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Brendan: It’s simplicity week here on Shut Up & Sit Down and I am celebrating with margherita pizza, simplest of the foods. But also with a board game. Concept is a new party game from the French publisher behind Mascarade and City of Horror. But it is about as far removed from those games as you can get.
This is a game all about guesswork, language and stifled communication, about creating brilliant new ways to express old ideas – oh, I forgot the game. Hang on, I’ll go get it. Quinns, don’t eat my pizza while I’m gone.
Quinns: Of course not!
Brendan: Okay, I’ve got the ... You’ve eaten my pizza.
Brendan: You’ve eaten every single slice.
Brendan: You’re a c—
Brendan: Concept is a party game for 4-10 players. And it is so simple a donkey could learn it. Players split off into teams of two. They then take turns drawing a card and trying to explain one of these objects, characters or things to the rest of the players without speaking about it. And they do that using this...
Now, according to the game, this board should contain enough concepts necessary to describe anything on these cards. The active team has to place tokens on this board in such a way that the others can correctly guess what they’re getting at.
So, for example, if you were trying to describe Pokemon, you might put down this Question Mark piece by the ‘television’ square to show that it’s a TV show, or by the ‘games’ square to show it’s a game, or on the ‘animals’ square.
Then you would place other tokens of the same colour – these little cubes – beside, say, the square representing ‘inside’ and the square representing a ‘sphere’ or ‘ball’. From here, all it takes is another token placed firmly on the concept of VIOLENCE. Viola! A TV show or game about animals that are put inside balls and forced to fight each other.
Quinns: Now there’s a concept we can all get behind.
Brendan: You may need to use one of the exclamation point tokens, along with cubes of another colour, to demonstrate a ‘sub-concept’ – kind of like another clause in your sentence. But on easier words, it doesn’t even come to that. Of course, these concepts can get harder. For instance, here’s one that reads simply ‘Whiskey’. Which could be represented by placing the Question Mark on the square for ‘food’ or ‘edibles’ – this shows us the primary concept – then one green cube on ‘fire’ and another on ‘water’. Fire water. Whiskey.
Quinns: ‘Fire water’? Have you been visiting the Neolithic era again, Brendan?
Brendan: Only on weekends. Anyway, these concepts range from fairly easy – here’s one for Fork, which could be a ‘tool’ that you use to ‘eat’ – to challenging. Here’s a card that asks you to describe the phrase: ‘It is what it is’, which you would do by placing a token on... uh...
Quinns: You don’t know, do you?
Brendan: Let’s consult the legend.
Quinns: The legend!
Brendan: Well, that did not help at all. In any case, when another player guesses correctly – and they are encouraged to shout out their guesses whenever they want – they will win a double lightbulb token, granting two victory points. Both members of the team describing the concept also get one victory point each – one of the smaller single lightbulb tokens. When all the double victory point tokens are gone, the game is finished and it is the individual with the most points that wins. That’s all there is to it.
Quinns: That’s VERY simple. That is so simple, I could teach that to a newt.
Brendan: Don’t. But yes, it is an absolute picnic. It might even be too simple, even for simplicity week. But more on that later. Yet despite how straightforward it can be, there are times when two or three minds will simply be unable to conceive of the character, phrase, or object in question, no matter how obvious it seems to the player who is describing that concept. And it is during these mental blockades that the game shows its true colours. Let’s see if you can get this one, Quinns.
Quinns: Okay, it’s a person. A male. An old male. And... He’s red? [It’s the devil - Paul]
Quinns: He’s on fire. He has a house on fire. [I can’t believe this – Paul]
Quinns: Okay. He’s red. He has horns. His house is below. He lives below. He lives in the flames below where his house is on fire. [It’s the devil! Come on, Quinns! – Paul]
Quinns: He’s powerful? [IT’S THE DEVIL] He’s the king. [THE DEVIL] He is the king of fire. [THE DEVIL]He is the king of red. [THE DEVIL] Oh my god is it Pyro? [THE DEVIL] Johnny Flame?
Brendan: IT’S THE DEVIL QUINNS, THE DEV—
Brendan: ....If this kind of wild guessing and scrambling at answers sounds familiar, that may be because you have probably played a little-known game called charades –
Quinns: It’s pronounced charaaahdes.
Brendan: And like charades –
Brendan: – the game really could not be simpler. You pretty much just have to be shown the board to understand it. This is at once Concept’s greatest strength AND weakness. It is simple to learn, simple to play and most of all, simple to teach. At the beginning of this review we said Concept was a party game. I would probably retract that. It is more of a family game. And I don’t mean that in a totally disparaging way. I only mean that, depending on the kinds of parties you might have, Concept lacks some of the edge of party games with hidden roles, like Werewolf or Masquerade, just as it lacks some of the hysteric feverishness of physical party games like Jungle Speed or Dobble.
What it does have, though, is clarity. I mean that it is streamlined, and it is cleansed of all unnecessary board game baggage. If I’m totally honest, it isn’t exactly my cup of Fire Water. I find it a little too fuzzy, a little too straight. But maybe it would belong on your table just fine. Maybe not at a party – but at a gathering. Something quieter, if there’s kids, your parents, your grandparents. I know that is not going to appeal to everyone – but you know what, we all have families, right? Well, I mean, I don’t, I was adopted from the bog. But a lot of people do.
It isn’t a terribly explosive game or anything. Perhaps the most worrying thing from a moneyspender’s standpoint is that, even with 110 cards totaling almost 1000 ‘concepts’, a lot of these words will reappear on repeated play. That aside, Concept is definitely not the worst family game. It’s sturdy and it’s gentle and it’s good at what it does. And you know what else? It sure as hell beats charades.