Introducing SiXeS

SiXeS is a 2016 game in the style of the well-known party-game Scattergories. You've probably played Scattergories: everyone gets a list of 12 categories, an alphabet letter is picked randomly, and you get a short time to try to think of a word for each category, ideally having an answer that doesn't match that of anybody else. Scattergories is simply a commercial version of an old parlor game known as "Categories" or "Guggenheim" (example rules here and here). Do I hear some groans already? Please don't run away just yet! This new game by Steven Poelzing and Rick Soued changes things up, and turned out to be much more fun than my family expected!

So how does it depart from the tired and familiar? Well, SIXES consists of different rounds where work differently: in some rounds you're trying to think of words unique to a category (similar to Scattergories), but in other rounds you're trying to think of words that will match those of other players. This mixes things up and makes it far more interesting and fun! There's also no alphabetic restrictions, and you're writing six words for each category, not just one. So let's find out more!



COMPONENTS

Game box

I had opportunity to sample the game via a Travel & Promo Pack, but the actual game comes in a box the same size as the other titles of the EGG series.



SIXES is a small game that's part of The E•G•G Series from Eagle-Gryphon Games, along with other titles like Eggs and Empires, 12 Days of Christmas, King's Kilt, Krakatoa, Dexikon, Seven7s, and Fleet Wharfside. Appropriately, this is entry #6 in the series.



Component list

Shown below are the contents of the travel/promo pack, but here's what you get inside the full version of the game:
• 36 Match Cards
• 36 Unique Cards
• 36 Lightning Cards
• Pad of individual Player List sheets
• Rules



Cards

There are three types of cards in the game: Match cards, Unique cards, and Lightning cards. They are all double-sided, and there are 36 of each, which means you effectively get 72 for each of the three types.



Player scorepads

I haven't seen the scorepads in the final version, since the promo pack just has a single card that offers a sample of what one looks like, as seen below. So each player gets a scoresheet that has six lists (one for each round) of six items each. Having said that, you don't absolutely need official scoresheets to play - we played by giving each player a blank sheet of paper, divided into six parts with a list of six items on each. But having an official scorepad definitely makes things easier and nicer.



Rules

The rulebook can be downloaded on BGG here, and consists of just two pages.

GAME-PLAY

Flow of Play

An entire game consists of six rounds, which are as follows:
Round 1: Match
Round 2: Unique
Round 3: Lightning
Round 4: Match
Round 5: Unique
Round 6: Lightning
In each round, one card from that category will be revealed, and players will get one minute to come up with six items for that category, which they write secretly on their own scorepad. Here's how the three types work:

Match round



For "Match" rounds, you write six words for the category of the card that is revealed (e.g. "Zoo Animals"), and the idea is to come up with words that match words from other players. So with the category "Zoo Animals", you might write down: lion, tiger, elephant, giraffe, monkey, zebra.

With "Match" you definitely don't want obscure words, because you are trying to think of items that will be the same as what at least one other person writes.

Unique round



For "Unique" rounds, you write six words for the category of the card that is revealed (e.g. "Princess"), and the idea is to come up with words that are unique, and do not match any words from other players. So with the category "Princess", you might write down: castle, frog, Cinderella, Diana, fairy-tale, crown. And with the category "Dogs", something like poodle is probably too obvious, so you're better to write down less known breeds, or even other dog related words that you think will be appropriate, such as bone, collar, and fur.

With "Unique" you are trying to be creative and write items that nobody else thinks of - so words like "prince" might be too obvious. The fact that you have to write six items each means that you will have to come up with some interesting items. But you also need to ensure that they aren't too far-fetched, because if the group thinks that an item is not appropriate for the category, it won't count.

Lightning round



For "Lightning" rounds, each card lists six different categories, and you write one word for each category. The idea is to try to get a match with at least one other player for each word. So if the categories were Crawling Insect, Toys, Famous Horses, Orchestra, Fabrics, Star Wars, you might write down: Ant, Ball, Flicka, Conductor, Cotton, Luke.

With "Lightning", you get just one shot at getting a match for each category, so you want to try to think of the most obvious word, to be sure of a match. In our game, I wrote "yoyo" for Toy and "Yoda" for Star Wars, but because no other player wrote either of these, neither scored a point!

Scoring

At the end of every round, in turn players read their words, and if a word scores a point (for being a match or for being unique, depending on the round), you circle it, and it scores one point. This is one of the more fun parts of the game - when a word is read that matches another player, it is typically met with a jubilant "YES!" (for Match rounds, when you want a match), or a groan (for Unique rounds, when you don't want a match). If you score a point for all six words in a round, you get a bonus point for a total of seven points for that round.

Groups can decide in advance whether or not words need to be an exact match or whether it's sufficient to be close enough. Also if someone thinks a word is inappropriate for a category, do a quick group vote with thumbs up/down; a word needs a majority of thumbs up to count as legitimate. Most points at the end wins!

CONCLUSIONS

What do I think?

Like Scattergories: I've played a lot of Scattergories type games as a child, so at this point it's something that I'm somewhat tired of. SIXES has some obvious similarities with Scattergories in terms of the basic concept: players come up with a list that you compare with other players. So it immediately feels somewhat familiar. This does mean that if you hate Scattergories with a passion, you might really dislike this game too. But fortunately it's different enough that it does have the potential to win friends even among the enemies of Scattergories.

