Missing Pieces: ‘Family Feud’

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Every week in Missing Pieces, we explore the thrift store shelves, searching out games from yesteryear that trigger our nostalgia, pique our curiosity, or just make us say, “What were they thinking?!”

Family Feud

“We surveyed 100 people, top six answers are on the board: name something that does not age well.”

“The questions in this 40-year-old game?”

“Survey says…*DING*. Number one answer!”

Family Feud is the 1977 board game from Milton Bradley based off the popular television show. Players take turns trying to come up with the most popular answers to simple survey questions. The team with the most money after three rounds gets to play “Fast Money” for a chance at a bonus $5,000. After each player/team has had a chance to play, the scores are tallied up and the winner is declared.

Components

Full disclosure, I’m a sucker for old games with moving parts. The game board has two snap-on legs, ten sliding windows, and a little dial on the back that changes from one set of questions on a card to another. Also included are 60 game cards (each game card contains three regular rounds and a fast money round), a cardboard strike indicator, and some fake money that you’re probably going to end up not using.

How To Play

The rules differ based on the number of players, but in general, Family Feud the board game is played pretty much like Family Feud the game show, but without the painfully unfunny overreactions of Steve Harvey. The emcee reads the question, and a designated player from each team “buzzes in” by raising their hand and then arguing for 30 seconds with the other player about who raised their hand first because raising a hand is a stupid way to “buzz in”. After rock-paper-scissors, unarmed combat, or whatever method you decide on to determine who raised their hand first, that player gives an answer to the question after the emcee repeats it again because they’ve already forgotten what it was. If the first answer is not the #1 answer, the other team’s player has a chance to steal by choosing an answer of a higher ranking.

Once it is determine who has the highest rated answer, that team can elect to play or pass. After they choose to play because nobody ever chooses to pass, the team comes up with as many answers as they can for the survey question. Every time they give an answer that is not on the board, they earn a strike, indicated by the emcee placing a small cardboard circle on one of the “X” marks on the strike counter and making an annoying buzzing sound in the back of their throat. If the playing team is unable to give all of the answers on the board before they accumulate three strikes or the emcee goes hoarse from the buzzing, the other team has a chance to steal all of the points by giving one correct answer. If they do, the points are awarded to them. If they do not, the points are awarded to the playing team. Scores are tallied by taking the number of points earned in the round and giving that amount of fake money to the winning team. Or you can, you know, just write down the score.

Play continues through three rounds. Whichever team has the most points after three rounds gets to play “Fast Money”. In this final round, there are five questions. For each question, six answers are shown on the board but without their popularity ranking. Two players have to try to pick the most popular answer from the options given. If they are able to accumulate 200 points or more, they win “Fast Money” and get an additional $5,000, or the equivalent of the maximum you could possibly win in 50 regular rounds, making it a ridiculous rule that I can only assume the game creators came up with after play-testing the question, “How many martinis does it take to get Milton and/or Bradley to Xerox his backside?”

Summary

OK, I didn’t really have high expectations going into this one. I was mostly enamored by the cover, the cool game board, and the memories of Richard Dawson creeping on a bunch of women with giant Aqua Net-cemented hairdos. Still, I figured it would be good for a few laughs with the family. My kids have never seen the show, so it was fun shouting out, “Survey says!” and, “Show me…’cock-a-doodle-doo’!” And, to be fair, we did share lots of laughter. The problem was those good times were much too frequently interrupted with questions like:

  • “Name a rich woman.” (#1 answer: Jackie Kennedy Onassis)
  • “Name a tall actor.” (#1 answer: John Wayne)
  • “Name a movie starring Elizabeth Taylor.” (#1 answer: Cleopatra)

When two of the #1 answers and one of the questions are people who are now dead (actually all three #1 answers are dead people, but I think we can give Cleopatra a pass), it’s probably a good sign that the game is irrelevant. While you can skip these questions, the cards are set up so that each one contains three regular rounds and a fast money round. Skipping a question means you have to pull one from another card, then come back to the first card for the fast money. It makes it easy to get lost. If you’re into hacking your games, it would be pretty simple to create a template and fill it out with questions and answers from the internet. In fact, the whole game could use some rework. Considering this was the first edition, and there have been dozens of editions since then, I have to assume they’ve fixed some of the game play, but here are my recommendations for this version:

1. Lose the hand raising.

This is not elementary school, nor are we limited by the technology of the time as they were in 1977. Go to the app store on your phone and search for “game show buzzer”. Download any of them and use that instead. Bonus points for picking one that annoys the crap out of the other players. (May I suggest “air horn” or “Wilhelm scream”?)

2. Play “Fast Money” the way it was meant to be played.

I have no idea why they took away the fun of the “Fast Money” round by making you choose from existing answers, but you can still play it like the game show. Have one of the team members leave the room and ask the other all five questions. Write down their answers, and then have the other player come in and do the same. If they repeat the first person’s answer for any question, give them a little buzz. Tally up the answers from both players and if they scored over 200 points, award them a 5,000 point bonus, declare them the winner, and put the game back in the closet. Or on eBay.

3. Chuck the rule book altogether, move into the living room, pass the questions around, and just have fun.

This really is the best way to play Family Feud. Have fun coming up with answers, throw in some goofy or risque ones for laughs, and just enjoy your time together. The entire scoring system, money handling, and “Fast Money” rounds are just crap and are more an impediment to a good time than a path to one.

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