While I have never reviewed it on Geeky Hobbies, I have always enjoyed Balderdash (aka Dictionary). While it isn’t a perfect game, I have never had a bad game of Balderdash. For those of you unfamiliar with Balderdash, it is a party game that features obscure words that few people actually know the definitions too. Thus Balderdash has players make up their own definitions hoping to trick other players into picking the definition that they made up. What I like about Balderdash is that it is a simple and yet entertaining party game that everyone can enjoy. So does Balderdash Junior remain fun while making itself accessible for younger children? Unfortunately Balderdash Junior changes too many mechanics which ruins what I love about Balderdash, creating ridiculous definitions that other players might still believe.
How to Play Balderdash Junior
Place the gameboard in the center of the table. Shuffle the two decks of cards and place them to the side of the gameboard. Players choose which side of the Balderdash cards they want to use (purple-beginner, red-advanced). Each player chooses a playing piece and a voting chip. Each players’ playing piece is placed on the start space. The players roll the die to determine the first player.
Playing the Game
Each player begins their turn by drawing a card based on what space their playing piece is on at the beginning of their turn.
If a player is on a normal space they read the word and the three definitions on the chosen side (purple or red) of the next card. One of the three definitions will be the correct definition for the word. All players (including the current player) get to decide which definition they think is correct. Players indicate their choice by placing their voting chip on the corresponding number on the gameboard. When everyone has voted the answer is revealed. Each player that chose the correct answer rolls the die and moves their playing piece the corresponding number of spaces.
If the current player began their turn on a challenge space, they draw the top challenge card. The difference with the challenge cards is that there will be one blank answer. With a challenge card the current player has to make up a definition to fill in the blank. The reader reads the word and all of the definitions making sure not to tip off the players to which definition they came up with. In this round all of the players besides the current player will choose which definition they think is correct. Everyone votes with their voting chips. Each player that chose the correct definition gets to roll the die once and move the corresponding number of spaces. The reader gets to move forward two spaces for every player that chose their made up answer.
Winning the Game
The game ends when one player reaches the finish space. That player wins the game. If more than one player reaches the finish space at the same time, all tied players will play one challenge round. The tied player that gets more players to choose their definition breaks the tie and wins the game.
My Thoughts on Balderdash Junior
So you are probably wondering why I bought a junior/children’s version of Balderdash when I don’t have any children to play the game with. The main reason I picked up Balderdash Junior is that I really like Balderdash and I thought I could use Balderdash Junior as an expansion pack for the original Balderdash. I assumed that the cards for Balderdash Junior would just feature easier words (due to being the junior version) which might make the game easier but wouldn’t affect the game in any other noticeable way. It also didn’t hurt that I found Balderdash Junior for around $0.30.
Unfortunately my plan to use Balderdash Junior as an expansion pack for the original Balderdash didn’t really work because Balderdash Junior actually changes up the game’s formula quite a bit in order to work for younger children. Basically Balderdash Junior strips most of the creativity out of Balderdash and basically turns it into a vocabulary trivia game. While I can see why the game did this, it pretty much ruins the game for adults and older children.
The one thing that makes Balderdash truly interesting is the idea that each player makes up their own definitions for the words hoping to trick the other players into guessing their definition. While you may occasionally get stuck trying to come up with a compelling definition, it is a good game mechanic and makes for a good party game.
Outside of the challenge cards, this mechanic is entirely stripped out of Balderdash Junior. Instead of coming up with your own definitions, all of the definition choices are printed on the cards and players just need to choose which one they think is correct. This basically turns Balderdash Junior into a game of guess the definition. I am guessing that the designers felt this decision had to be made because younger children have trouble coming up with their own compelling definitions. The designers must have thought it would be easier to just let them try and guess the correct definition. This is probably true but it kind of makes the game boring for older children and adults.
The one time where creativity comes into play is with the challenge cards. Unfortunately the challenge cards are pretty disappointing. First they don’t really come into play very often. I think in the game I played maybe two players were able to use a challenge card. Second while the reader is able to make up one definition, it is just not the same as letting all of the players come up with their own definitions.
As far as difficulty I would say that Balderdash Junior is more difficult than I was expecting but can still be quite easy. While I hadn’t heard of most of the words on the cards we played, I was familiar with a couple of the words. The main reason why Balderdash Junior is easy is because of how the answers are chosen. Most of Balderdash Junior’s answers are definitions from similar sounding words which are trying to trick you into picking them. These definitions are rarely ever correct. If you can figure out what similar word an answer is referring to, you can usually eliminate that answer. This isn’t applicable for every card but you can eliminate one or two definitions from quite a few of the cards.
This leads to one of the problems that I have with Balderdash Junior which is that games can easily end in ties. Players stick pretty close to one another for most of the game and I bet a lot of games will end with the tiebreaker. I think this comes down to a lot of the players getting the same cards correct. While the roll of the die adds a little variability to movement, since the die only has numbers 1-3 on it most players will move the same number of spaces on their turns.
Basically I see Balderdash Junior mostly being for families with younger children. Balderdash Junior is probably considerably more accessible for younger children or people who aren’t creative enough to come up with their own definitions. Balderdash Junior could even be considered educational since it could teach you new words that you have never heard of before. The problem is that most of the words in the game are words that you would never use in your everyday life so the educational value of the game is a little questionable.
With the changes to the gameplay I really can’t recommend Balderdash Junior for adults or older children since the original game is just a superior game. If you are looking for a definition trivia game, you might like Balderdash Junior but otherwise I don’t think you will get a lot of enjoyment out of the game. While I would like to recommend picking up the game for the extra cards, I can’t really do that either. While the words on the cards would work fine for a game of Balderdash, you will have to ignore the definitions already written on the card. At that point you might be better off randomly picking words from the dictionary.
Should You Buy Balderdash Junior?
I would basically classify Balderdash Junior as beginner Balderdash. It is a game for younger children who aren’t old enough to be able to make up their own definitions for normal Balderdash. By eliminating the ability to make up your own definitions, Balderdash Junior becomes a vocabulary trivia game. It is not a terrible game but the original Balderdash is significantly better.
If you enjoy Balderdash and don’t have any young children, I would recommend avoiding Balderdash Junior since the original game is significantly better. If you have younger children that you want to introduce to Balderdash without forcing them to come up with their own definitions, Balderdash Junior might be a good option for you. Otherwise if you are looking for a vocabulary trivia game you may get some enjoyment out of Balderdash Junior. I would recommend looking for a good deal on the game before picking it up though.