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Game Review: ‘Mixed Company’

Mixed Company takes conversation gaming to a new level, balancing game mechanics so players are at their best. Most party conversation games are geared toward humor, such as filling in blanks on one card with humorous phrases or comparisons on another. Mixed Company, meanwhile, offers the topic, and it is up to the players to give their answers.

A round of Mixed Company begins with players choosing the best of their three Conversation cards, posing questions such as, “Can vampires get tattoos?” “What is your go-to song when you need to get pumped up?” and the surprisingly controversial, “Should pineapple be allowed to be served on pizza?” The question cards are revealed, and play goes into a voting round where players secretly determine which question will be the topic of the day. Each player receives three Yes cards, two No cards, and a Veto card, playing them secretly to vote on whether the topic should, should not, or should definitely not be discussed. The votes are revealed and tallied, leading into the conversation phase with a thought-provoking pint.

Players take turns each addressing the question with a few conversation guidelines: Do not interrupt, go off-topic, be mean, or speak for more than two minutes without giving others chances. Not only are these good tips for real-word conversations, they also keep the pace of Mixed Company lively.

Once all players have shared their reasoning and opinions, the phase completes with each player handing out a Trophy card to another player. Trophies could be for “Most Enjoyable,” “Best Reference,” “Best Wordplay,” “Best New Perspective,” and more. For competitive play, the player with the most Trophy cards wins. Alternately, players may all feel like winners of a good conversation.

With its strong core mechanics, Mixed Company is also versatile, with optional cards for an even fuller game. Challenge and Action cards add a new layer to the conversation with required prompts rather than others posing follow-up questions. The Challenge cards go out at the beginning of the conversation, pushing a player to make their argument satirical, argue the opposite of the side the player would normally take, or go the entire conversation without hand gestures. In the midst of conversation, players may play Action cards to demand an outside source, give an opposing point, or give support to another’s argument. As with all of the cards in the base version, these are excellent tools for actual conversation, making Mixed Company great real-world practice for younger and older players alike.

Mixed Company is a conversation game for three to six players aged 10 and up. Planned expansion packs allow for more adult questions; not “adult” as in gross-outs typical of party games but actual grown-up considerations such as political policy questions and social media ethics. This idea of serious topics without sparking debate is the hallmark of Mixed Company, allowing frank and cathartic discussion instead of squabbles. It is all about getting people to talk out their issues, with plenty of room for players to suggest their own. The Kickstarter campaign even has an open contest for questions backers have always wanted to discuss.

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