Each March one of the biggest sporting events in the United States is March Madness. For those who are unfamiliar with March Madness it is a single elimination tournament to determine the champion of the college basketball season. One of the reasons that March Madness is so popular is that people enjoy filling out their own brackets trying to predict who they think will win each matchup. While building brackets is quite popular with a lot of people I would be lying if I said that I thought it would ever be turned into a board game. Well I was wrong since today’s game Party Playoff is just that, “March Madness The Game”. Instead of having basketball teams face off, Party Playoff has places, actions, people and things face off to determine who is going to be the ultimate champion. Party Playoff might not be considered much of a game but it is a surprisingly enjoyable experience.
How to Play Party Playoff
- Place the gameboard, envelope and decider finger on the table.
- Shuffle the two decks of cards. Choose one knockout card and place it face up on the gameboard.
- Each player takes one scoresheet.
- Players will randomly draw eight tiles of each color and place them on the eight outside spaces of the corresponding colored bracket.
The game begins with each player filling out their bracket. Each player will choose which tile they think will win each bracket. They then choose the two semi-finalists and finally the undisputed champion. Each player also chooses one of the other players. They will try to guess which tile that their chosen player is predicting will be the undisputed champion.
When a player has finished filling in their scoresheet, they insert it into the envelope.
Playing the Matchups
Spin the decider finger. The player that the finger points towards will choose which bracket will start the game.
A challenge card is drawn and the prompt for the chosen bracket’s color is read aloud. The players will debate each matchup for the first round based on the prompt. Players can debate for as long as they want. Whichever tile receives the most votes moves onto the next round.
If there is a tie the decider finger is spun. The player that the finger points towards gets to break the tie.
Once the players have completed all of the first round matchups for the bracket, the players move onto another bracket and draw a new challenge card. After all of the first round matchups are completed, the second and third rounds are completed in the same way with a new card being chosen for each.
When the final four have been decided, a different challenge card is drawn for each matchup. For these matchups the players will use the prompt at the bottom of the cards.
For the final matchup you will use the prompt on the knockout card that is face up on the gameboard. Whichever tile wins this matchup is the undisputed champion.
Each player removes their scoresheet from the envelope and counts up how many points they scored. Each player will score points as follows:
- One point for each correct bracket champ prediction.
- Two points for each correct title contender prediction.
- Four points for correctly predicting the undisputed champion.
- Four points for correctly guessing what another player predicted as the undisputed champion.
The player who scores the most points wins the game.
My Thoughts on Party Playoff
I am going to get this out of the way right away. I think it is debatable whether Party Playoff should even be considered a game. In many ways I think a better term to describe Party Playoff would be as an experience. While there is an ultimate winner in the game, that is not really the reason you play a game like Party Playoff. The ultimate winner doesn’t really matter as you will mostly be playing the game to have some fun and laughs.
Basically the only gameplay in Party Playoff is trying to predict which items are going to advance in the game. You score points for each correct prediction. Since you only know the grading criteria for the final matchup it is hard to make educated guesses on what items are going to advance. Basically your best option is probably to pick items that you and the rest of the players like. Picking things that you and the other players like will make it easier for you to persuade them to vote for them throughout the game.
After everyone has made their predictions the only impact you have on your fate is convincing the other players to vote for the items you chose. Persuasive players are going to have an advantage in the game since if you can make a persuasive argument you can convince some players to vote with you who otherwise wouldn’t have. The key is to not push for your item too much though. If you try too hard to promote the items you have chosen the other players will notice and will get suspicious that you picked it to advance. This will likely lead to them voting against it just to make you lose points. The players that are really good at convincing players while remaining subtle can gain a decent advantage in the game. Usually players are going to know what you picked after a round or two but the longer you can keep it secret the better off you are.
Being persuasive will usually not be enough though. Luck plays a big role in the game as you have no idea what prompt will be used to judge the items throughout the game. There are going to be times where there is no legitimate reason to pick one item over another. If this is one of the items you chose to advance you have to make one of two choices. Your first option is to try and come up with whatever excuse you can to try and convince the other players to vote with you. You are going to have to be very convincing though since you most likely will just let the other players know that you picked that item to advance. The other players are then unlikely to vote with you. While it kind of ruins the spirit of the game, it is actually kind of funny to see a player try to defend a choice that otherwise would make no sense.
The other option is just to admit that it is a lost cause. Being a competitive player it hurts to give up on a scoring opportunity but it is for the betterment of the game. When players solely vote for an item to try and score more points it kind of ruins the game. This is especially true when multiple players chose the same item and vote for it no matter what the prompt is. In this situation there really is no reason to even debate since you know what is ultimately going to win. Players that make the same selections as another player have a pretty big advantage in the game. While players aren’t going to want to vote against their own self interest, it is in the spirit of the game for players to vote for the item that they truly believe should move on. At times players have to disregard trying to score the most points to preserve the spirit of Party Playoff.
