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Imagine what strangers (and animals!) might be like, based only on their faces. The player who keeps making the right choices wins.
Published by: Buffalo Games
3 – 8 Players, 45 minutes
Review by: Greg J. Schloesser
Faces, from Buffalo Games, touts itself as “The hilarious game of first impressions”. After a reading of the rules, I must admit that my first impression wasn’t very favorable. The game sounded as though it was short on “game” and long on silliness. The rules made it sound as though the game was a version of Out of the Box’s Apples to Apples, using faces in the place of words. I am not a huge fan of Apples to Apples, so I was skeptical about Faces.
Fortunately, my skepticism faded as quickly as a frown at a funny movie. Faces is fun … and extremely funny. Every game I’ve played has involved lots of chatter and uproarious laughter … just the sort of thing a party game is supposed to involve. No, there isn’t much, if any, strategy here, but there isn’t supposed to be. It is clearly designed to liven a party by invoking buckets of laughter, and it succeeds in its goal very well.
The game consists of two boards, one of which is a large score track and the other, known as the “Line-up” board, serving as a depository for the cards that will be in play during a round. There are several decks of cards, three of which depict the faces of men, women and animals. The human photos are black and white, and appear to vintage late 1800s and early 1900s. Some of these are quite humorous, and many of the individuals are sporting outmoded hairstyles and adornments. I even question whether some of them are actually human! Many of the animals also have silly appearances, often causing players to try to guess the actual species depicted. The final deck – known as the “Impression” deck –consists of cards containing various statements, which when associated with the character faces, is the catalyst for the humor. Players must choose the visage that best matches descriptions such as, “The one with the fewest teeth”, “The aging superhero”, “The one doing long division”, or “The one who’s hopelessly lost”. Fortunately, all descriptions and photos are family friendly, with no need to hide some from younger eyes or ears.
The game is played in two distinct phases. In the first phase, each player receives cards numbered 1 – 6. Six cards from the male deck are revealed and placed on the Line-Up board. One player – I’ll call this player the “reader” – reads aloud a card from the Impression deck, and all players simultaneously select one of their cards that corresponds to the character in the line-up that they feel best fits the description. For example, a card might read, “The one who is having a bad hair day”. Players peruse the characters in the line-up, and make their selection. One point is scored if a player’s selection matches the one chosen by the reader, while the reader scores one point for each match made. Points are tallied on the score track. The character card selected by the reader is discarded and replaced with a new one from the male deck.
After four rounds with male cards, four rounds are conducted with female cards in the line-up, followed by four more rounds with animal cards. This may result in some players having more turns as the “reader” than others, which is unbalancing in terms of scoring. I recommend insuring that each player has an equal number of turns as the “reader”.
Once these rounds are completed, the game enters the second and final phase. Players discard their number cards, and each receives two male, female and animal cards. Once again players alternate being the “reader”, reading aloud a card from the Impressions deck. The reader then turns away while each player selects a card from their hand that they feel best fits the description of the card read. These cards are placed on the “Line- up” board, and the reader then selects the one he feel best matches the description. That player earns three points. The cards are removed from the line-up board, each player receives a card from the deck corresponding to the card he played, and the process is repeated with a new reader. Play continues until one player’s pawn reaches the finish line, thereby achieving victory.
This second phase of the game has proven the most popular and the funniest. Players have control over which cards they select for the line-up, and can choose cards that they feel will closely match the description, or, in some cases, select cards that they feel will evoke the most laughter. Often these two closely correlate, which is even better! Some cards are humorous in- and-of-themselves, but when matched to an accurate description, become downright hilarious. I’ve witnessed tears of laughter streaming down the faces of participants in many of the games I’ve played, and one game even had a participant laughing so hard that he fell out of his chair! It is difficult to find fault with a game that can produce that type of fun and hilarity.
