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Reviews - Fictionaire
 
by Lee Valentine


FictionaireFictionaire
Published by Days of Wonder
http://www.daysofwonder.com Designed by Hervé Marly
60 double-sided question and answer cards (120 questions total), rules cards, 14 point cards to keep score
4-7 players
$10.00

Fictionaire is a new trivia game from Days of Wonder (DoW). Fictionaire is unlike DoW's other big box releases like Ticket to Ride or Small World; this game is small enough to fit into your pocket. Fictionaire has four distinct theme packs of question and answer cards available: Classic Encyclopedia: The Encyclopaedia of Fictionnica, Tall Tales: It's a Weird World!, Fool Science: Compendium of Scientific Wonders, and Naturals: Chronicles of the Natural World.

Gameplay
Fictionaire is like a crazy hybrid of concepts from Trivial Pursuit, Balderdash, and Taboo. There is no board, just cards, making the game playable almost anywhere. It could work at lunch, at a party, or even on long road trips. Fictionaire has almost the inverse theme of Balderdash. In Balderdash (or "the dictionary game") one player knows a true definition of an obscure word read from the dictionary and reads the word aloud. The other players each make up and write down a fictional definition for the word, which are then mixed with the real definition. Players vote on which one is the correct one as they are read aloud.

Fictionaire packIn contrast, Fictionaire allows all players to read a question. One player ("the Host") allows all other players to read the correct answer, but the Host is kept in the dark as to the truth. The other players each then give an answer to the question aloud. One and only one of those answers must be the truth and must use certain key words written in red on the cards. The other answers given must be lies and must not use any of the words in red. The Host guesses who is telling the truth and the selected player gains a point. If the Host found the true answer then he gets a point too, otherwise the selected player who was lying gains a second point. The game is played for a set number of questions and the player who is Host rotates.

Fictionaire packPlayers who cannot come up with an answer can tell the truth, unless the true answer has already been given that round, in which case they must tell a lie or pass. If there's an irregularity in play (like everyone telling a lie), the Host scores a point and he reads another question. This can be a problem if playing with non-gamers, because a blunder here or there caused by a lack of attentiveness or over-enthusiasm to lie can deliver and unearned point to the current Host. The system can be "gamed" slightly if you are so-inclined: if a given player is taking the lead in scoring then all the other players can collude to never pick him, guaranteeing that he can score at most one point per go around the table, and only on his turn. I think the light-hearted nature of the game will keep most players from exploiting these loopholes, but they are worth mentioning. One unavoidable bit of gamesmanship, given the short length of text on the cards, is that any answer longer than a few sentences is obviously a lie. Non-gamers may not pick up on this latter bit, but gamers definitely will.

The game is primarily designed to seat four to seven players but is potentially expandable to seat more players if you own more than one theme deck of cards. Each deck comes with enough point scoring cards for a seven-player game.

I had trouble figuring out a score for Fictionaire's gameplay, because it is heavily dependent on the group. If you have a light-hearted group that likes trivia games, then Fictionaire could rate an "A" for you. If your gaming group features more serious strategy gamers or trivia purists who don't want to play multiple choice with a bunch of liars, the game could fall flat. Like telling stories around a campfire, Fictionaire is more of a vehicle for entertainment rather than entertainment in and of itself.

Components & Packaging
Fictionaire packThe packaging for the product is beautiful. Each pack is designed to look like an old-fashioned, flip-top, cigarette box, including a silver foil cover over the cards once you open up the pack. The questions are on the top half of each card and the answers on the bottom half. The package and card designs allow you to read the question without seeing the answer if you so desire. The cards have one question and answer on each side (front and back), which is a clever design, allowing you to only see the question and answer for the current turn. While the card box will keep the cards from falling out even while inverted, the top cover does not lock in any formal way like a traditional tuck box.

The cards are printed on a light cardstock. Each category of cards has a different color scheme allowing you to play with multiple categories during the same game while easily separating them out after the game. There is no art in the game other than that on the card box itself.

The rules themselves are printed on cards. There were even rules about irregularities in play.

Conclusions
There's a lot to like about Fictionaire. It's inexpensive, portable, and interesting (if you like trivia games, and I do). It has a downside - there are only 120 questions per pack, so dollar-for-dollar you are getting many fewer questions than you would if you bought the latest edition of Trivial Pursuit. I did not have a problem with this, because the play format can take three to five minutes per question easily, meaning that a full game of 8-14 questions (depending on the number of players) can take 20 minutes to an hour. You will get 8-15 plays out of each deck without repeating questions, which means just about a dollar per game, making for a nice, inexpensive filler. While the game doesn't break new ground with its mechanics, it's fun.

Fictionaire packThe requirement to be fast on your feet with lying means that this game may not have the same ease of play as a game like Trivial Pursuit. Unlike Balderdash (where you submit your answers in writing), here if you have a "tell" when you lie (like a smile), then you are finished. Some of the non-gamers that I played with had trouble with the notion that they had to use certain words (when telling the truth) or had to avoid them (when lying), but most gamers won't have this problem. As a result, I think this will have some appeal to non-gamer geeks as an adult party game, and will have stronger appeal to role-players, used car salesmen, and politicians, as these groups are quick to come up with fictions.

I recommend Fictionaire as a fun filler or party game. Like the retro packaging it comes in, Fictionaire is reminiscent of the games of days gone by, particularly the adult party games of the 1980s. If those appealed to you, or if a sandwich of trivia and lies sounds like a good time, this is a good game to buy into for the price. If not, you should avoid it, because there's not much else here.

For Retailers
I'm not going to provide a retailer salability score for this product because it will probably sell quite well in the right venue, but I think this may be a game that you have to actively support in a hobby game store. If you do, then given its price point, it should sell well. If you buy just a handful of individual decks and opt to go without a counter display, this product may get lost on your shelves. It's packaging is designed to look elegant, not to have bright, fantasy-themed art or a big box like other hobby games.

There's apparently no POP display available for each individual type of theme deck. Instead, there is a stair-stepped countertop display measuring a bit over 9" wide that holds five each of the four different deck themes (20 decks total). If you are willing to commit to a counter display or a table island for some kind of walk-by display, then this game's price point and attractive packaging may result in quite a number of impulse buys over the upcoming holiday season. Days of Wonder is also offering a free demo pack program for retailers.

This game's packaging and play style almost seems more at home in a traditional book store or bookstore/cafe combo than in a hobby game store selling CCGs and miniatures. DoW advertises that Fictionaire is for players ages ten and up, but I suspect that the cigarette-style packaging, the claim that it is a "Quiz Game with a Whiff of Truth", and the mention of tobacco on the countertop display itself might concern some non-smoking parents.

If you are lucky enough to get your hands on the limited edition version of this game in the metal box, which collects all four theme decks into one package, you should display it proudly. Again, the package on this is designed for elegance rather than geek chic, but it certainly is eye-catching.

Lee's Ratings
Overall: B (a good, portable vehicle for having fun)
Gameplay: B (will vary wildly from A to C depending largely on the play group)
Components: B+ (light card stock, but clever design that fits the core mechanic)
Appearance: B (no art, but impressive graphic design on the packaging)
Packaging: A- (light packaging that supports the rules well; the box doesn't lock entirely shut)
Rules: A

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