I’ll admit it. When I first saw the game Don’t Judge Me, I judged it by its cover. Which is to say, I read the rules and I thought I knew what I had on my hands: a good-looking but terrible game.
But I wanted to give it a fair shot. It sounded like the kind of game that was intended to be played by adults at a party, so I waited until a holiday get-together where I could observe such persons playing the game. Then, cautiously, I brought it out.
I was prepared for this game to suck. I was prepared to bring out other games to play after it sucked. I was prepared to take notes and write a bad review delineating the many facets of its suckage.
I was prepared for this game to bomb so hard I would have to start referring to my dining table as “the Bikini Atoll.”
However, the one thing that I wasn’t prepared for happened: this game was actually a hit!
Don’t Judge Me
Don’t Judge Me is a card game for at least three players from OniiChan Games. Every round of the game, one of the players acts as a judge. Two other players each draw one character card (for example, “nurse” or “secretary”). Then the two players alternate making statements about their character, such as, “This nurse doesn’t like to do math when preparing drugs for her patients, so she just assumes every pill is 100 milligrams.” After each player has made three statements, the judge decides which player’s character is the worst person.
It might not sound like it, but this game is tremendously fun. We were all laughing so much it hurt and didn’t want to stop playing. Everyone had fun hearing the hilarious characters that people came up with. Everyone had fun incorporating annoying things they’ve done or experienced into the characters. Everyone had fun riffing off other people’s descriptions and trying one up them.
Don’t Judge Me is obviously aiming for the same market as other adult-oriented party games like Cards Against Humanity or Midnight Outburst. However, Don’t Judge Me also has something common with party games like Balderdash or Snake Oil in that it is BYOJ: Bring Your Own Jokes. Unlike Cards Against Humanity, Don’t Judge Me isn’t funny in and of itself. It merely provides a framework for the players to say funny things. This has a few important implications.
First, you need to play the game in an environment where everyone is feeling relaxed and chatty. We found that it was easier for players to make two statements per turn instead of three, and even players who weren’t feeling in touch with their creative side were able to come up with very funny descriptions by drawing on personal experience.
Also, because the game depends on your wittiness, the darkness or lightness of the humor in the game will vary significantly depending on the preferences and personalities of the players. This means that the game could actually be suitable for a very wide range of audiences—if not for how the rules are written.
The rules of the game contain extremely dark, offensive characters as examples. I don’t understand this design decision. It unnecessarily reduces the target audience of the game. Plus, I think it guides players in the wrong direction. It was very easy to describe characters who were beyond the pale—but ultimately less funny. We got the most laughs out of descriptions that were only sliiightly evil in a deviously passive aggressive way (for example, “This librarian waits to enter your returns in the system so you always get a late fee” or “This barista secretly gives regular coffee to people who order decaf”).
This game looks good. I like the logo on the back of the cards. The blocky, abstracted, faceless pictures of the characters are perfect for jump-starting your thought process. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of racial diversity and some of the characters depicted may veer in the direction of inappropriate cliché (for example, of course the “nurse” is depicted as female and the “doctor” as male). But I appreciated that at least some of the characters weren’t obviously a specific gender, giving the players more freedom in their descriptions.
The game does not come in a box, so you will need to find a different way to keep the cards together, such as a rubber band, hair tie, mysterious incantation, or sandwich baggie.
I have several quibbles with the game’s production. My copy of the game came with two “writer” character cards. Also, the game’s rules do not explicitly give guidance on how to rotate the game roles among the players. It’s easy to just go around in a circle, but more guidance on how to manage a large number of players would have been nice.
Good Guy Greg variant
OniiChan Games pointed out to me that a more family friendly variant of the game is describing characters who are the best instead of the worst—essentially Good Guy Greg descriptions instead of the Scumbag Steve ones you give in the basic game.
This should be officially included in the rules as it turned out to be an extremely fun alternative for adults, too. Everyone enjoyed joking about characters who were outrageously or unexpectedly breaking with stereotypes (for example, a chef at a foodie restaurant who actually makes satisfying portions or a mortician who sells caskets at cost).
Don’t Judge Me isn’t a perfect game.
A rules rewrite would make the game better. Using family friendly examples would make this game playable by anyone.
More cards would also make the game better. One of the cards in the game says “friend” instead of a specific occupation and everyone wished there were other cards in this vein to open up new avenues for creativity (for example, “brother,” “aunt,” “roommate,” etc.).
But Don’t Judge Me has what counts: fun. Ever since we played, people have been talking about playing again and asking me if they can borrow it for their next party. In my judgment, that makes Don’t Judge Me a great game.
Note: A review copy of this game was provided by OniiChan Games.