Posted by: gschloesser | August 2, 2011

Faces

Design by:  Uncredited
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 was not 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 have 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 is 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 have witnessed tears of laughter streaming down the faces of participants in many of the games I have 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 does not 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!

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