Wits & Wagers Deluxe Edition is a trivia based party game, which was originally released back in 2005. Designed by Dominic Crapuchettes and published by North Star Games the game has a suggested player count range of 3 – 7, though it can go to double that with teams. Adding a twist to the old question-answer mechanics of trivia games, the wagers part sees players bet on which answer is the closest. However, is this unique twist one that pays off or a gamble too far? Let’s find out!
A game of Wits & Wagers is played out over a number of rounds, 7 are suggested in the rulebook. Each round a question is read aloud by one of the players, which will have a numerical answer. An example question is: “In feet, how tall are the letters in the Hollywood sign?”. A timer is flipped and players must write the answer onto small whiteboards, or at least their best guess. Once the sand timer runs out everyone passes their answers in and they get arranged highest to lowest along the betting mat, centring on the middle 2-to-1 space. Each space away from the median answer then has +1 to their odds, 3-to-1 and so on.
At this point betting commences. In the first round players will only have two poker chips to bet with. These can be placed alongside any of the given answers, together or separate, or on the special “smaller than” 6-1 return space. These poker chips cannot be lost and are the equivalent of $100. Later in the game players will have earnt other cardboard $ tokens which can be used alongside the poker chips for bigger bets. Unlike the poker chips though any $ tokens are lost if bet incorrectly. Once all bets are in the answer is revealed and the closest answer given by players is determined. Whomever gave that answer gets $300 from the bank and then any bets on the correct answer are paid out. After the set number of questions, the player with the most money wins!
As with any trivia style game the experience level of the players can be high or low, yet it is still a level playing ground. Shaking up the usual style nicely is the betting side of Wits & Wagers, allowing those without the best knowledge of random facts a chance at victory. Does an opponent often thrive at answering questions from a similar category? Then once their answer is on the table simply betting on it to be the right answer can bag yourself some dollar. It is hard to stress the importance of this fact. No longer do players feel like the game is lost before it begins when playing against people the perceive as brainer. This logic also applies to balancing the game for younger players against older, or should I say more experienced, trivia players.
The player poker chips are awesome to hold, slightly weighty and robustly epic. After picking them out the box I was disappointing by the generic money tokens, that players earn throughout the game. Don’t get me wrong a decent quality cardboard has been used, and gamers won’t even need to punch them from a sheet, it was more the level of the production quality had been artificially supersized in my head. If I had gone the other way, from the cardboard tokens to the player specific poker chips, it would have been a pleasant component journey. It’s more a case of why not jazz all the components up for the Deluxe Edition.
125 question cards are included in the box which each have two questions printed on them. Given the suggestion of 7 questions per game this equates to over 35 full games of Wits & Wagers without repeats. Helpfully, a special card is included so you can tell when you finally get back around to answering the same questions again. When this occurs if you are anything like me you’ll have forgotten the exact answer, though ball park guesses may all be that bit closer. More questions are available as part of expansion packs for those getting the game to the table enough, though these won’t be needed for a long time.
Keeping the number of questions asked in a game down is beneficial as otherwise you can run into the issue of a runaway winner. Just like in a pub quiz, if one player is truly awesome at trivia then they will inevitably do well, at least making educated guesses each round. This knowledge is negated by the wagering aspect of the game, though this introduces the potential for a ballsy bet to massively pay off. If one player consistently gambles correctly there is a sort of snowball effect with them growing in tokens and confidence. Thankfully, as with any gambling the confidence cause them to bet big and lose it all. A full game of Wits & Wagers is short enough in length that it doesn’t really matter if one player or team easily wins. Next game, with a new set of questions, could see a completely different outcome.
Wits & Wagers works incredibly well as either an individual based competition or in small teams. While small teams work, it doesn’t quite scale well into large teams. The gambling aspect of the game is somewhat lost as soon as too few answers are being thrown into the middle each round. This being said, the game can normally handle up to 7 players but this comfortably doubles to have pairs. Pairing up also gets the energy levels up as team members start to squabble over lost bets, all in a friendly way of course. Naturally, whenever one gets the answer wrong the other “Knew That!”. At the other end of the spectrum the game is playable with only three players but as with most party orientated games it shines what you have 4 or more.
As a gamer from the UK it is easy to see that Wits & Wagers is very much aimed towards an American audience. Now this is to be expected to some extent but some players have found this frustrating; especially when every third question relates directly to something about America or a survey of its people. Thankfully, each question is open wide for guesses to be made. As long as every player is in the same boat then getting answers in the right ballpark still provides plenty of entertainment, perhaps more so when preposterous answers are given.
Wits & Wagers is hands done the most entertaining trivia game to have graced the market in some time. It doesn’t completely remove the ability for the smartest person in the room to win but the wagering element balances the game for those otherwise at a disadvantage. As questions can require guesswork and estimations there is plenty of laughs to be had from dodgy answers. Be warned though, even an answer that players will dismiss as barmy can turn out to be closest from time to time. Wits & Wagers has been an instant hit with friends and family alike, especially over the holiday period. It takes a genre which had become stale and put a fresh spin on it, breathing new life into trivia for many.
[Editor’s Note: Wits & Wagers Deluxe Edition was provided to us by Asmodee UK for review purposes. For all board games check out 365 Games. Check where the game is available from local UK board game stores, find your local store here]