Review: Off Your Rocker – Ham it Up
Party games are often a mixed bag. For every great game, there are a dozen that are too wacky for their own good. That use silliness instead of substance. Thankfully, Off Your Rocker uses just the right amount of silliness and encourages players to feed off of one another. If this game appeals to you, you can even check out their Kickstarter and be among the first to get the full game experience.
Stratus Games, the makers of Off Your Rocker, were kind enough to provide me with a print-and-play copy.
The Basics. Each round, the players select a “psychiatrist” to treat the other players, the “patients.” The psychiatrist leaves the room and the patients draw a card. That card will have two tics or traits that the patients must act out. The patients choose one and then call the psychiatrist back in. Example traits might be “believe the psychiatrist is spitting water when he talks,” or “patients believe they receive an electric shock whenever a number is mentioned,” or “players must copy the gestures of the player to their right.”
The timer is flipped and the psychiatrist can then ask the patients any question he wants (except asking what the quirk is directly). The players must then respond in a manner consistent with their quirk. Players are going for cleverness, not obviousness. So if the quirk is “patients believe the psychiatrist is a dog,” you wouldn’t say, “Oh my gosh! I didn’t know dogs could talk!” That would be obvious. Instead, you might say something like, “Wow, you’re really unleashed today!” Basically, a good answer is one where you can knowingly turn to the other patients and mentally say, “See what I did, there?”
After the timer ends, the psychiatrist makes a guess of what the quirk is. Most of the time, the psychiatrist gets it right and gets a point. Then the other players must vote who they thought had the “best” answer. That could be the most clever, the most entertaining, or otherwise kept in line with the spirit of the game. Players simultaneously point at their choice. Anyone chosen by a player gets a point. The person chosen by the most players becomes the new psychiatrist. Repeat until the winning points are achieved.
The Feel. The best part of the game is being one of the patients. You get to be “in the know” and watch the psychiatrist’s bewilderment at your actions. Meanwhile, you are laughing hysterically at some of the more clever answers as the psychiatrist will look on the situation with puzzlement. It can be tough to figure out the tic early on. In fact, the psychiatrist benefits from rapid fire questions to get as much information as possible.
But the best part is coming up with the answers. It’s easy to go to the obvious. Especially when the psychiatrist asks a question you aren’t expecting. Instead, patients try to come up with something clever that makes sense to all of the other players but keeps the psychiatrist guessing. It’s a simple concept, but that mechanical encouragement really helps keep everything high brow and entertaining.
Like many party games, your experience with Off Your Rocker will vary greatly depending on your group. I imagine that an improv troupe, drama club, role players, or other gathering of individuals familiar with making stuff up on the fly will get the most out of this game. (And there is a lot to be had.), But prior experience is in no way required. Any group that gets in to character will have an absolute blast. Not every answer will be perfect, but just about every round has one or two answers that will get the gaggle of patients rolling in laughter.
Of course, you have to know your group. If you attempt to play this with a more reserved crowd, or with individuals who are uncomfortable being “put on the spot,” you may have mixed results. Still, for most social gatherings, Off Your Rocker is good fun.
The rules are loose enough to accommodate personal preference. In my first game, for example, we decided to play so that each person got a turn to be the psychiatrist and then look at the high score after that. That way, everyone got a chance to be in the hot seat and we had a definite ending point rather than playing to a predetermined score.
For this review, the usual scoring rubric will be abandoned. It is difficult to apply it to party games in general and especially so in Off Your Rocker in particular.
Overall: 3.5 of 5. Off Your Rocker was great fun to play and my group enjoyed it. We moved through a game briskly and were left wanting just a bit more. I think the way the game helps the players to craft clever responses merely by including a voting mechanic, rather than trying to compile some comprehensive rules of legal and illegal responses, is genius. The competitive nature of our group really had us diving in to come up with the best material. Still, the maxim of “know your group” is especially true with this party game. It is easy to have a phenomenal time with Off Your Rocker, but if you bring it out for the wrong folks it will be less stellar.
A special thanks to Stratus Games for Providing a Print and Play Copy for review.