Unlike Scattergories: SIXES departs from Scattergories in a number of important ways, however:

Matching words: In Scattergories the aim is to come up with unique words that no other player has. That's what the "Unique" rounds in this game do (i.e. 2 rounds of the 6), but the other rounds require you to come up with words that are the same as other players. This is a just a small change, but it has a big impact on the gameplay, because it requires a different type of thinking: it's not just about coming up with words different from others, but you need to try to imagine what words they might come up with. Knowing other players well can help, and it's not the ability to be familiar with the obscure that will win the day, so even kids can do well!

Multiple words per category: In Scattergories you have 12 categories and write one word for each. In this game, you have 1 category and write 6 words for each. That makes it easier to get a match, and harder to get a unique word. It keeps rounds shorter and also more interesting, because you're focused on the one topic/category, rather than multiple categories at once, so there is more of a unified focus as well.

No alphabetic restrictions: In this game you're not restricted to words beginning with a certain letter of the alphabet. To some extent this is necessary because you're trying to come up with 6 items for the chosen category. In Scattergories you're often battling to think of one word that meets the requirements, but in SIXES there's typically many possibilities, and this makes the game more flexible and easy-going. It's more about playing your opponents and asking "what are others thinking?" than a brain-burning exercise in trying to come up with even one word that meets the required criteria! It also avoids some of the inevitable arguments in Scattergories where people add prefixes or other words just to ensure their answer begins with the right letter.

More varied categories: Because the options for words are more wide open, sometimes the categories in SIXES are narrower. While Scattergories might have "Boys Name", SIXES might have "Famous Stevens"; and "Famous Horses" instead of the more general "Animals". There's also categories like "Rhymes with Train" or ones that requires you to think of associated words, e.g. "Calculator", "Glasses".

Different types of rounds: I like the fact that not every round is the same. First you play a match round, then a unique round, then a lightning round - so each round you're trying to do something slightly different. This mixes things up and keeps things interesting.



Some weaknesses:
1. Debates: This game does inherit from Scattergories some similar issues that are problems with that game. The biggest issue I have with Scattergories is that it inevitably creates debates about whether a word is a legal word for a category. The thumbs up/down majority vote does resolve this, but it's always a pity when a game degenerates into needing an in-game policing system like this. At times people can get heated or upset, especially if they are competitive, and feelings inevitably can get somewhat hurt.
2. Categories: Some categories just won't work for all groups. For example, in the group I was playing with, there were some pop culture categories on the Lightning cards which just didn't work for us, so we had to skip them.
3. Number of cards: Unlike Scattergories where each category will see different words when using a different alphabet letter, in this game each category is somewhat of a one-hit-wonder (although I suppose you could use the same cards again with a different group). Because they're double sided, technically in a game you'll only use one card of the 36 of each type, so in theory you can play 36 times before needing to use the same cards again. But in reality you may find yourself skipping certain words/categories so you'll go through them a bit quicker. Even 18 plays at 20 minutes each is a good 6 hours of fun, which I'd consider to be good mileage for a small game like this, but because of this SIXES won't have quite the same level of replayability that is inherent in Scattergories. Then again, of the two, I'd much rather play SIXES!

Some strengths:
1. Match: What our group really loved about the game is precisely the ways it is different from Scattergories, especially the "Match" category, which requires you to get yourself into the heads of others and try to come up with items that they will think of.
2. Unique: The "Unique" category also becomes more interesting when you have to write six words rather than just one - you really need to stretch yourself to try to come up with things that nobody else will! I liked not having to worry about any restrictions to words beginning with a particular alphabet letter.
3. Variety: Switching up between these the different types of rounds (e.g. Match/Unique/Lightning) ensures good variety in the course of a single game.
4. Accessible: You can teach the game in just a minute or two, and both kids and adults can compete, so it's ideal for family settings with grandparents and children, and non-gamers. The family group I played with really enjoyed the game quite a bit.
5. Quick: The game plays very quickly - it's billed as being 15 minutes for a session, which is a bit of an underestimate since scoring at the end of a round usually takes more than a minute, but it's definitely not much more than 20 minutes altogether for half a dozen rounds.
6. Portable: Unlike Scattergories, which comes in a massive box, this is just a conveniently sized box that you can easily take to parties or family gatherings, and carry along in a purse or handbag.

If you own a copy of Scattergories, you could even try playing it with the SIXES rules; that will give you a taste of what this is like, and I'm quite confident you'll find it a more enjoyable way to play.



Recommendation

So is SiXeS for you? This definitely falls into the party category, and isn't something terribly ground-breaking or different from games we've seen before. But it is enough of a twist on the familiar to make it a worthwhile game, and we had much more fun with the promo pack than we were expecting. I must concede that I was somewhat sceptical about the game initially, but our play session persuaded me differently; SIXES is something I'd definitely be interested in picking up and playing.

While it's not a real gamers game, SIXES is ideal for playing at a casual family gathering. It is a good choice if you're looking to break out a quick and easy party game that's vaguely familiar, and yet different enough to make it feel fresh and fun.

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mb The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596

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