I've always loved the bonus round from the original version of the game show, Chain Reaction. In this game, two celebrities tried to get a contestant to guess a word by jointly asking a question about that word. The catch was the celebrities had to alternate turns, each speaking one word per turn. It's a great mechanism, one I always thought would make a fun party game.
Someone finally beat me to it.
Bialogue, an unusual hybrid party/strategy game, is based on this same concept. On a player's turn, he rolls a die, moves his token, draws a card, and picks another player to act as his partner. The number rolled indicates which word on the card the two partners must create a clue for. Flipping over the minute timer, one partner starts by saying the first word of a clue. The second partner adds another word, and the first partner follows suit. For example, "On" "Christmas" "you" "kiss" "under" "this." While the partners are ping-ponging back and forth, the other players are free to shout out guesses without penalty. If someone guesses correctly, it becomes their turn.
The game includes a playing board which looks somewhat like a crossword puzzle. Everone starts in the middle. Correctly guessing a word lets a player roll the die and move orthogonally among the white spaces. The first player to reach any corner and return to the center wins the game.
But it's not quite so simple as that. Players can put obstacles— black plastic markers— in each others' path, blocking passage through the spaces in which they're placed. When someone correctly guesses a bialogued word, the two partners who gave the clues each earn a marker. While you earn them by giving successful clues, you can only use them after a successful guess. Markers can also be spent to remove another marker from the board, clearing the blockage from your path. But markers can be stacked on top of each other, making the barricade more costly to remove.
It's tempting to hoard your markers, saving them for emergencies. That's why, whenever someone reaches the halfway mark of their trip by landing on a corner, they can steal all the markers from any other player. This provides a remarkable motivation to spend, spend, spend.
When I first played Bialogue, I thought the grafting of a strategy game element to what is otherwise a party game wound up being less of each. In particular, this game is clearly targeted at the party/family game crowd, and I worried that the strategic part would turn party gamers off. But in later plays, this turned out not to be the case. There's actually not a hell of a lot of strategy here— just enough to spice things up.
The result is a fun game, but not a perfect one. The game show formula which worked so well is loosened considerably here. Clues don't have to be questions— they can be anything. The game show had players trying to get through many different words in a short amount of time. In Bialogue, you've got a full minute just to get one word. This is far too much time. To make things harder and ratchet up the pressure, try shortening the time limit by half. The most annoying fault is with the markers, which don't stack well at all. It would have been a simple thing to make them stackable, ala Can't Stop or Manhattan, and it would have made play much more convenient.
Despite these faults, Bialogue is an entertaining game. Its rules are simple, and anyone is capable of playing, making it likely to appeal to the whole family.