The downside of this though is the fact that players could actually be eliminated from the game pretty early on. Theoretically a player could have all of their choices eliminated in the first round and thus have nothing to play for the rest of the game. This is not very likely as most players should get at least one or two of their choices into the final four. If all of your choices are eliminated before the scoring phase though, you don’t really have much to play for in the game since there is pretty much no way you could win the game. This is why players shouldn’t take the game itself very seriously since you can still have fun if you just look at the game as an experience instead of as a game.
While there are going to be times where players purposely vote for the items they chose at the beginning of the game, I have to admit that the matchups work better than I thought they would. There are situations where neither choice makes a lot of sense but this happened a lot less than I was anticipating. In most matchups there is at least one answer that actually works pretty well for the prompt. The best rounds though are when both answers work pretty well. In these situations there is actually some good debate/discussion before the players ultimately choose one of the options. These are the situations where the most convincing players can have a pretty big impact on the game. By swaying one or two players you could change the outcome of the game.
I was surprised by how many ties there are in the game though. Since I played the game with four players ties were actually a likely proposition in the game. This was especially true in situations where players had items they picked to advance or in situations where both options were pretty even. If the tie can’t be broken you just spin the finger and whoever it points to gets to break the tie. This rarely ever went my way. This is just another reason why you can’t take the game too seriously. You could easily lose the game just because another won a tiebreaker and voted against one of your choices. I would probably recommend playing with an odd number of players though if possible since with an odd number of players you can avoid the tiebreaker entirely.
As Party Playoff is more of an experience than a game I didn’t expect much from the scoring. The scoring is pretty much what you would expect. I give the game credit for making the scoring straightforward. I don’t know if I agree with how points are awarded though. The main complaint that I have is that the game gives players too many points for being able to guess one of the other players’ undisputed champion. You end up scoring the same points for predicting what another player chose than actually predicting the final winner yourself.
The other complaint that I have with the scoring is that I think the game simplified the scoring a little too much. I think the game should have had players fill out the entire bracket and score points for each matchup. I am guessing this was ultimately not included since it would probably take too long. I think it would be interesting to play the game predicting every matchup as it might actually improve the game. With you only predicting the finalist from each bracket there are too many matchups where you don’t really have a rooting interest either way. Basically the only reason to debate is to try and hide which items you voted for and trying to stop the items other players voted for. If you had to predict every matchup though it would make the discussions more interesting as players would be fighting for their choices in every matchup.
Despite Party Playoff not really being a game I still have to say that I enjoyed it quite a bit. While the final outcome doesn’t really matter, the journey to that outcome is what really makes Party Playoff. As I said earlier Party Playoff is an experience and if you treat it like that you can get a lot of enjoyment out of it. Party Playoff does a good job creating that perfect party game experience. The game is quick to learn and play which makes it perfect to bring to a party or group gathering with people that don’t play a lot of games.
The best selling point for Party Playoff though is probably the fact that the game can be surprisingly funny at times. What other game could you possibly have Mr. Clean going up against a grilled cheese sandwich. The matchups themselves are not the only thing that can get ridiculous. You could have what looks like a normal matchup that becomes weird quickly based on the grading criteria for the matchup. There will be matchups that will get a chuckle before anyone even begins debating. The debate itself can even lead to quite a few laughs. If you want a fun party game that can lead to some laughs, Party Playoff can be the game for you.
While the components are not fantastic I have to say that I was surprised by them. The quality of the components are pretty typical for this type of game. On the quantity side though the game does quite well. The game gives you quite a few of each color of tile and they are double sided which gives you even more options. There are also quite a few cards which means it is unlikely that you will ever have to repeat the same debate. While they don’t actually impact the game at all, I actually thought it was clever the little additions added to the rules and components that add a little additional humor to the game.
Should You Buy Party Playoff?
While it is debatable whether Party Playoff should even be considered a game, it is still an enjoyable experience. Basically the only gameplay is trying to predict which items will advance in each bracket. Players can have a little impact on this by making compelling arguments for the items they have chosen which can occasionally impact the game. There is still a high reliance on luck though as there will be times that even the most convincing player won’t be able to defend the items they ended up choosing. While this might drive some players nuts, to fully enjoy the game you need to not really care about who ultimately wins the game. If you can get past caring who wins you can have a lot of fun with Party Playoff. With the right group Party Playoff can be a fun hilarious party game.
If you don’t like games where the winner doesn’t really matter, Party Playoff is probably going to annoy you. If you generally don’t like party games or don’t like the game’s concept it also probably won’t be for you. If you are looking for a good party experience and want some laughs though I think you will enjoy your time with Party Playoff. If you can get a good deal on the game I would recommend picking it up.