager chips on the ‘3’ space they would receive a payout of 6 chips; 3 for each wager. Whichever player(s) wrote the winning guess are also awarded 3 chips regardless of their wagers.

As the rounds progress and players are awarded chips they can place these awarded chips under their wager chip and increase their payout greatly. lets say the scenario is the same as above and orange placed both of their wager chips on the ‘3’ answer as well as 2 additional chips from a previous round’s winnings then they would receive a payout of 12 (3 for each chip wagered). This is a risky move, however, as any non-wager chips placed on a wrong answer are returned to the general supply; and only your default player colored wager chip is returned (those 2 can never be lost). After the final round’s payout phase the game ends and the player with the most chips wins.

There are a few alterations I recommend. Rather than assign a reader rotate who reads each round, the round count rather than equal 7 will be equal to the number of players or the number of players times the number of times each desires to be the reader. We also play with a spot on award of 3 tokens for a player who writes the exact answer which at times is harder than other.

Knowledge of otherwise useless trivia in not a necessity in this game; though it does prove beneficial. The game’s wager mechanic is what makes the game work so well. Players who may not have a clue how many justices are in the supreme court may note their friend who majored in political science placed both of their chips on 9 with five additional chips under each; the social deduction element thus kicks in and they can choose to follow their friend under the expectation that they know what they are doing. Alternatively a player can hedge their bets placing chips on multiple locations in hopes that one of their selected answers is correct.

This use of bidding casts a leveling mechanic that many trivia games lack by adding that element of social deduction. There is still a strong sense of ‘the rich get richer’ on an escalated scale making this a game you surely do not want to play with your friend who stores more trivia in their brain than an encyclopedia, but with the right crowd this is a party game that doesn’t go dry after your third play nor half way through.

At times I wish the Betting Mat was a solid board as opposed to a felt cloth, but I am sure the price point dropped with the alteration. I also feel the game lacks when played without the proper house rules as mentioned above. The game’s thrill makes up for those areas, however, as every time the moment between locking your bets and revealing the answer players will find their heart stops. The game is shockingly more competitive than most party games among the groups I have played it in yet the good hearted fun remains.

Wits & Wagers thus scores 6.25 out of 10.
Visuals – 1.5 // 2
Skill/Luck – .5 // 1
Pacing – .75 // 2
Theme/Immersion – 1.5 // 2
Mechanics – .5 // 1
Fun Factor 1.5 // 2

In tomorrow’s installment of Favorite Fridays we will take a look at another fantastic train game, thought not another crayon rail game, but rather a common gateway game Ticket to Ride. Until then you can find us on social media;
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