Sometimes you don’t want an hour-long game with lots of decision trees and strategic options. If you want a game that requires split-second reflexes and causes your fellow gamers to twitch when you yell “SEVEN!!” then you need to try Jerk.
At a glance: Jerk is for 3 to 6 players, ages 8 and up, and takes about 20 minutes to play. The retail price is $24.99. It’s fine for young players but I will note that adults (particularly those who are good at faking others out) will probably have an advantage over kids—then again, a sly kid could still beat a gullible adult.
- 2 six-sided dice
- 6 bead cords
- 1 start pad
- 1 plastic cone
- 36 tokens
The start pad is a small round mat made of mousepad material (does anyone still use mousepads?), a couple inches across. The orange plastic cone looks like a traffic cone, serves pretty well as a megaphone, and is just slightly larger than the pad at its base, so it fits over the base nicely.
The dice are standard-sized six-sided dice, but instead of pips they’ve got numbers on them, and the “6” does not have a bar underneath—which makes it easily mistaken for a “9.” But in a game that’s all about reading the numbers quickly and faking people out, that’s actually not so bad. The numbers are etched and painted, so they won’t rub off.
The tokens are your run-of-the-mill Tiddlywink-type chips. The bead cords are lengths of orange string with a large plastic bead on each end. When I first pulled them out of the box they were individually bound up, but I’ve just been tossing them back into the plastic baggie, just hoping that they won’t end up like an artisan knot. So far, so good.
How to play
It’s fairly simple: the goal of the game is to have the most tokens by the end of three rounds. Everyone starts with 6 chips and a cord.
Player take turns being the “slammer.” The slammer gets the dice and the cone for 3 rolls. Everyone else puts one end of their cord on the start pad, and holds the other end. The slammer rolls the dice, and if the roll is a 7, 11, or doubles, tries to catch all the beads by slamming the cone down on the pad.
If you get caught, you pay the slammer a token. If you get away, the slammer pays you a token.
Of course, you can also bluff, shouting out “SEVEN!” when it’s not or pretending to slam the cone, hoping that somebody will flinch. If you get tricked and run away when it’s not 7, 11, or doubles, you pay the slammer 2 tokens. If the slammer traps anyone on the wrong roll, they pay 2 tokens to the people trapped.
And if the slammer can’t pay all their penalties in full, they don’t pay out anything and instead are out of the game. If you lose all your tokens, you’re out of the game as well.
The player with the most tokens after three rounds wins the game—ties are decided by a “3 strikes and you’re out” overtime.
I came across Jerk at Gen Con this year and stopped to check it out because it looked like fun. I’d show you some more photos, but Jerk is one of those games that you really can’t take pictures of while you’re actually playing. It is fun, though, particularly if you have some jumpy players—you can get them to jerk their cords just by looking at them crooked.
One important suggestion I got while at Gen Con was to have people hold the center of their cord against the table edge with one hand and yank the cord with the other hand—that prevents the bead from flying up into the air and hitting somebody in the face. It seems to work well, and I figure it’s worth passing along.
There is player elimination, but it’s a short enough game that it’s not so bad if you have to sit out. We also tried a house rule where you could still get back in from zero tokens as long as you didn’t go into debt—once you had to pay tokens and didn’t have enough, then you were truly out.
Jerk is fairly simple and there’s not a huge depth of strategy there, but it’s a fun, physical game that gets people off their seats for a round or two. One thing you notice is that it can be hard to bluff people unless you move quickly—on the other hand, if you move too quickly, you even end up fooling yourself, pretending to slam when you should really slam.
Overall, if you’re looking for something light and raucous, Jerk is a fun filler game in between heavier games, or for a quick bit of silliness with your kids. Buy it at Amazon, directly from Talicor, or check at your local game shop.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of this game.