I can’t remember the last time I played a game that ended up being both heart-warmingly touching and side-achingly funny. Pretending to Grownup achieves both of those things in a quick-playing trick-taker that you will love playing with your adult friends. (Kids can play it too, they just won’t “get it” like other grownups will.)
At a Glance
Pretending to Grownup is the second game from Jason Anarchy (Drinking Quest) and is a bluffing/trick-taking card game for 2 to 4 players, aged 14 and up, which plays in 30 minutes or less.
There’s not a lot in the small-sized box. There are:
- 85 Grownup Cards
- 15 Unipegasaurus cards
- 32 expansion cards drawn by guest artists
- 1 ridiculously cute Daydream token, patterned after the highly-elusive Unipegasaurus
- 1 short, but detailed, rulebook
All of the Grownup and Unipegasaurus cards were illustrated by Megan McKay of the impossibly cute Doodle For Food fame. Additionally, there are 32 red-bordered expansion cards that feature art from a laundry list of outstanding webcomic artists.
(Seriously, it’s a huge list. It includes cartoonists from *deep breath* Mr. Lovenstein, The Danemen, Extra Fabulous Comics, Cheer Up Emo Kid, Fowl Language, Übertool, Things in Squares, Unearthed Comics, Webcomic Name, Lunarbaboon, The Awkward Yeti, Ben & Steph, The Pigeon Gazette, Sam & Fuzzy, Whomp! *another deep breath* Pie Comic, Tiny Snek Comics, Twisted Doodles, Cyanide and Happiness, Channelate, As Per Usual, Pear Shaped Comics, Imogen Quest, Rock Paper Cynic, Owlturd Comix, By Crom!, Sarah’s Scribbles, Dork Tower, The Last Giant, Nameless PCs, Ninja and Pirate, and Mercworks.)
On all the Grownup cards, regardless of artist, there is a title, some very funny flavor text, and three numbers, which provide stats for three categories: time, money, and energy. The Unipegasaurus cards are modifiers and do not have numbers called out on them. The cards are all premium quality and very nice.
How to Play
Decide if you are going to play the red-bordered expansion cards or not. Once that taxing hurdle has been cleared, shuffle all the cards together and deal five to each player. Place the remaining cards and the Daydream token in the center of the table. To begin (I love this so much), the player who most recently complained about being tired gets to go first. Every time I have played, there was an argument between almost all the players about who had most recently complained of being tired.
When it’s your turn, you have three options.
First, you may Squabble. This is the heart of the game. Examine your hand before selecting a single card and place it, face down, in front of you. You should declare you have more of a resource (time, money, or energy) than your competitors. The player to your right has the opportunity to Counter Squabble by placing a card in front of her and declaring that she has more of that resource. The player to the right of the Counter Squabbler may also join the fray be placing a card. But if he doesn’t (or the first player to the right of the active player) and declines, he is Ignoring the Problem. (Note: If the player to the immediate right of the active player Ignores the Problem, the active player may take his card, left unrevealed, and place it in his score pile. This is considered a Grownup Point.)
If the player to the active player’s right puts a card down (and then any additional players after her), cards must be revealed to show who has the most of the called resource. Unipegasaurus cards may be played to augment (or hurt) scores. The highest card wins and all cards except Unipegasaurus cards are placed face down in the winning player’s score pile. (Some Unipegasaurus cards can be counted as points, their flavor texts will tell you.) Ties go to the active player or the player closest to the active player in play order.
Alternately, a player may instead Take on More Responsibilities by taking two cards from the draw pile. This completes her turn. There is a hand limit of ten. The third option for a player is to take the Daydream token. This sky blue, wooden version of the Unipegasaurus gives its current owner a +1 bonus to all resources. But beware! The Daydream token can be stolen by another player. If the Unipegasaurus is stolen two turns in a row, it is placed in the center of the table and no one gets the resource bonus until it is taken again. Play continues until one player has accumulated 12 Grownup Points.
There was a moment, as I’m sure there is for many first-time parents, when we brought our child home from the hospital. We laid her in the crib and took a step back. My wife and I stared at the kid, then each other, took a deep breath, and asked ourselves “what next?”. It was scary. We figured it out, of course, but that sense of unsureness and the clarity of being the only grownups in the room was tangible. Pretending to Grownup captures those feelings and more in a quick experience that is, at once, both hilarious and nostalgic.
As we played, the first few times, we skipped a rule that stated that won cards should be placed facedown in front of the winner. Rather, the winner relished the opportunities to read each of the cards out loud. As a group, we cringed at “Smile & Nod at Financial Advisor: You decide to be responsible and plan for your future. After being assured “It’s not a pyramid scheme’, you sign a bunch of papers without reading them.”
We nodded, knowingly, at “Abandon Youthful Passion: You used to believe in protesting, reforming the government, changing everything from the ground up. But you’ve realized that’s actually pretty hard to do.” (A card low in energy and time, natch.) As a grownup, you’ve probably been through (or known a *cough* friend who has faced) many of these challenges. Some seem old and tell of mistakes you would never make again. Others feel a bit more fresh. “Run Marathon: Minute 1 – This isn’t so bad! Minute 2 – On no, what have I done? Minute 3 – I hate this. I hate everything about the Universe.”
I love this game.
I love the text on the cards and all the wistful memories and uncomfortable feelings they conjure. I love Megan McKay’s art, which is as cute as stumbling puppies and waddling ducklings and fuzzy wittle bunnies and grinning piglets, all climbing into your lap at the same time. However, to be honest, it’s not the gameplay that gets me. The bluffing and trick-taking is pretty light (it’s still enjoyable and fun to play), but the gameplay ends up being ancillary to the experience of just breaking out Pretending to Grownup with a group of good friends.
Every time I’ve played it, the deep, belly laughs, the distant stares backward, bemused smirks, and occasional groans have been there. Growing up is tough and few of us step out on our own, fully prepared to safely navigate adulthood. Sure, we figure things out and mostly, somehow, get by, but not without some embarrassing moments and funny stories. So many of these experiences end up being common to us all or hurdles we have all managed to overcome. Pretending to Grownup captures so many of those moments so perfectly, that it feels a lot like reflecting on your own memories. It’s a game I see bringing out after dinner with friends pretty regularly, simply because it’s a fun time that makes me feel really good when I’m playing it.
Pretending to Grownup funded on Kickstarter and is available now.
Disclosure: GeekDad was sent a copy of this game for review purposes.