Tabletop Kickstarter Alert: Richard Garfield and Ken Jennings Team Up With ‘Half-Truth’

You have probably never really wondered what might come from a team-up of one of the biggest names in gaming with the all-time winningest player on Jeopardy, but just in case you did, wonder no more: the answer is Half Truth, a trivia party game with a unique mechanic.

What Is Half Truth?

Half Truth is a game for 2-6 players, ages 12 and up, and takes about 30 minutes to play. It’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with a pledge level of $30 for a copy of the game. The game has already funded (in fact, it reached its goal in just 3 hours).

New to Kickstarter? Check out our crowdfunding primer, and visit our Kickstarter curated page for more projects we love.

Half Truth Components

Note: My review is based on a prototype copy, so it is subject to change and may not reflect final component quality. In fact, it’s very safe to say that the prototype does not represent the final quality.

The prototype components. Image by Rob Huddleston

Included in the game are:

  • One Deck of 500 Half Truth Cards
  • 1 Game Board
  • 3 Round Trackers
  • 1 Victory Tracker
  • 6 Sets of Colored Answer Tokens, with 6 tokens in each set
  • 6 Victory Point Tokens
  • 6 Round Tokens
  • 1 Custom Die

The only components in the prototype that represented what we can assume the finished product will look like were the cards, the board, the Round and Victory Trackers, and the custom die.

The prototype board. Image by Rob Huddleston

I’ll start with the board, because it has a couple of the nicest design choices. It’s an odd shape: something that is sort of trying to be a circle, but with what basically look like bites taken out below. The top third or so is a very nice light green that simply says “Question”. Below that is a space for the current question card to rest.

The bottom portion of the board is divided into six segments radiating out from the card spot, each indicating one of the first six letters of the alphabet, and each ending in one of the aforementioned “bites”. And in the top left, at about the 10 o’clock position, there’s a tab sticking out that represents the “zero” spot on the round tracker.

A sampling of the cards. Image by Rob Huddleston

The cards all follow a simple yet clear format. There’s a category at the top, and then six possible answers below, split into two columns of three rows each. That layout is important, since each answer lines up perfectly with the corresponding segment on the board. This is another really great design choice, because it freed the designers up from cluttering the cards with the letters, and it eliminates any potential confusion when determining which player guessed correctly.

The backs of those same cards. Image by Rob Huddleston

The back of the card shows the answers, highlighting the correct ones in green. Again, because these line up with the segments on the board, everyone can see at a glance whether or not they were right.

The Round 3 Tracker. Image by Rob Huddleston

The Round Trackers are relatively simple pieces that line up the board’s starting point tab and revolve around the top of the board. The game is played in three rounds, so at least in the prototype there are two trackers, with one showing round 1 on one side and round 2 on the other, and then the second just showing round 3. However, since the component list on the Kickstarter page says that the game will include three Round Trackers, it’s possible each will be its own thing in the final product.

The Victory Point Tracker. Image by Rob Huddleston

The Victory Point Tracker is also nice in its simplicity. It’s just a circular piece with spaces 0-9 around the outer edge, and then 10, 20, and 30 markers in the middle to designate when a player has lapped out the outer board. This is one strange point to me, though, as the prototype only included two additional tokens: one for the Round Tracker, and one for the Victory Point Tracker. The Kickstarter page lists the same number of components, but it seems like there in fact needs to be a second Victory Point Tracker for those 10, 20 and 30 spaces. It wasn’t a big deal for us, since I have plenty of extra game pieces laying around that we could use, but hopefully it’ll be addressed at some point by the game itself.

The custom dice. Image by Rob Huddleston

The custom dice is a normal 6-sided affair, but has a special 1+ side and a ¡2! on another, replacing the 5 and 6. (Note that the prototype dice was actually a blank dice that had the pips and two special sides hand-written on them, and didn’t follow the normal rule for 6-sided dice where opposite sides add up to 7, but this is I’m positive something unique to the prototype. It does, however, make it impossible for me to say which of the custom sides replaces the 5 and which replaces the 6, which ins’t a big deal anyway.)

The remaining tokens where … rough … in the prototype. They are in fact pieces hand-cut out of craft foam stickers, and they were kind-of-sort-of-but-not-really circular. I’m sure the decision to use craft foam had to do with getting the selection of colors they need. The game was fine to play with these, but of course the final product will have much nicer tokens. The pictures on the Kickstarter page show regular pawns for the Round and Victory Point tracks, and what look like plastic poker chips for the Answer tokens.

How to Play Half Truth

The Goal

The goal of the game is to end up, after three rounds, with the most Victory Points.

Setup

Setup is very easy. Simply place the board on the table with the Round One tracker on top of it. Have each player choose a color and take matching Answer tokens. They will then place their Round token on the zero spot on the board, and their Victory Point token on the zero spot on the Victory Tracker, which will be placed near the board.

Shuffle up the cards and place them near the board. And you’re all set. Play is simultaneous so no need to pick a starting player, but someone needs to be designated to roll the dice.

Gameplay

Whomever got selected to roll the dice does so. This will indicate how many spaces players will move if they get the question right.

