Each Christmas gathering when I was growing up would see a mix of old party games and new, but whether old or new, each was based on a common theme: pop culture knowledge. Celebrities, TV shows, movies, products, and jingles–each party game may have had its own unique gimmick, but it also had an arrow pointing straight back to its pop culture references.
There’s a reason those games sold and continue to sell: people buy them and people like them. They like to feel “in the know,” to have their curiosity about celebrities rewarded. (Why, after all, is The Masked Singer so popular?)
As I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of modern board games, these party games appeal to me less and less simply because most of them aren’t very well designed. I’d rather have strategy or skill rewarded than just what bits of trivia I happen to know. But Whozit? is an interesting case of a hobby party game designed for pop culture fans. And depending on the audience, it works very well.
In Whozit? players are cooperatively trying to earn points by collectively eliminating people who no longer fit a clue profile.
Each round, there are six people cards laid out next to an identifying number. The people cards are double-sided, and one side shows a famous character or celebrity, while the other side shows a generic occupation, or even something like “The oldest player at the table” or “The owner of this game.” There is one cluegiver each round, and they draw a number that secretly says which character they’re trying to get the rest of the team to guess.
But here’s the twist: the clue giver uses double-sided clue cards that are speculation rather than fact. The clues range from benign things like “This person would give up their seat on a bus” or “I would invite this person over for dinner” to slightly more crass clues like “This person would urinate in a pool and feel guilty about it.” Obviously, these clues don’t fit every person, so the cluegiver assigns the clue to a scale ranging from “Definitely” to “Definitely Not.”
This is where the game begins, because Whozit? isn’t a simple game of recalling facts; your enjoyment of the game will be based on how much you like discussion. Once the clue card is placed, the other players have to eliminate one of the people cards–the one that now matches the clues the least. And this is tricky because, again, this is full speculation. The clue giver would probably not invite this person over for dinner. Which person better fits this profile–Ruth Bader Ginsburg or the Hulk?
You can probably see where the discussion might get interesting, because again, it involves not just facts about people but speculation. And not just about celebrities but about the people around the table. “Well, she might be bored to have a Supreme Court justice at her table, or she might not want to talk politics.” “Yeah, but the Incredible Hulk would probably destroy her place settings.” “But she might be fascinated to hear about Bruce Banner’s research.” “But could you guarantee that he wouldn’t bring the Hulk along?”
And the cluegiver has to keep a poker face while all this is happening.
Again, the conversation is the point of Whozit?–that’s where the game happens. And really, that’s the best part about Whozit? because the kinds of information the clue giver can offer are either unknown, unknowable, or downright silly. Clue-giving party games rise and fall on their communication restraints–Taboo has forbidden words, Codenames and Just One require one-word clues, and Dixit requires obscure clues (but not too obscure). The constraint in Whozit? of giving speculative clues on silly subjects works to keep the game interesting because there are few straightforward guesses. Guessers may be able to divide the board into “people we like” and “people we don’t,” but once this is done, the nuance of parsing speculative clues begins, and that’s where the game becomes fun.
After the players have discussed, they choose one of the cards to eliminate–one card that doesn’t fit the clues on offer. If the players did not eliminate the target, they score a point and the clue giver draws another card. If they eliminated the target, more heated discussion ensues before the next clue giver goes.
I like Whozit? I think it’s a clever game that fosters fun and interesting discussion without getting into the minutiae of celebrities’ lives. It does help to have some knowledge of pop culture in order to discuss the clues, but it isn’t necessary to be an expert. While I discarded some cards because none of us had read or seen Game of Thrones (at least, I assume those odd fantasy names were from Game of Thrones), as long as we could recognize something about a person card, we were competent to discuss it. And because it’s cooperative, it’s not necessary for everyone to have a firm grasp on every person in order to participate. In fact, it’s almost more fun when everyone only vaguely knows something about a person because then the discussion is even more out there and more speculative.
That being said, I’m not sure everyone would be willing to enter a round not knowing much about the people cards, and there can certainly be some disparities in knowledge that make the game less fun. So Whozit? might not be worth your while if you don’t have knowledge of or interest in pop culture (although the range of people cards is broad: we saw Barack Obama, the pope, Bilbo Baggins, and Beyonce in one round, for example).
Players also have the option to use the generic side of cards, which don’t have proper nouns. I wasn’t as big a fan of these, mostly because while I’m fine speculating about people who put themselves in the public spotlight, I’m less comfortable getting into stereotypes about everyday people. This becomes even more uncomfortable when it’s players around the table, as some cards identify. For me, I wasn’t too upset when I was one of the “people” to choose from (“the owner of this game”), but I could tell it made some other people uncomfortable when it was their turn under the microscope.
Also, as you might have guessed, Whozit? has the potential to become contentious as discussion about people can quickly turn into discussions about politics or hot-button issues. I played this with my family at Thanksgiving, and while the conversation didn’t turn uncomfortable, there were a few times when I started to panic that I might be drawn into a political minefield. I could see this becoming a catalyst for arguments rather than good-natured discussion in the wrong group.
There was also some confusion in the rules when I explained the game. Most guessing games have you choosing what the thing is whereas Whozit? has you eliminating cards that no longer fit the profile. Even after several practice rounds and games, my family would sometimes lapse into choosing the person they thought fit the profile, rather than eliminating someone who didn’t. A few reminders usually put us back on track, but when they talked about the game later, they referred to it as “the double-negative game.”
The components for the game are functional and nice. They look like they were designed for a mass-market audience. The boards look like they belong to the kind of guessing games sold on Target’s shelves. There are lots of people and clue cards, so there’s a good amount of variety in the game. The scale is clear, as is the font on the cards, so it should be easy to see everything across the table as you play. The game also takes it easy on players if they do poorly, adding extra cards to the last round to give a chance at reaching the top score. (This seems like a concession to the mass market, but hey, my family was glad for it.)
All told, Whozit? is a well-designed game if pop culture is your thing. Rather than relying on specialized knowledge, it encourages discussion through kooky clues and unspecific information. I enjoyed my plays of Whozit? very much, and while I would happily play it if suggested, my favorite party games are ones that involve more creativity in the clue giving rather than using premade prompts (even though these prompts are good, so far as they go). But if you know someone who loves traditional party games and pop culture, Whozit? is a great choice for a game that won’t make you tear out your eyeballs from boredom. The discussion flows freely and is always interesting, and that is nothing to turn your nose up at.
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Gamewright for providing us with a copy of Whozit? for review.