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Guess Who?

Guess Who? board game box.

Price: £10.

  • 2 playing boards (one red, one blue).
  • 2 sets of 24 character cards to be slotted into the plastic frames on the boards.
  • Pack of 24 cards with the characters on.
Gameplay: Each player takes one of the cards and stands it on the board in front of them where their opponent can't see it. Players then take turns asking yes/no questions in order to discover the identity of the character on the other player's card. For instance, if Player 1 asks, 'Does your person have white hair?' and Player 2 says, 'No,' then Player 1 can eliminate all the characters with white hair from their board by flipping down those characters' frames.

Guessing the other player's character counts as an entire turn. Getting it wrong loses the game.

Object: To find out your opponent's character before they guess yours.

Advanced Game: Each player has two character cards. Questions become more complicated (e.g. 'Do either of your people have white hair?') but answers are still yes/no. This adds an element of logic to proceedings (and far greater potential for mistakes, head-aches, cheating and violence).

Guess Who? contents.

Game length: 5-10 minutes.

Number of players: 2.

Age: 6+ officially. Some children a year or two younger will be able to manage but, if they can't read, they'll need help until they learn the names of all the characters.

Comments: This is another ones of those games which has been around forever. We picked up our set in a charity shop and it's quite old. If you buy Guess Who? new, the set is more compact and has less-angular boards. The new version also has a greater number of ethnic characters. The character pictures in the old version are simpler, however, making the game easier.

As I've discovered with Mouse Trap and Frustration!, just because a game has remained in production for decades, that doesn't mean it's a classic. Guess Who?, though, is more than a nostalgia trip for parents and is actually a decent game. It's fun, simple and requires a little bit of thought.

Problems occur when the answers are debatable. Children can be very pedantic about what counts as being bald or pink or young. Unfortunately, there's no saying that any two children will have the same views on a particular issue. There's also scope for misunderstandings. Kids can argue for hours that orange hair doesn't count as red, for example. It can take a few games to build up a set of agreed definitions for such things as bushy eyebrows or a pointy chin. Then, just as things settle down, everyone works out that the best strategy is to stick to asking about hair colour anyway.

After a while, games become repetitive but the advanced rules can be introduced to spice things up.

The old version is somewhat fragile and I've had to superglue the hinges of several of the frames back together after they jammed and the kids tried forcing them down. The newer version might be better but I imagine a child sitting on the board with the frames upright would still cause catastrophic damage.

Conclusion: A welcome change from mindless dice rolling.

  • Requires thought and attention but an element of luck means that the oldest player doesn't always win.
  • Quick to set up.
  • The advanced rules extend the life of the game considerably.
  • Can be played easily while lying down if you're tired.
  • Basic game can be played while nearly asleep if you're exhausted.
  • Can go badly wrong without thought and attention.
  • Fragile.
  • Players may settle on a favourite sequence of questions and switch to auto-pilot.
  • Getting children to stick to yes/no questions and answers can take some persuading:
Child: What colour is your person's hair?
Adult: That's not how it works. You need to ask a question like, 'Is your person's hair black?"
Child: But my person's hair is white...
Adult: You're supposed to be asking about my person.
Child: But I don't know what colour hair your person has.
Adult: Exactly. That's what you're trying to find out.
Child: So what colour is your person's hair then?
Adult: (Sighs and pulls out own hair.) Fancy a game of Mouse Trap?
Rating: 4/5.

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