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In this party game that tests your ability to stay with the Mainstream, players use their voting wheels to register secret votes on poll questions with the intent on picking the most popular choice and staying in the Mainstream! Players who are not in the Mainstream result in a strike, and the first player to register five strikes pays a penalty for being Passé!
We started with a room full of people making idle chit chat. I even caught somebody checking their watch! Then somebody showed up with this game as a gift. We opened it up out of curiosity and started reading the polling questions out loud. Before I knew it, we were each scanning the room, trying to figure out what the most popular answer to each of the questions were. Questions ranged from the simple opinions like "Who is the best cook in the room?" to bizzare, like "Where would you like to live? Iran, Iraq or North Korea?" The best part was selecting and enforcing the "Passe' Penalty", which goes to the person who is the most clueless and can't figure out the trends. We had my friend Sal mixing martinis and serving them to us from a 3 ft. vase!
(Note: Short, small game = short, small review)
Trendsetters (On the Spot Games, 2006 – Skaff Elias and Richard Garfield) is an odd game for me. As is, the game is really not very enjoyable but is entertaining with a small rules tweak. Still, compared to similar games (What Were You Thinking?, What’d Ya Know?), I can’t recommend this one very highly. It’s a nice idea, but I just don’t see how it’s worth buying over other party games with more staying power.
Up to six players take a voting wheel, while a deck of cards is shuffled and prepared for the game. One player takes the top card and reads one of the questions on it. Most questions cause players to pick from a set of options – sometimes realistic (Choose a place to live: Switzerland, India, France, Italy, Greece, or Japan) and sometimes awfully odd (Which would you most like to drink? Motor Oil, Melted Butter, Cream, Vodka, Sugar Water, or Melted Ice Cream). Players then vote on which answer they think the majority of other players will vote. Answers are revealed simultaneously, and any player who is not part of the majority gets a “strike”. Once you get five strikes, you are out and apparently must pay some kind of penalty (the rules mention singing a Barry Manilow song).
Mr. Garfield, one of the designers, also designed What Were You Thinking?, and the similarities are very obvious. While the first game is no longer in print (due to the pigheaded decisions at Wizards of the Coast), it’s still a classic that is even today often played on the internet. And it works for the most part, especially when the category is open-ended – choices just don’t hit the spot nearly as well. Trendsetters, however, just doesn’t work. When presented with a set of choices, the answer that you would pick is often quite obvious (I would want to live in Switzerland and drink melted butter). But I’m not trying to pick what I would say; I’m trying to pick what everyone else is trying to say. However, since they are not trying to pick what they want, but also what they think everyone will pick, this becomes circular logic. Often it feels quite random -- and frankly – stupid.
So we changed the rules and used the game in a larger group. We would hand the voting wheels to only a few people, and they would guess how the rest of the group would vote. Everyone else would then honestly vote what they thought was the best choice. If a person votes for the majority, they get a point, and the most points wins. Yes, there is still a chance for “gaminess”, because a player could simply pick choices that they know no one in their right mind would guess, but I don’t play games with those types of people.
It’s a bit odd for me to spend time talking about a variant for a game in a review, because I’m usually a stickler for playing games with their written rules. But realistically, the written rules (short, and rather obtuse) for Trendsetters simply don’t work. The game is a small one that fits easily on a sales shelf, although it’s not packaged very well for gaming; and the components are okay, although the wheels are lower quality and there probably aren’t enough cards – but the game just doesn’t really cut it.
Is it worth your time, even using the variant? I’m going to say “no”, only because you can duplicate much of what the game does on your own, using only your imagination and some paper. It’s done rather frequently in email groups, and it’s one of the few internet games that I have a lot of fun with. I’m certainly willing for a board game version, but I have What Were You Thinking? and this edition; even though it’s cheaper, isn’t worth purchasing.
“Real men play board games”