Difficult … but not impossible. I do have a few complaints. My main issue is that there should be more “face” cards in each deck. The cards are cycled through quickly, meaning the same visages appear multiple times during the course of the game. More cards would add to the humor and avoid repetitiveness. The same can be said for the Impression cards: more is better. The animal cards are generally not as humorous as the human cards, and I would have preferred to see more humorous renditions of the animals. However, in certain situations, they can fit well and evoke similar peals of laughter. I also wonder why the Line-up board has slots for only six cards, as the game can accommodate up to eight players and in the second phase of the game there will be more than six cards played to the board. Strange.
These concerns, however, are not enough to spoil the game. Indeed, they barely detract from the fun. I often worry about games wherein humor is the primary force, as the humor tends to wear thin quickly. Usually, if there is not a good game as the foundation, humor will not be enough to sustain the fun. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen here. Faces is an excellent party game that keeps everyone engaged and having fun. It is suitable for just about all ages and just about any group. In this case, a picture is certainly worth a thousand words … and the money spent to acquire the game!
“I’m good with faces but can never remember names,” we all tell others in an effort to hide our embarrassment at forgetting yet another person’s name. But faces are intriguing, as they manage to show hundreds of emotions in subtle ways – obviously leading to the party game Faces (Buffalo Games, 2005 – A. B. J. Lawson). As I looked over the hideous visages included in the game, I had an inkling that this might become a rather popular party game.
And this prediction turned out to be true – Faces is certainly becoming one of the most popular party games I’ve ever introduced – groups continually want to play it over and over. Comparisons to Apples to Apples are often made and are certainly valid. Faces could use a little more diversity amongst its cards, but the game plays immensely well, and laughter reigns supreme during games.
The game consists of 194 face cards, separated into three decks: male, female, and animal. The male and female cards are black and white picture headshots of various people from what appears to be the turn of the nineteenth century. The animals are color pictures that show various beasts from across the animal kingdom. Two boards are placed on the table – one with six slots for faces, and another a victory point track. Players place a pawn of their color on the “start” space of the track and take six cards that are numbered “1” through “6”. A deck of Impressions cards is shuffled and placed face down, and one player is chosen to go first.
The game has two distinct phases, each of which alternate until one player is declared the winner. The first phase is made up of three “Line-up” rounds; each consisting of four turns each. For the first of these rounds, six male faces are drawn and placed on the six numbered spots on the board. The top Impression card is drawn, and then each player looks at the faces and chooses the one that they think that best matches the description (“The one who’s allergic to sunlight”, “The one who treats every problem with electric shock therapy”, “The plumber”, “The one holding a cigarette”, etc.) Each player places one of their cards face down and then reveal them simultaneously. Every player who matches the choice of the player whose turn it is receives one point, while that player scores one point for every matching player. The next card is drawn, with a new player being the one people are trying to match. After doing this four times, six female faces replace the males; and six animal faces four times after that. After all three rounds play proceeds to the Card-in-Hand phase.
In this phase, each player draws two cards from each face pile. The top Impression card is drawn, and players must select the face they think best matches that from their hand, placing it face down in the middle. The player whose turn it is does not place a card but rather hides their face at this point, as they are the judge. Once the cards are all played, the judge places them all face up and chooses the one they think best matches the Impression card. The player who played that card gains three points, and the next player becomes the judge; with all players drawing one face card to replace the one played. After each player has been the judge once, players return to the Line-up Phase. This continues until one players pawn reaches the “Finish” space, at which point they win the game!
Some comments on the game…
Teenagers, adults, children – everyone I’ve introduced this game to has loved it. If you like Apples to Apples, then this is a sure follow up; although those who can’t stand subjectivity should probably turn away. Ignore the cute packaging – there is a simple yet enjoyable party game inside the box. While I wonder what these people would think if they knew we were making fun of their pictures, it’s a blast to play. Perhaps my picture will be in the 2107 edition.
“Real men play board games”
Faces gives you 3 decks of cards with pictures of faces on them. One deck of women and one from men that look to be from the 1920s, and a deck of animal faces. Working with one 6 pictures from one deck can you guess which one is the insomniac? Take turns being the judge, and everyone will be laughing at the mismatched faces and phrases. This is a good game for 4 to 6 players and can be played in about 30 minutes. It is easy to learn, and is a fun social game. I have played it with high school age students, and they all give it a thumbs up!