Review: Stinker

stinkerboxThis year at Gen Con, I got to meet Nick Bentley of North Star Games, which was super awesome. He seemed like a guy who truly has a passion for games, and even especially for party games. One day, while perusing BGG for heaven-knows-what, I discovered his name as the designer of Stinker, a party game from FoxMind, and was immediately interested. Well, now I’ve had a chance to play the game, and is it good or is it… a stinker? (Sorry.) Here’s a reminder of my scoring categories:


Components – Does the game look nice? Are the bits worth the money? Do they add to the game?
Accessibility – How easy is the game to teach, or to feel like you know what you are doing?
Depth – Does the gameplay allow for deeper strategies, or does the game play itself?
Theme – Does the game give a sense of immersion? Can you imagine  the setting described in the game?
Fun – Is the game actually enjoyable? Do you find yourself smiling, laughing, or having some sense of satisfaction when it’s over?


Components: The game is essentially just a few question cards and a crapton of letter tiles, but it’s all very well-produced. There’s an unnecessary-but-helpful card stand for the deck of cards, the tiles are small (which is actually good) but very solid, thick plastic, and the rules were very cleanly written. The box is just the right size too. The MSRP of $30 might seem a tad high for a party game, but I suspect the tiles were much more expensive to make than a bunch of cards, and (spoiler) I think the game is well worth the price.


Accessibility: I described this game to the group as Apples to Apples meets Bananagrams, and later, someone who didn’t hear me came to the exact same conclusion himself. Given how simple both of those games are, you shouldn’t be surprised that it took me literally 120 seconds to explain this game to a group, and we were up and going with no trouble right off the bat. Exactly as a party game should be!


Depth: To me, I think this is a little different with party games – I don’t really care if the game encourages you to actually win (we don’t even keep score in Telestrations) as long as it encourages you to engage via its mechanisms, and Stinker does that in spades. It’s got a couple of awesome subtleties that makes it rise above its related competition. The first is that the “judge” for the round is not predetermined, which means that person isn’t bored, and you’re also not catering to anyone in particular. The second is that there’s a speed element, but a longer word can give more points, so while we didn’t pay close attention to score, it still motivated us to strategize somewhat. The third, most important thing is that being restricted to a pile of (probably crappy) letter tiles means that you have to be pretty creative, and everyone has an equal chance at each pile of letters. I really had to learn to let go of my first response to a question and go off what my letter tiles suggested, instead of just thinking of any particular word, and that led to some really great creative moments (and plenty of hilarity).

I remember interviewing Donald X. Vaccarino about Kingdom Builder and he talked about having fewer choices actually increases strategy (if all choices were available, there would be one boring, optimal solution) and I agree with him. Somehow, Nick Bentley has managed to sneak that philosophy into a word-based party game!


Theme: I don’t know why this game is called Stinker, or why skunks are wild. A few players asked, but we didn’t spend too much time on it. It is a pretty funny word to say, which is part of the gameplay as you race to not be the last person to say it. It’s a party game, and it doesn’t really need a theme, but I will say that it was definitely immersive, and certainly hilarious. Yet another awesome facet of this design is that, as a party game should be, it allows for great flexibility in your playgroup. This game is as intelligent, or dumb, or clean, or dirty, as you want it to be, and that’s a great way to appeal to many different players.


Fun: 2015 really is shaping up to be the year of the party game. Codenames and Spyfall are truly timeless games, but I think Stinker is too. Don’t pass this one up. It’s an awesome mix of everything I love about traditional party games like Apples to Apples, Say Anything, and Loaded Questions, with none of the stuff I dislike. It really does seem to be the master of the “judge” genre of party games. I highly recommend everyone give this one a look.


If you enjoy “judge” style party games but always thought they could be a little bit better than they are, Stinker will be an absolute revelation.




5 out of 5 

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