Review: Wits and Wagers

Publisher: North Star Games

Number of Players:3 – 7, more with teams

Playing Time: 20-30 minutes

Release Year: 2005

Year I got it: 2008 (today)

It’s a cross between: Craps and Trivial Pursuit.

Number of Plays to Obtain Proficiency: About 2.  The game itself is fairly simple to understand but seems daunting at first; after the first game you are no longer daunted and after the second game you are comfortable with strategy.

Replayability: Moderate.  This isn’t a game you’ll want to play over and over but if you throw a party once every few months it’s worth pulling out.

Social Interaction: I’ve only yet played the game in a team situation; when you play teams there is plenty of interaction when moving towards a decision on both answers and wagers.  In a regular game around a table I imagine there would be interaction between rounds but in any betting game it’s generally a good idea to keep things close to the chest and not social it up.

So, I won this game tonight at a trivia competition where we played… this game.  Actually, there were four of us: me, poober, and two of his friends.  We all won this game along with another Northstar makes called Say Anything.  Even though I haven’t played the conventional version, I feel the version we played at the event was representative enough to give a good review.

The makers of the game (the proprietors of North Star Games) are local and put on an event on the first Tuesday of every month at Mayorga Coffee Factory in Silver Spring.  I found out about the event on Meetup, but just assumed it was something that happens all over the place: nope.  It turns out that this is the only place where this type of event is held! And in the city where I live and work!

So, we headed down there and played two games as a team.  We won the first and came in second in the second.  We also played the “bonus” questions almost perfectly.  One was: name the 4 states in the U.S. that are not majority “caucasian” and the second was name the 7 countries who earned more than 10 gold medals in the 2008 Olympics.  We got both of them exactly right!  There was another bonus question about beer where we got 7 out of 10 but I didn’t really help on that one.

Getting those bonus questions right earned us $22 “funny money” and winnin earned us another $25.  I had brought $7 from when I played last month and it turned out this was enough to “win” the two games.  I felt somewhat bad, as though we were gaming the system somehow, but we won fair and square according to the rules.  Hopefully this blog post will sell a few games and earn them some cash back.

Anyway, I’ve spent a great deal of this review talking about our trivia night out rather than what I normally do: describe the mechanics of the game.  Wits and Wagers is a trivia game, but with a few twists that are supposed to help those who maybe aren’t the best at trivia.  All the answers to the questions are numbers, and most of them are difficult to know for sure.  Normally that’s frustrating in a trivia game but here it adds an extra twist:  after everyone has turned in their answer, the numbers guessed are entered on the betting mat.  Each player then gets a chance to wager on which number they think is the closest without going over.  The more extreme (smallest and largest) guesses pay out more.

I don’t know if that wall of text is a good enough description of how the game works.  An example may be in order:  Let’s say the question is:

How many gorillas are there in zoos in the United States?

This is one of the questions asked at tonights trivia game.  Five people who are playing might turn in various guesses: 500, 38, 123, 128, and 247.  These numbers would be arranged on the betting mat like so:

Pays: 4 to 1 3 to 1 2 to 1 3 to 1 4 to 1
Guesses: 38
 
123
 
128
 
247
 
500
 

You get two tokens to bet with, though eventually more tokens are paid out that you can use on future events.  Let’s say you chose 247, and you bet one token on 247 and one on 38.  If the real answer is 300, you get 3 tokens (because you got it right and it pays 3 to one).  You also happen to get 3 more tokens for choosing the correct answer.

It feels fairly complicated even though you get the hang of it after one question.  Hopefully you can see that if you are pretty good at betting, you don’t have to be great at knowing the answers to the questions.

Here are the strategy tips I have discovered:

  • Since the “winning” strategy is like The Price is Right and going over is bad, it’s best to select numbers that are slightly lower than what you think might be the answer.
  • Another strategy straight out of The Price is Right: if the number is going to be very large, go with a number that is slightly above even.  For example, if you think the answer might be around 500, go with 501 or 502 so you can get above someone who chooses the even number.
  • The third strategy that arises from the way the “winner” is selected is to look for the lower end of the biggest gaps.  If there are only 20 possible answers between one set of numbers, and 100 between the next set, it’s much safer to choose the 100.
  • Wait until the last minute to cast your wagers.  This prevents other people from voting with you to try to keep up with you and also keeps you from tipping your hand if you think you know the answer.
  • If the game is nearing the close, and you are winning, choose an arbitrarily and absurdly large number for your answer.  This will prevent people from being able to get an answer with 4 to 1 or 5 to 1 odds, and lower everyone else’s chance of betting big and surpassing you.

Overall, I recommend this game, as I tend to do all the board games I review.

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2 Responses

  1. As well articulated as Greg described the game, it still sounds incredibly complicated. It’s not! Go out and buy it, play a round, and you wont regret it!

  2. … and it goes great with Chipotle!

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