Almost two years ago I took a look at the party game Gift Trap. In Gift Trap the objective was to pick which gifts the other players would like the most to score points. Being such an interesting concept for a party game, I was actually quite surprised by it and enjoyed it a lot. Trying to cash in on the popularity of Gift Trap, North Star Games LLC decided to create their own take on the gift giving board game by releasing Crappy Birthday. Crappy Birthday takes the premise of giving gifts and combines it with Apples to Apples/Cards Against Humanity mechanics in order to create a game where you try to give the worst possible gift to the other players. While Crappy Birthday adds some humor and simplicity to Gift Trap, it also takes out what was best about the game.
How to Play Crappy Birthday
Shuffle the gift cards and deal five cards to each player. Each player looks at their cards but doesn’t show them to the other players. Choose which player will be the first to receive gifts.
Playing the Game
Each round begins with all of the players looking through their cards in order to find a gift for the player that is currently receiving gifts. This is not a normal birthday though so you want to give them a gift that they will truly hate. When each player has chosen their gift they place it face down on the table. Once all of the gift cards have been played they are shuffled together.
The player receiving the gifts then flips them over and reads them out out loud to the rest of the players. The gift givers can make comments about any of the gifts in order to sway the gift receiver’s opinions of each gift. Once the gift receiver has analyzed all of the gifts they must choose which gift they hate the most. When deciding on the worst gift the player has to follow these rules:
- The gift receiver must use the item as it described on the card. The gift cannot be sold, re-gifted or destroyed. For example if an item is described as displayed in your living room, you must display it in your living room.
- If the gift applies to something you don’t own, you must pretend you have what the item refers to. For example if you don’t have a front yard and an item would be displayed in your front yard, you must pretend like you have a front yard.
Once a player has chosen the worst gift, the corresponding card is given to the player who gave the gift. This card is set off to the side and is worth one point. All other gifts given during the round are discarded and everyone who played a card during the round draws a new card. The player to the left of the previous gift receiver becomes the new gift receiver.
End of Game
The first player to earn three points/cards wins the game.
My Thoughts on Crappy Birthday
When I first saw Crappy Birthday it immediately reminded me of Gift Trap. Since I enjoyed Gift Trap quite a bit I was intrigued enough to try out Crappy Birthday. I thought a game that took a more humorous take on the gift giving theme could be quite enjoyable in a party setting. While the game does succeed in generating some laughs it is missing something from Gift Trap which made that game so enjoyable.
I think the biggest culprit might be the fact that Crappy Birthday significantly streamlined Gift Trap’s mechanics. While both games have the same gift giving theme, I actually think both games play quite differently. In Gift Trap the players have a set of cards out on the table and they have to give one gift to each player. The goal is to give gifts that each player would enjoy while avoiding giving a gift that the other players wouldn’t like. In Crappy Birthday it is the exact opposite where the goal is to give gifts that the other players will hate.
Other than the shift from giving good gifts to giving bad gifts, Crappy Birthday striped too many mechanics out of Gift Trap. What I like about Gift Trap is that in each round you have to give gifts to every player. Therefore you have to figure out what gift would be best to give to each player. There might be a gift you know everyone would love though so you have to prioritize which player gets that gift based on how well you know what the other players would also like. This leads to some interesting decisions as you try to maximize your points every round. This decision making is basically eliminated from Crappy Birthday since all you do is play a card and hope the current judge picks your card. Outside of knowing what the current player likes and dislikes there is no strategy in the game.
While I don’t like that the game was simplified I actually can see what the designers were trying to do with the game. While both games were designed as party games, Gift Trap was designed to have more strategy while Crappy Birthday was designed as something that anyone could quickly pick up and play. With the few rules that the game has you can learn and play the game in minutes. If you want a game to play at a party with people who rarely if ever play games, it might work well as you can easily set it up and play it with little explanation. With a questionable name like Crappy Birthday and a recommended age of 12+ you would think that it is more of an adult game but I don’t think it is that bad. I really didn’t see any offensive cards in the game so I don’t really understand why the game has a recommended age of 12+. The recommended age makes even less sense since I could actually see children enjoying the game quite a bit.
