Curses by veteran designer Brian Tinsman takes a unique look at the genre of party games. Usually big group games come in everyone taking turns to attempt to convey information like Pictionary or Charades, display skills such as trivia games, improv, or creativity, or discern what another player will think as in Apples to Apples. Curses flips party-gaming on its head by having players continue their play throughout the whole game, not just one turn.
Curses comes with two decks and a bell, making it a very simple, straightforward improvisational game. On a player’s turn, he or she draws a Challenge card, listing an action to perform, such as “Sing a few lines from a holiday song” or “You are Sherlock Holmes. Announce who is the real killer and how they did it.” Other Challenges bring in additional players, “You are a police officer and another player is a criminal. Place them under arrest.” These Challenges alone are enough to set the party to guffawing, but the real meat of Curses comes with the Curse cards.
After completing a Challenge, the player draws from the Curse cards and plays it on an opponent. The “cursed” player must keep up this curse for the rest of the game. If he or she ever stops talking like Elmer Fudd or forgets to applaud after someone after someone names a food, another player may ring the bell and call “Curse-Breaker!” When a player has broken three curses, he or she is out of the game.
While fun in its own right with hilarious improv antics, Curses quickly balloons into amazing madness as curses stack. Players may soon find themselves having to speak as Scooby-Doo as well as a trucker using a CB radio. Challenges prevent players from sitting quietly in an attempt not to break a Curse, meaning that this trucker/Scooby-Doo has to try to convince another player to lend him one hundred dollars.
Opposing players may attempt to knock out another player by stacking impossible Curses upon them, such as having to swat swarms of invisible mosquitoes away while keeping one’s arms at his or her sides or speaking in both Irish and French accents simultaneously. While defending players may just break the curse to end it, they may also attempt both by swatting with their shoulders or garbling their language to an unprecedented talk, which is much more creative, courageous, and all around funnier.
One concern about “you’re out” games is that the losing players are stuck in limbo while the others finish. Curses speeds up the game by, when a player goes out on his or her third break, having all of the other Curses still in play handed to other players. The sudden onslaught accelerates the madness, and the game ends all the sooner amid more the laughter.
Curses is a game for three to six players ages ten and up, taking about thirty minutes to play. It is excellent for those who love improv as well as those who are deeply competitive, just waiting for a chance to ring the bell and shout with all the eagerness of a Puritan at a witch-burning, “Curse-breaker!”