Review: Hilarity Will Ensue While Drawing and Captioning With Cranium Scribblish

Geek Culture

Photo: Hasbro

Remember that game we played as kids that we called “Telephone?” You sit in a circle and whisper things around the circle. By the time your phrase gets back to you, it has changed so much that it’s nothing like the original. Everyone giggles and laughs. At least that’s how it usually worked.

New in the line of Cranium games is Scribblish, put out by Hasbro. It is similar to that childhood game of Telephone, except that instead of whispering a phrase around in a circle, you write captions and draw pictures. Between four and six people can play, but we discovered that the more people you have, the better. I wouldn’t suggest playing with fewer than four people, unless you have particularly unpredictable or oblivious people. Then it might work.

To play, everyone starts with a sheet of paper and a paper scroll. You each take a card, pick a caption and write it in the first caption spot. Then draw a picture to go with the caption. Slide the paper up into the scroll and someone rolls the die. Pass the scrolls around as the die dictates (to the left, to the right, etc.), and unroll the scroll just until you see the picture. Then write a caption for it. Hide the caption and roll the die again, passing the scrolls around. Draw the picture for the caption you get. You keep this up, alternating captions and drawings, until the paper is full. This takes about a half hour or so, depending on everyone’s drawing speed.

Photo: Hasbro

You have now come to the potentially hilarious portion of the evening. Display the scrolls in the middle of the table with only the last drawing shown. You go around the table, taking turns putting your “Mine” token next to the one you think was your original scroll. Once everyone has had a chance to put down their token, anyone who was right gets to keep their token. Find out who was correct by poring over the scrolls, seeing the evolution of the captions and drawings. Put your “Funny” token next to the drawing or caption you find funniest, and the person who had done it gets to keep that token. The person with the most tokens wins.

But tokens aren’t the point of this game. In fact, other than trying to see which scroll was your original one, I think they are fairly pointless. The idea here is to have fun and laugh at yourself and at others, enjoying the process. The premise of the game is why you play, and it’s easy to make a few house rules surrounding the main game operation. I think at our house we’ve already decided to not have a winner for each round.

One thing that we found made the game more fun is to play with children. As long as they’re old enough to read and draw, children add a real unpredictable element to the game, sometimes taking a scroll in a different direction than you’d expect. If everyone was of the same mind, game play would get pretty boring. So because of this, it’s great for families, or for groups of people who don’t know each other too well. It’s also great for multi-generational play in general, as long as everyone has a great sense of humor.

There were two things that actually detracted from game play.

• The die. After everyone does their part on their scroll, you roll the die to see how to rotate the scrolls. We played one round with the die, one without. With the die, it worked out that we kept passing the scrolls back and forth between the same people. This meant it was almost like playing two separate two-player games. This doesn’t work as well, because you really do know what the image or caption is supposed to be. The second time we played, we just rotated the scrolls around the table counter-clockwise, so we knew the scroll would go through three more people before it got back to us. We could still count and know which one was ours, but we barely recognized it by that point. I think we’ll play that way from now on, or just mix up the scrolls in the middle of the table.

• The timer. You’re supposed to use the included timer to time the caption writing and picture drawing parts of the game. We tried this exactly once before being quick to stop using the timer. As long as everyone goes relatively quickly and doesn’t draw a masterpiece, it works fine without the timer. Taking time to draw the picture is a big part of the fun. Also, the timer had some weird beeping pattern that made it very unclear as to when our time was up. Drawing, with the timer, I felt really rushed. I do not draw well at all, and when under time constraints, I draw even less well. I am easily the worst at drawing quickly in our family of four. This includes the six year old.

After each turn with the scroll, you push the paper up into it to hide what you’ve done. This is an interesting design, but if you’re rough with the paper, it gets bent up and is hard to scroll. This game would work better with slightly thicker paper. It is also a little bit difficult to draw on the small area supplied on the scroll, but I don’t have a solution for this problem.

There is a lot of room for Scribblish house rules, such as whether you get to use words or symbols. The instructions don’t address this, so each family can decide for themselves. We’ve already found a rhythm for our game play.

I love reading the scrolls when the game is over. Some transitions are so clever, you really want to keep the papers.

Cranium Scribblish is for anyone age 8 and up, but our six-year-old did a great job. His transitions were some of the most interesting and most entertaining of the group. Scribblish retails for $19.99. I think it would make a great holiday gift, since after you open it, you can play it with almost anyone in your family. The game really does take at least four people, so it’s best done at gatherings or in family groupings. I know that we will play Scribblish frequently.

(Since creating its original Cranium game in 1998, Hasbro has come out with many different Cranium incarnations, some having nothing to do with the original. One of our favorites of those is Whoonu, which makes a regular appearance at family game night.)

Wired: The game concept is a definite win. Funny thought processes are shared as a group. Everyone plays at once so there is very little waiting. Winning is secondary to fun and humor. It makes you try harder to draw well. Great for multi-age groups.

Tired: The timer is useless, the die isn’t necessary and the tokens seem like an afterthought. The paper could be thicker.

Note: I received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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