Being designed as a light party game, one of the game’s goals was to be funny. In some ways the game succeeds with this goal. Some of the gifts are so downright ridiculous that it is hard not to get a chuckle out of them. Most of the laughs will probably come from the players themselves though based on their comments for the gifts they give or receive. With a funny group I could see players having quite a bit of fun with the cards.
Being a party game another key component is to be short and to the point. In that regard I think Crappy Birthday might do too good of a job. The length of the game is probably going to depend quite a bit on the number of players. If you only have four players the game can end quite quickly as it is not hard to get three cards when you are only competing against two other players. A four player game can easily end in ten minutes which is too short. I would recommend playing for more cards if you are playing with four players. With Crappy Birthday being a party game though I would recommend playing it with more players anyway. I think the game would be better with more players since it should lead to more laughs. With six to eight players I think the game will last around 20-30 minutes which is about the right length for the game.
The biggest problem I had with Crappy Birthday is with the premise itself. The goal of giving terrible gifts is fine as it had the potential to make a fun party game.The problem is that you are supposed to give gifts that other players will hate and yet a lot of the gifts are actually pretty good. Close to half of the gifts I wouldn’t mind receiving and I actually would really like some of the gifts. For example who wouldn’t love a free vacation even if it is a little quirky.
The problem with there being so many good/tolerable gifts is that you will eventually get stuck with a bunch of cards that no one in the group will hate. These gifts accumulate to the point where your whole hand is filled with cards that aren’t going to win you a round. Then you are basically forced to give someone a gift that you know they won’t ever pick. This got so bad that we instituted a rule that everyone can ditch gifts that they know everyone else will actually like. The game has some official variant rules (which I will get to shortly) which slightly fix this problem but it is still an issue for the game.
The fact that so many of the gifts are actually decent becomes a bigger problem due to the game not having that many cards in the first place. The game does come with 200 cards but since there is only one gift on every card you will quickly go through all of the cards. After you go through all of the cards you will just have to repeat the same cards over again. Crappy Birthday does have a pretty significant replay value problem. I can see the game getting kind of repetitive after only a couple games since the novelty of laughing at the terrible gifts will wear off after you have seen all of them. I can see playing through all of the cards once or twice but then getting sick of them and moving onto a new game.
So lets get to that official variant for Crappy Birthday. Although not printed in the actual rulebook, the alternate rules are detailed on Board Game Geek. These variant rules were actually implemented in the two spin off games for Crappy Birthday, Happy Birthday and Happy Holidays. Basically the variant allows the gift receiver to pick the best and worst gifts they received in the round. When playing with less players this also requires each player to play two cards on their turn. While I didn’t try out this variant I think it is an interesting addition even though I don’t think it will drastically change the game. I like that it will fix the problem with the good gifts since you could play them and receive points. I also like that it adds a little strategy to the game. If the players only get to play one card each round they will have to choose whether they think they have a better chance at the best or worst gift for the round. On the negative side though I think this variant rule will make the game even shorter than it already is to the point where the game could end before everyone has even had a turn as the gift receiver.
Should You Buy Crappy Birthday?
I started off the review by talking about Gift Trap so I think it makes sense ending the review by comparing Crappy Birthday to Gift Trap. Simply put I think Gift Trap is a significantly better game. While both games share the gift giving theme the two games play quite a bit differently. While Gift Trap has some interesting decision making, Crappy Birthday requires little thought as you just play a card and hope the current judge picks it. While it is light on the strategy this is the type of game Crappy Birthday is striving to be, a game that is quick to learn and play with the goal of bringing laughs to a party. With that goal in mind Crappy Birthday does a solid job as it is quick to play and leads to some laughs. Unfortunately the premise of giving bad gifts occasionally fails due to quite a few of the gifts actually being pretty good. Add in the fact that there aren’t a lot of cards and the game doesn’t have a lot of replay value.
Basically if light party games aren’t for you or you don’t really like the theme of giving bad gifts, Crappy Birthday isn’t for you. If you are looking for a gift giving themed game I personally think Gift Trap is a significantly better game. If you are looking for a light party game that will produce some laughs though I think you can do worse than Crappy Birthday. If you can get a good deal on the game it might be worth picking up.