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Monikers Game Review

Talk. Talk Less. Gesture.

Monikers is a ready-to-play version of a classic party game with many a name. Andrew invites some friends over in this Meeple Mountain review.

Disclosure: Meeple Mountain received a free copy of this product in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. This review is not intended to be an endorsement.

How do you rate a board game like Monikers? Much like Wolfgang Warsch’s The Mind, which took an old theatre camp game and committed it to paper, Monikers is a curated rendition of an old favorite. I have always called it Salad Bowl. You may know it as The Name Game, The Hat Game, Celebrities, or a number of other options. How do you review something that’s always been there? How, exactly, does one review Charades?

The interior of the Monikers box, which is packed with cards. That's it. Cards for days.

A Rose by Any Other Moniker

In the traditional game, the first stage involves handing out slips of paper and pens, on which everyone writes a word. These can be famous people, events, concepts, whatever you want, really. Like most party games, the exact parameters are up to the group.

Monikers elides that. The box is full of cards with pre-printed prompts, like Oprah, The Kraken, A Russian Nesting Doll. You know, the classics. From there, the structure is identical to the original game. In lieu of pieces of paper, each player is dealt a pile of cards, from which they choose whichever appeal to them. Those cards are shuffled into a deck, which is set in the middle of the table.

Players are divided into teams. Each team member takes a one-minute turn as the clue-giver, drawing cards and giving whatever kinds of clues they want. This process continues until the deck is empty, at which point each team adds up the points on their cards, and the deck is reconstituted.

Now the magic truly begins.

Necessity Breeds Invention

In the second round, the steps are the same, but there are additional rules. Players are restricted to single-word clues. In the third round, you can only gesture. It gets silly, and it gets silly fast.

For me, the true joy of Monikers is two-fold. First, there’s the giddy thrill of watching language and communication degrade over the course of the rounds. The frustration and disappointment in a clue-giver’s face when they give a one-word clue that they quickly realize was the wrong one-word clue. The bewilderment of the third round, when dignity runs aground against the shoals of our desire to be understood.

The other joy comes from the rapid development of a metagame. One word clues and gestures can develop over the course of play, clues and gestures that make complete sense to this specific table full of people at this specific time, clues that would mean absolutely nothing to anyone divorced from that context. Why did the word “Briefcase” help us guess “Oprah”? You had to be there, man.

Those two factors could be seen as running counter to one another, but they depend on one another. It is the restrictions caused by the degradation of the available language, the need for creativity enforced by those rigid limitations, that creates the space for hyper-specific, creative, associative methods of communication to flourish. It’s wonderful, wonderful stuff.

Some examples of cards, including the superego, BOTOX, Charizard, and the Transportation Security Administration.

Purchase to Dream? [doesn’t work – ed.]

You don’t really need to buy Monikers, do you? This is a game that can be played for free with pieces of paper. There’s a print-and-play version of the game available online. There’s no reason to spend money on it. This is true. I have nothing for you on that front. It’s a legitimate point.

That said, the curation is great. I never appreciated the work that goes into word selection for these types of games until I tried expanding my copy of Just One by adding cards from another game. It did not work. The options in Monikers are rock-solid. There will be something for everyone in these cards. They’re well-chosen to encourage creative gesturing. Nothing’s too easy, nothing’s impossible. Plus, hey, the box is small and cute.

Monikers: It’s good.

  • Great - Would recommend.

Monikers details

About the author

Andrew Lynch

Andrew Lynch was a very poor loser as a child. He’s working on it.

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