‘Stinker’ Makes Everyone Funnier

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Stinker cover

If you love playing with anagrams and silly games that make you laugh, Stinker is for you. It’s sort of a mash-up of Bananagrams and Apples to Apples but that fruity description really doesn’t do it justice.

At a glance: Stinker is for 3 to 6 players, ages 10 and up, and takes about 15 minutes to play. It retails for $29.95 and is available online or at your local game store. It was designed by Nick Bentley, and published by FoxMind Games. I played with my 9-year-old and it was fine, although she tended to be slower to come up with words. Any kids who can make words with letters could play this game, though there are some prompt cards that may be slightly inappropriate or just unintelligible to younger players.

Stinker Components
Stinker components. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Components

Stinker includes:

  • 1 score pad
  • 1 small pencil
  • 1 cloth drawstring bag
  • 141 letter tiles
  • 12 wild tiles
  • 200 prompt cards
  • card box

The cloth bag is a nice cotton bag with a sturdy drawstring. The letter tiles are pretty small, smaller than Scrabble tiles–they only have a letter on one side and are sort of hollowed out on the other, so you’ll have to flip them all right-side up before you can use them. It would be nicer to have double-sided tiles, I think.

The cards are fine–a little lightweight, but you don’t really need to shuffle heavily or anything so that’s not a big deal. The little card box is a little strange, though. As you can see from the photo above, the box is wider than the stack of cards, so they don’t sit tightly in it, and it’s a shallow box, so it’s not meant for storing the cards. I ended up rubber-banding the cards when storing the game.

Stinker cards
A few samples of Stinker prompt cards. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The prompt cards have various phrases on them to prompt you to come up with a word or phrase. Some of these may not be great for younger kids, whether because of innuendo or simply because they would require too much explanation. For instance, “a pick up line in a geriatric home” isn’t going to make sense to my kids. If you’re playing with kids, I would recommend having an adult draw the cards and just skip the ones that you think are too difficult or confusing.

One nice thing is that if you wanted to take the game with you, you could grab a stack of cards and throw them in the bag with the tiles, and it becomes very portable.

Stinker
My daughter work on their responses. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

How to Play

The goal of the game is to score points by making up winning phrases. Or, you know, just to have fun and laugh a lot.

Each player gets 25 tiles: 23 letters and 2 wild tiles.

During each round, you draw a card and reveal it to everyone. Everyone then simultaneously tries to come up with a word or phrase in response to the prompt. Spelling and grammar don’t matter here–just be funny, and be fast. When you’re done, shout “Stinker!”

When all but one player has shouted “Stinker,” the round ends and the last player is the judge for the round. Each player reads their response and optionally makes an argument for why it’s the best answer. The judge picks a winner, and that player gets points equal to the number of letters (not including wild tiles) in the response.

Stinker
“An apple a day keeps … u crazee.” — from my 9-year-old. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Then, you pass all your tiles to the player to your left. When a set of tiles has gone all the way around the table, you put them all back in the middle, shuffle them up, and draw a new set (so you won’t use the exact same set of letters twice in a game).

The game ends after 12 rounds, and the player with the most points wins.

The Verdict

Stinker is such a simple idea, but it leads to a lot of laughs. I played it with my kids and adult friends, and everyone enjoyed it. My kids especially loved it, and wanted to play it several times in a row.

I read one of Nick Bentley’s designer diaries, in which he talked about the different types of funny games. Some are funny because they include all the jokes. Some rely on the player to be funny. And some–like Stinker–help you become funny because of the limitations of your letters and time pressure. It’s the best sort, because you never know what somebody is going to come up with.

Stinker
My 12-year-old’s answer to why teenagers rebel: “pooberty.” Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Since the rules specifically say that grammar and spelling don’t matter, sometimes the humor comes from trying to spell things when you don’t have all the right letters. One player’s response to “the source of all knowledge” was “boocs” because he didn’t have any Ks.

You do have to be pretty quick, though. My 9-year-old was the youngest player at the table, and she was at a disadvantage spelling things quickly, so she often ended up being the judge, which she didn’t enjoy as much. We tried to give her a bit of a handicap by giving her a few extra seconds to play around with her letters before we revealed the prompt card, but generally this game will probably work best when all the players are at a similar reading/spelling level.

Of course, there is also a bit of strategy involved there. Longer answers get you more points if you win, but if you take too long then you’re the judge and you’re guaranteed not to get any points. The trade-off would be to let everyone take turns being judge, but then the judge doesn’t get to compete. I like the “everyone plays” aspect of Stinker, because then there’s a natural time pressure to finish before the other players, rather than relying on a timer or something.

Stinker
I’ve got three of them, anyway. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Although you keep score in Stinker, ultimately I don’t think the real point of the game is about winning. Everyone has fun just playing it, coming up with responses and hearing everyone else’s responses. We were laughing so hard I was afraid we would wake the toddler from her nap two floors away.

If you like word games and laughing, Stinker is an excellent choice, and I bet my kids are going to be playing this one a lot during winter break. Order a copy today!

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this game.

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