The absolutely bonkers party/board game that gives random a new name
Players: 3 – 8 Best with: 5 – 8
Age: 12+ GN Age: Child
Game Type: Party Time: 20 min. too long
Publisher / Year: Imagination – 2008
Game Play: silliness, zaniness, randomness
Score: out of 12
This game is completely nuts. Your kids will love this game. You will cringe slightly every time they ask you to play the game. And they will ask to play this game all the time. Why do you ask? Because every game requires that at some point you will have to do something stupid. Often multiple stupid things. And kids love to see parents doing stupid things.
Oh, don’t worry; the kids will be doing stupid things too. But that is a small price to pay to see the parents embarrass themselves. If you are a very serious parent who does not tolerate tomfoolery then DO NOT buy this game; you will hate it. But if you are cool with being silly and having fun with a healthy dose of irreverence, then you will love this game. Up to a point.
So, in Quelf, there’s a board, a timer, some playing pieces, and an invisible harpoon, whatever. They are only a means to get to the heart of the game; the cards. When you land on a color, draw the appropriate card and do whatever it says or pay the penalty. What. Ever. It. Says.
You might have to get a plunger and hold it like a royal scepter for the rest of the game. Or you might have to compose a limerick using 5 nonsensical words. Or list all the ways to attach a live chicken to your forehead. Or maybe you’re a mime, trapped in a box, with killer bunnies attacking you. Or a heavy metal rocker who only sings the words “Whaaa! It’s my desire! Fight fire with fire!”.
And this leads to the true heart of the game; your friends, and family, and you. Are you willing to act foolish for your friends? Are they? If so, then this game is a heck of a lot of fun. Ridiculously stupid, but fun.
Quelf is unlike any other game we’ve played. There is no strategy, no resource management, no clue giving, no decision making. There’s just you wearing a homemade snorkel while stuffing a bunch of random stuff in your pants because you are now a human storage container.
The game has hardly any rules or mechanics, but let’s talk about what it does have. First, there are the player pieces. You play as one of eight random characters, such as The Dude, Queen Spatula, Mrs. Pickle Feather and Batbileg Chinzorig. To the parents this is just another whatever shot of randomness, but to the kids these things matter. Both my boys have an incessant need to play their favorite characters. Andrew is always Super Ninja Monkey (don’t tell him the monkey is a girl monkey) and James is always The Platypus (who can’t swim, and is also a girl). But does playing one character over another mean anything? Nope. The only benefit is that occasionally a random card might randomly give a bonus move or a penalty if you happen to be playing one character or another
Then there are the cards. Those gloriously silly, ridiculous, inane, and asinine cards. There are five categories; Yellow Stuntz, Purple Showbiz, Green Quizzle, Red Scatterbrainz, and Blue Roolz. Those Quelf guys really like the letter “Z”. Stunts and Showbiz cards are the best. They require you to do all the crazy actions and build nonsense contraptions. In the last game we played, Andrew was upset the whole time because he never landed on Stuntz cards. Quizzle and Scatterbrainz cards are just okay. Quizzle often involve a weirdly worded question and Scatterbrainz requires the whole table to make a list of random subjects, like “ways to get your leg out of a bear trap.”
One of my favorite aspects of the cards taps into an interesting aspect of human nature unique to board games. Have you ever played a game and at some point, said, “Hey, let me see that card?” just to confirm what the card actually said? Well, Quelf is the only game I’ve ever seen that addresses this. Sometimes a Quelf card might read, “If you are the second person to read this card, then…” You might get a bonus move for being curious, or might have to perform a ridiculous penalty action for being nosy.
The Blue Roolz cards are a special breed of crazy. Not only do you have to do whatever the card says, but now you have to do this new rule throughout the entire game. Every time you fail to do the new rule and someone catches you, you pay the penalty. And believe me the kids will always catch you. They are just waiting for you to fail. Nothing gives a kid greater pleasure than to say, “Daddy messed up, Daddy messed up. Now he has ta paaaayy.” Or is this just my kids?
We have only one issue with the game. The game always takes just a little too long to play. Your kids will not notice this; they would play this game all day if they could. But you will be sick of playing it after about 45 minutes, but the game still has another thirty to go. Whenever we play, we adults are done with the game at the same point on the board every single time.
The issue here is the Roolz cards. By this point in the game, almost every player has a Roolz card that they have to obey. But everyone keeps forgetting about it (even the kids). But those kids will call you out every time, forcing all the players to take a penalty and never gain any ground on the board. The kids never want the game to end but every parent just wants to move on. Finally, someone limps across the finish line and all the parents rejoice.
So how best to describe Quelf? If you could package your crazy cousin, you know the one, the slightly spastic one with all the great stories, who is utterly hilarious for about 45 minutes, if you could stuff him into a box, it would be Quelf. Even better, Quelf is the board game equivalent of Calvinball. Calvinball is a game played by Calvin and Hobbes in the utterly hilarious and sorely missed comic strip of the same name. (We love you, Bill Watterson). The game is utter nonsense, and the only rule is that you can never have the same rule twice and everything is made up as you go. Good luck keeping score.
We highly recommend playing Quelf with your kids. Do not wait until your kids are 12, play this game with them as soon as they can read. Your kids will love you for it, and you will curse the day that you ever read this review and followed my advice. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
As always, love and respect the absurdity in life, and Game On!
“Other kids’ games are all such a bore!
They’ve gotta have rules and they gotta keep score!
Calvinball is better by far!
It’s never the same! It’s always bizarre!
You don’t need a team or a referee!
You know that it’s great, ’cause it’s named after me!” – Calvin