Thursday, November 13, 2014

Review: Out of the Box Games

Our family loves games and is always looking for new ones to try out. We recently had the opportunity to review Snake Oil from Out of the Box Games. This creative game is hilarious and different every time you play it!

What is Out of the Box Games? This company focuses on games that are out-of-the-ordinary and different than mainstream...hence the name! Their games all meet a certain criteria of being fresh, colorful, uncomplicated, able to be played in under an hour, and providing funny entertainment for families and friends. They have a unique game finder on their website that allows you to input the type of game, age range, and number of players that you are seeking, and it will match you to appropriate games that are available.

Where did the name snake oil come from? In the mid-1800's there were laborers that introduced actual snake oil liniment into the country and sold it to help soothe muscle pain. As word spread, and people traveled west, peddlers carried bottles of this 'miracle' potion around to new towns, and attempted to sell it to the unsuspecting folks. They would come up with vigorous sales pitches, and the reputation of snake oil grew beyond a muscle liniment, into a complete cure-all for all of life's woes. Eventually, it was discovered that much of this 'potion' that was being carried around, and sold, in the West was nothing more than just regular oil. It didn't contain any of the original snake oil and was nothing special, yet its salesmen continued to make their case to sell it. Soon, the term 'snake oil salesmen' came to be part of our American culture, denoting a person who would stop at nothing to convince you to buy their product.

What does that have to do with this game? This "Snake Oil" game makes for great entertainment by turning players into snake oil salesmen who must convincingly pitch their imaginary products.

How do you play "Snake Oil"?  Each round, one player is selected as the customer, and the remaining players are snake oil salesmen. All players receive a handful of cards that each contain one word. After learning the role of the customer, players peruse the cards in their hand and select two that 'go together' in a practical and funny way. They are given 30-60 seconds to make their sales pitch to the customer, telling them how much the imaginary product would help them, and trying to convince them to purchase. At the end of the round, the customer selects the product/sales pitch that he liked best, and awards his customer card to that player. Play continues until everyone has had an opportunity to be the customer, and play can continue for multiple rounds if desired. At the end, the player who has earned the most customer cards by his successful sales pitch is declared the winner.

Here is an example of a recent game played by our family:

Examples of customer cards - Players tailor their sales pitch to meet the customer's needs

A hand of item cards - select two to make your 'sales pitch'

Here was a winning sales pitch: a snake oil salesmen sold "toy pajamas" to a kindergartener. The sales pitch included details about "when mom makes you go to bed too early, just put on your toy pajamas and you will never be bored! They are full of nice, quiet toys you can play with in your bed until you are tired enough to fall asleep."

How many players can play "Snake Oil"? The game suggests 3-10 players. Our family usually plays with 5-6 which is a great number. There is an option to play "Snake Oil" in a group setting which seems like a fun activity for youth groups and schools.

What ages can play? The game is recommended for ages 10-adult. There is a good amount of abstract thinking and creativity required, so children much younger than that age might find it a little difficult to really jump in to the game. That being said, our 9 yr old enjoys the game!

How much is Snake Oil? The suggested retail price for Snake Oil is $19.99 and it can be purchased at many local retailers, using this store locator. 

What is our opinion? We have played Snake Oil a number of times since it arrived in our home. Each time we play it, it's different, based on the cards in each player's hand. This game will seriously bring out the belly laughs! Some of the sales pitches are so outrageous that you can't help but laugh until your sides hurt. We have had inventions of shower socks for aliens, fart vacuums for politicians, and rocket boots for cowboys, amongst others. I think having to quickly formulate creative thoughts and then pitch it to the rest of the group is really great training for public speaking! We think this game is fun, creative, and hilarious. Anytime we have had friends over and played it with new people, they share our opinion. They may start out cautiously, but once they get into the game, there is no holding back. 

One note: There may be a few word cards that may be awkward to use in mixed company so parents should flip through the cards before handing it over to the kids. There are a few that I removed to keep the game from quickly spiraling out of control when teens are playing it.

Awards: Snake Oil has been awarded a number of prestigious awards, including the winner of the national game competition put on by Mensa:

 Connect with Out of the Box Games on social media:

Watch a quick instructional video about Snake Oil on YouTube

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