The game that puts the fun in English, because that’s how language works
Players: 3+ Best with: 4
Age: 12+ GN Age: Child
Game Type: Party Time: 30 minutes
Publisher/Year: Hasbro / 2009
Game Play: Word Guessing, Clue Giving, Timer
Available from: 3rd party dealers, thrift, yard sales
Score: out of 12
Let me start by saying that Funglish is my youngest son’s favorite game. But I cannot fathom his reasons why and he will only play one half of the game. He refuses to play the other half of the game, but he loves it still, and it is his favorite word game.
At its core Funglish is like every other “Guess the secret word” games like Password, Taboo, Pictionary or even Charades. All these games follow a similar format. One side knows the secret word and has to give clues to the other players, but is limited in what clues are allowed.
Sometimes the limiting factor is that you have to draw the clues or act them out. Sometimes there are certain words you are forbidden to use or you have a limited set of word cards in your hand. But beyond these restrictions, any word is a valid clue. Virtually any combination of nouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions, and proper names can be used as part of your clue. But in Funglish, you are limited by three factors.
First, every clue must be an adjective. This forces you to think about things in different and oblique ways. How do you describe Mount Rushmore without using any nouns, verbs, places, or names? You can’t use “sculpture, statue, carved, president, South Dakota, Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, or that other guy.” Instead you have to think of ways to describe it based strictly upon the five senses; sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch.
Secondly, you are limited to using only those adjectives provided by the game on multi-colored tiles. This strips every object down to its most basic descriptions. There are 120 descriptive tiles divided into multiple categories; color, size, material, etc. This seems like a lot, maybe even too many, but it’s not. Inevitably, you will have the perfect description in your head only to be confounded by the fact that it is not on any of the tiles.
Third, you cannot speak. You cannot put any importance on any word over another. The description has to speak on its own merit. Granted, there are a few ways to emphasize certain words. As you are gathering clue words, you place them on a easel that has three quantifiers; Definitely Is, Kind of, & Not. This will allow you to help the guessers when they go off on the wrong track. You can also group the clues into clusters to help them hone in on the right guess.
As if all that wasn’t enough, you are also racing against the clock to get as many correct answers in less than 3 minutes. Okay, four factors.
Here’s the set-up. Assemble the easel and place it where everyone at the table can see it. Then lay out all of the word tiles so that the clue givers have easy access to them and the easel. Then set out the stack of secret words cards so that the clue givers can all see them but none of the guessers can. And don’t forget the timer, which conveniently gets attached to the easel in an inconvenient location.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds. We have yet to figure out a configuration that doesn’t require everybody to view the easel with our necks strained at an awkward angle. The tiles take up way too much table space and always get jumbled up, which is allegedly part of the “fun” but I just find annoying. And the timer will inevitably get knock off its axis, defeating the whole purpose of having a timer.
Another divisive, love-it-ot-hate-it factor is that all of words are written in crazy fonts, making it even harder to find the word you need when you it. I’m sure there are people out there going, “Ooh, that one is Verdana. Is this Algerian or Bauhaus? I just love Old English, don’t you? Do you prefer Lucida Serif or Lucida Sans Serif?” Look, man! You only need two fonts; Times New Roman, and…
Cherry Swash – The Official Game Night Font
Ok, where was I? Once the table is set, everyone picks a partner, but this person is not your teammate. You want to win! Against everyone at the table, including him. Two random non-partners are picked to be clue givers. But everyone is scored individually. However, partners can score bonus points. Have paper and pencil handy. And the number of rounds is immaterial. And there can be individual clue givers. And everyone can guess, including non-clue-giving partners/non-teammates. And blah, blah, blah.
Look, I know these “rules” are in place to help younger or inexperienced players with the clue giving duties, but this is needlessly convoluted. We throw out all these stupid rules about points and teams, and we just play the game as an exercise in giving clues and guessing answers. And playing the “game” this way is actually a lot of fun.
The way the game make you think differently about describing something is a really good mental activity and I’m sure there is a plethora of phenomenal scientific evidence about how good it is for developing brains and whatnot. Going back to my son, he loves to be the clue giver, but he hates to be the guesser. I think he likes to express things based upon their definitive, quantifiable characteristics, but he hates the pressure of deciphering another’s random thought process.
The bottom line is that Funglish is fun, but there are much better word games out there. Funglish has too much setup, too much hassle, the scoring is irrelevant, and you will never get a group of adults to play it. But it has an interesting concept, it encourages creative cognitive thinking, and obviously some kids will just love it. So, if you find Funglish on sale or at a thrift store, you might want to Scan it, Grab it, and Play it; to paraphrase their own cheesy tagline.
As always, a serif is the little extra pen stroke in some typefaces, like this one, and sans serif means “without serif”, and Game On!
The adjective that exists solely as a decoration is self-indulgence for the writer and a burden for the reader. – William Zinsser, On Writing Well