Monikers is Simply the Best

Thursday, July 28, 2016

While at PAX Prime last year, we had the opportunity to play Monikers with Alex Hague, one of its creators. Crammed into the crowded Indie Megabooth, Alex dealt out a few cards to each of us from which we assembled a deck of our favorites. Each card had a name of a person or a thing on it and our goal was to guess what thing was on the card from a description given by another player. In the second round, we were asked to guess the same cards with only one word clues and the final round forced us to play charades-style, with only gestures and slight sound effects. In fifteen minutes, we laughed uproariously while fumbling to describe or act out the things on the cards. As soon as we were able, we bought our own copy and tonight we played it with my mother and brother.

The game doesn't take long to learn at all. In fact, it is likely that you've heard of or played a version of Monikers already, though it may have been called Celebrity. As I mentioned above, Monikers is based on a very old game played around the world,  but it distinguishes itself by using topics that are a little more current and broad than just a collection of famous names.

When we played tonight, I was worried that some of the cards might prove a bit too racy for my mom, but the selection process at the beginning of the game helped weed out some of the more "adult" cards. What was left was an interesting mix of celebrities, names for types of people and a few other things that defy categorization.

The first round went quickly. Because we were able to describe the person or object, it was easy to point to notable characteristics to help convey the name of the card. The rules even state that you are allowed to read the clue text on the card in case you don't know who or what the car refers to. Once we had gone through all the cards in the deck, we reshuffled the same cards began the second round

You would expect that subsequent rounds would be easy because the game asks that you use the same cards the first round. However, with the restriction of only one word for the description, it proves to much harder than one might think. I caught myself trying to blurt out whole sentences instead of focusing on one word that objectively described what was on my cards.

The third (and final) round is played without words at all, though some sound effects are allowed. By this point, the game devolves into a bunch of rushed impressions; people running around the room pretending to be tiny vacuum robots or characters from Kafka. While the descriptions people come up with in the first round can be funny, the pantomiming in the third is an absolute riot.

The best tool you can use to succeed at Monikers is your memory. Through each of the rounds, you use the same cards, so keeping track of how your teammates acted out certain cards and maintaining a mental map of the different names really helps you to remember them in later rounds.

Monikers can be played with a small or large group; as little as four or as many as twenty (according to Board Game Geek). It takes almost no time to set up and is really easy to explain and play. In terms of sheer playability, Monikers is now at the very top of my party game playlist. The core game is available for $25 on Amazon and the expansion pack is available for $10.