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All the fun of Cards Against Humanity with thrice the class.

Party Game Review: ‘Bill Shakespeare is Dead’ from Brikenbrak Games

Bill Shakespeare is Dead from Brikenbrak Games brings a whole new take on two of the Bard’s best known plays. Its Kickstarter launches April 2015, and already people are taking notice of the potential for hilarity in the game, in which groups of players step up to rewrite Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet with such elegant prose as “the gooshy stuff inside pumpkins” and “Eskimo kiss.”

billshakespeareisdeadBasic gameplay in Bill Shakespeare is Dead is similar to other fill-in-the-blank, card-matching games like Cards Against Humanity or Apples 2 Apples. While both of those games are individual rounds, however, Bill Shakespeare is Dead goes a step further to create whole pages of blank-filled material. The feel of the game is much more like a competitive match of Mad Libs than quick turns of players being judge, which gives Bill Shakespeare is Dead a longevity and sense of completion rarely seen among party games that just race to a certain number of points.

The joking tone of the game is set early in the rulebook by creator Paul Cosca’s description of 17th-century England, “Ah the good old days. The smell of feces and dead hobos in the street. The sight of unwashed masses and the complete lack of hygiene. Isn’t it lovely?” The game begins with players each receiving a hand of five Noun/Verb cards. One player acts as Stage Manager, who reads a Script Card along with two Performers. Whenever the readers come to a blank, the rest of the players (“Groundlings”) shout out their suggestions based on the cards in their hands. In Romeo and Juliet, Abraham asks, “Do you bit your ___ at me, sir?” The Stage Manager calls out, “Noun!” and players throw out cards like “lead paint chips and dip,” “truck stop meth buffet,” or “chipmunk!” Like an improv performer, the Stage Manager takes the first good suggestion, and the reading goes on to the end of the Act. At that point, a winner is picked, the Stage Manager changes, and the game continues through five Acts until an overall winner rises above the rest.

In a clever move never seen before in fill-in-the-blank party games, each player (or team of players for very large groups) receives a Character card. These cards give personalities tied to Shakespeare’s dramatis personae, such as Hamlet’s wordiness or Polonius’s ability to hide behind curtains. These personalities translate into special powers, like Hamlet stealing other players’ cards or Ophelia calling for a rematch for an Act’s winner, the new winner being whoever can hold his or her breath the longest.

Bill Shakespeare is Dead is a party game for five or more players aged 15 and up. It is a perfect game for theatre enthusiasts and English majors, along with anyone who enjoys active word-choosing party games. With 200 cards giving suggested Nouns and Verbs on both sides (and more if the Kickstarter stretch goals are reached), players will go through all kinds of crazy words before finding a repeat. Some cards be a little crass or raunchy for younger or sensitive players, but so was Shakespeare himself back in the day, biting his thumb and all, with cards of “lengthy scrotum” fitting in nicely among classic lines like Hamlet’s “Here, thou incestuous, murderous ______.” The spirit of Bill Shakespeare and the wildness of the groundlings at the Globe live ever on among the laughter.

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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.

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