Joining the Pack
Game of Wolf is a trivia game with a unique hook. Every round one player is given the option to form a “wolf pack” based on the question at hand. If the player feels confident enough on the subject they can choose to go lone wolf and try to beat the entire table to win extra points at the risk of losing points if they fail. Does this game have enough meat on the bone or is it simply stuck chasing the herd?
A game of “Game of Wolf” is played over the course of three rounds, with the point values increasing from one round to the next. After the first player has been determined, the player to the left looks at the top card from one of the question decks and reads aloud the title at the top of the card which gives a hint as to what the question will be. Based on this information, the current first player has the option to pick other players to be in their wolf pack who they feel will help them best answer the question at hand. If they feel no help is needed, they can choose to play as a lone wolf to try and gain double points for the round; however, if they lose as lone wolf points will be deducted from their score if they fail to win the round.
Once the teams are formed, each team is given a dry erase pad and marker to write down their answers. At this point, the actual question is revealed to both teams. For example, a card might have started with the hint “Classic Board Games,” with the question then being, “Name the board game based on its tag line.” Each card features five questions and a tie-breaker question. After both teams have answered all the current questions the answers are read aloud and every player on the winning “pack” gains a certain number of points based on the current round. The game ends once every player had been the pack leader three times, then the player with the most points is declared leader of the alpha wolf!
Not Quite an Apex Predator
I wanted to like Game of Wolf more than I did. The idea of shifting teams and alliances in a trivia game is a pretty solid one. In the beginning, you will obviously pick your teams based on who you think is going to help you out the most. Later in the game, you might find yourself occasionally picking against your own interests because the player that you think could help you the most is in the lead and you need to try and catch them instead. Combined with the lone wolf mechanic, where you could possibly make out with a bunch of points by flexing your brain against the entire table, this game sounded really intriguing.
Sadly, the execution left me with a hollow feeling. That seemingly clever hook draws you in, but the initial promise it holds wears thin quickly. When playing with a group you know well, you presumably have a pretty good understanding of what their interests are and who at the table is going to help you the most in any situation. However, sometimes a question arises that no one at the table has any clue about and at that point, it’s a bit of a crapshoot on who will actually be of any use to your team. Other times you’ll be very fortunate, and you’ll get a card that’s all about history (for example) and they just so happen to be a history major at the table who’s going to help you steamroll everyone that round.
Though this issue is not unique to this game as it tends to be the Achilles’ heel of the trivia genre, the better trivia games will introduce mechanics that help overcome that hurdle. In something like Wits & Wagers, for example, players get a chance to bet on other peoples’ answers, eliminating the necessity of knowing obscure facts in favor of going with your gut feelings or trying to read the table. You Bet-Cha, another trivia title from Gray Matters Games, has a similar element where each player bids, in a Poker style format, on how much they know on a given topic, giving them the opportunity to bluff using those wagers.
Initially, the concept of varying team members seemed like a great idea, but it quickly became cumbersome. Since teams are answering simultaneously, the members are forced to either constantly switch their seats so they can whisper their answers to each other or to write down answers on scraps of paper and pass them around. I really disliked that aspect of the game. With the first method, we ran into the issue of one team overhearing the other, but the latter wasn’t much smoother. The constant switching of teams also made it hard to track which round we were on and made the game feel longer than necessary.
A few of the questions themselves were not clearly written or were way too easy. One question we received asked us to name college mascots for various universities, but when we turned the card for the answers they had listed the nicknames of the teams instead. So instead of Michigan State’s iconic “Sparty” mascot, they simply wanted the team name of “Spartans”. Another question asked us to simply fill in the blank of various Harry Potter book titles, a question so simple I was able to answer every one without having read a single book in the series.
The lone wolf mechanic was pretty underused when we played. This could be just an issue with the groups I played with, but in our plays, someone only went Lone Wolf twice and both times I was the one to do it. Once because it was a sports question with a group that didn’t know the difference between a blue line and clothesline, and another because I was behind and needed a big boost in points for a chance to win.
Full Disclosure: Our copy of You Bet-Cha! was given to us for free by Gray Matters Games for review purposes. This in no way impacted our thoughts on the game.
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You can check out reviews for other Grey Matters Games here.
At its core, Game of Wolf is a run-of-the-mill trivia game, and there‘s nothing wrong with it if that’s what you want to play. I think there is an audience for a game like this and there‘s some fun to be squeezed out of it. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t recommend it over many of the other wonderful trivia games that are on the market. There‘s a kernel of a good idea here and I could see it working better if it used an app or some kind of device that would let the teams buzz in to answer questions in real-time. As for the current printing of this game, I‘m afraid I‘m going to be on the lookout for a different pack to join.
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AKA “The Board Game Mole”
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