Finding old games
Desert Island Games
Letters to the Editor
Way back in TGR 12 I reviewed Bialogue and suggested that it would be a far stronger game if the abstract board game were jettisoned and the focus placed on the word-by-word clue-giving. Enter Talkin’ Tango, Bialogue’s reincarnation which does just that. And introduces a whole new set of problems.
The game is all about communication now, with players receiving a random partner each turn. The pair must decide whether they can get someone else to guess a word or phrase in ten, twenty, or thirty seconds. Shorter time means greater risk but greater reward. This process is the first problem, sapping the game’s momentum and leaving all the other players counting ceiling tiles while the clue-givers debate the time limit they should choose. This is a classic example of an idea that looks good on paper but fails in practice.
Clues are given one word at a time, alternating back and forth between each partner. To clue “London”, for example, you might hear “This” “city” “is” “the” “capital” “of” “England”, or “Big” “Ben” “is” “here”. Enter problem number two. The rules stipulate that clues must be complete sentences, but either partner is also allowed to bail on the current clue and start a new sentence at any time. So there’s really nothing to prevent you from jumping to key words like “Harrods”, “Buckingham”, or “Thames”. Other players can guess at any time, so even if you intend a clue like “Buckingham Palace is in this city,” you may never need to finish. Putting the keywords up front is therefore smart, yet makes the game far too easy. So if you like a challenge, consider adopting house rules.
A successful team earns chips, as does the player making the correct guess. We ran out of chips long before the suggested number of cards were played. Problem number three.
Without question, the coolest thing about the game is the timer. It’s electronic (batteries included) and comes equipped with three buttons. Pushing one starts a ten, twenty, or thirty second countdown, with an LED flashing at each second and a beeping alarm when time expires. Simple, easy, intuitive, and I’d have bought one if sold separately.
I love the paradigm of giving clues one word at a time, but for my money it only works with strict structural clue-giving rules. The everyone-can-guess system, though keeping the game lively, runs counter to such structure. It also means slower players, constantly beat to the punch by nimbler minds, simply won’t have a chance— not an asset for a party game. Another redesign is in order. In the meantime I’ll stick with the British Inspeaquence (TGR 16) which uses word-by-word clue-giving in a more effective team environment. The Talkin’ Tango timer, however, will come in handy for many games.
The Game Report Online - Editor: Peter Sarrett (email@example.com)