The board set with the first question. Image by Rob Huddleston

Someone then takes the top card of the deck and reads it and the six possible answers, and then places it on the designated spot on the board.

All players then take all six of their Answer tokens into their hands and secretly select one, two, or three of them.

Let me pause here and explain the cards, since this is the important part of the game’s mechanic (and the reason for its name.) Each card has a category at the top, like “Types of Pokemon”. It then lists six answers, but exactly three of them are correct and three are wrong. For the Pokemon card’s answers are Lava, Ice, Steel, Cloud, Psychic, and Reptile.

When choosing their answer tokens, players need to find one of the correct answers and select that matching token, So if you were pretty certain that Ice was a type of Pokemon, you would select your B token as that answer matches up to the B segment on the board.

The green player going all in. Normally other player’s tokens would be played as well. Image by Rob Huddleston

However, if you know a bit more about Pokemon and were also sure that Steel was correct, you could try to Double Up by selecting both the B and the C tokens. And if you’ve spent far more time playing Pokemon than maybe you should have and also knew that some Pokemon was Psychic, you could Go All In and select the B, C, and E tokens. However, all of this selecting of tokens–including the number you are selecting–is kept hidden from the other players.

The question flipped over, revealing the answers. In this case, green got two out of three, but gets nothing. Image by Rob Huddleston

Once all players have made their selections, everyone revelas them at the same time and places them in the “bites” on the board that match the selected letter. Once everyone has their guessed placed, the card is flipped over, which shows the correct answers highlighted in green.

All players who were correct move their Round Tracker token up the number of spaces indicated on the dice.

However, players who gambled a bit and placed two Answer tokens now also get a bonus Victory Point. (Note here that the player does not move up further on the Round Tracker, but rather, moves her token on the Victory Point Tracker.)

If a player correctly guessed all three answers, they get two bonus Victory points.

However, anyone who guessed wrong simply does nothing–they don’t move up on the Round Tracker and they get no bonus points. But it’s important to note that if a player guessed two or three answers, they must be completely right. If they miss even one answer, they get nothing for that turn. In the image above, the green player would get nothing because they got one of the three guesses wrong.

If the dice rolls on the 1+ space, everyone who gets an answer correct will move one space on the Round Tracker, But, if they also double their Victory Point bonuses. So someone who placed two tokens and got both right would get two Victory Points, while someone who went All In would get four points (as long as they got all three answers correct.)

The ¡2! side is where things get interesting. As you might guess, anyone who is right moves 2 spaces on the Round Tracker. However, when this side of the dice comes up, everyone will try to guess incorrect answers this round. In fact, the only way to score at all is to be wrong–one correct answer will mean you get nothing.

Each round ends as soon as someone hits (or exceeds) the final spot on the Round Tracker. This triggers a brief End of Round phase. First, players get points for the space they are on for the Round, so the person who got to the finish line first gets 7 points in this first round. Second, there’s a quick reset: the next Round Tracker is brought out and replaces the last one on the board, and everyone’s tokens go back to the zero marker. Then, the dice is rolled, a card is read, and the game continues.

Game End

The game ends after the turn in which someone reaches the final space on the Round Three Tracker. This triggers a normal phase of scorekeeping (again, you gets points based on where you are on the Tracker, and the person with the highest total wins.

Why You Should Play Half Truth

Trivia games have been a staple of the party game segment for decades, but most remain solidly as roll-and-move games, determined solely by the luck of getting a question you know the answer to. But Half Truth actually manages to add a bit of gaming strategy to the mix.

The first part of strategy is deciding when and if you are going to press your luck by doubling down or going all in. Since both are all-or-nothing propositions, you either win big or lose big. But, the more interesting element is that neither allows you to move on the Round Track. They give you end-of-game bonuses, but not mid-round bonuses. And that changes things, quite a bit.

The Round 3 Tracker. Image by Rob Huddleston

The second, more interesting strategic element, and the reason why the bonuses not moving you on the Round Track is important, is that not every space on the Round Track scores at the end of the round. For rounds one and two, it’s basically every other space. For round three, though, things get even more challenging, as you can only score on five of the 12 available spaces, as shown above. When we played the game as a family, my son was the first to grasp this element: he saw that I was very likely to end the round on a turn, and he knew that if he answered correctly and moved forward the one space indicated on the dice he’d go from a scoring space to a non-scoring space, so he intentionally made an incorrect guess to chose to stay where he was and get some points.

The other great thing about the game is that it isn’t based entirely on how much esoteric knowledge is locked away in your head. The multiple-choice nature of the game always gives you a shot at being right–no one in my family, for instance, had any clue at all about “The actual names of the Three Wise Monkeys”, but given the six choices (Sukanko, Iwazaru, ichimaru, Kikazaru, Saru Saru, and Mizaru) we all felt that blind guessing at least have us a shot at the answer.

We all had a lot of fun playing the game. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to finish, because a propensity of mine to roll a one meant that the rounds took a bit longer than that might otherwise, and we ended up going through all 20 questions they sent with the prototype. That of course won’t be an issue at all with the final game and its 500 questions.

I am backing Half Truth and look forward to seeing and playing the final version, and I’d recommend you do as well.

For more information or to make a pledge, visit the Half Truth Kickstarter page!


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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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