While not the most prevalent premise in board games, there have been a number of board games released in the past that have been built around rhyming. Generally speaking these games usually end up playing like a pretty typical word or party game. I generally don’t have strong feelings towards the rhyming premise. Trying to figure out a good rhyme can be kind of fun, but it is not really something that I will actively look for. Today I am looking at Obama Llama which is a rhyming game that has been decently popular. While I didn’t think the game would be fantastic, I thought it looked interesting enough that it was worth checking out. Obama Llama creates an enjoyable party game about figuring out rhymes which unfortunately gets bogged down by being too difficult along with a memory mechanic that feels completely out of place.
How to Play Obama Llama
- The players will split into two teams
- Shuffle the Rhyming Pair cards and place them face down on the table in rows and columns.
- The person who looks most like Obama or a Llama will start the game.
Playing the Game
To begin your turn you will roll the die which will determine what type of round that you will play. You will take one of the corresponding cards.
- Green – Describe It
- Pink – Solve It
- Yellow – Act It
The current player will then have 30 seconds to try and get their teammates to guess as many phrases as they can. Each phrase that a team guesses will earn them one point which they will mark off on the score pad.
Once per round the team is allowed to pass on one of the phrases and move onto the next phrase.
If a team hasn’t finished a card when they run out of time, it will be placed back on the top of the corresponding pile so the next time that type of round is played the player will begin where the last team left off. If all of the phrases have been completed, the card is put on the bottom of the corresponding pile. If there is still time left the player can draw another card and keep going.
For this round the current player has to try and describe the rhymes on the card in order without using any of the words actually on the card.
For this round the current player will read the top set of text in each section (not the text in italics). This phrase is a description of the rhyme that the players need to solve in order to score a point.
In Act It all of the players will see the celebrity name which will be used in all of the rhymes (it is shown on the back of the card). The current player will have to silently act out the rhymes to try and get their teammates to guess the rhyme.
Matching Rhyming Pair Cards
Whenever a team completes a row on the score sheet they will have the opportunity to try and match some of the Rhyming Pair cards. If they complete two rows in a round, they will get to make two sets of guesses.
To make a guess the team will reveal two of the Rhyming Pair cards. If the two chosen cards rhyme (have the same colored background) the players will get to keep the cards and make another guess. If they don’t find a matching pair, the cards will be placed back face down in their previous position.
End of Game
The game ends when all of the Rhyming Pairs have been matched. Whichever team matched the most cards wins the game.
My Thoughts on Obama Llama
At its core Obama Llama is a party game built around figuring out rhymes. For most of the game one of the players will be tasked with giving clues to their teammates in order to get them to say a specific phrase that rhymes. What type of clue the cluegiver can give depends on what is rolled though. Sometimes the player will be tasked with describing the phrase in a way that their teammates will guess it without actually using any of the words in the phrase. Other times the player will just read out the included description which is basically a convoluted way of saying the rhyme without actually saying it. Finally a player may have to act out the phrase like they were playing a game of Charades.
In a lot of ways Obama Llama plays similarly to your typical party game. If you have ever played one of these type of party games before, you should already have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the game. Like any successful party game the gameplay is straightforward and to the point where you could teach the game to new players within a couple minutes at max. The game doesn’t really have any strategy as your success is determined by how good you are at giving clues and figuring out the rhymes. Ultimately the game is basically a laid back experience as players try to figure out the various rhymes that the game provides you with.
As the rhymes are the key element of the game, for the game to be successful they have to be fun to try and solve. In this regard I think the game does a pretty good job. The rhymes are not surprisingly kind of hit or miss. Some are quite good and are actually kind of funny. Others are not all that interesting. The rhymes are ultimately Obama Llama’s greatest asset in my opinion. How you end up solving the rhymes are not particularly original as many party games have similar clue giving requirements.
What makes this element work is that the rhymes are generally pretty good and are actually a challenge to figure out. There is skill to the game as outside of the easiest rhymes the cluegiver will have to give good clues and the other players need to decode them quickly to figure them out in time. Usually you get a sense of accomplishment especially when you solve some of the more difficult phrases. I had fun with the game. It is not the deepest game, but it didn’t really have to be. Basically if the idea of a party game built around solving rhymes sounds like something that you would enjoy, I think you will enjoy Obama Llama.
While there are things that I liked about the rhyming gameplay, it does have one issue that detracted from my enjoyment of it. This mostly comes from the fact that it is much harder to guess clues than it should be. This is due to two things in my opinion. First the game doesn’t give you nearly enough time. 30 seconds is far too short where it will be hard to even give out a good enough clue to get your teammates to guess two of the phrases in time. With only 30 seconds you just don’t have much time to actually think of a clue and get it out for your teammates to guess correctly. I think the game would have benefited quite a bit if the time was doubled to at least a minute as you would then have at least some time to think about the phrase rather than having to maximize every single second.
Maybe our group just wasn’t very good at the game, but I don’t think we ever got more than two phrases in a round and we regularly only got one. This game does seem like the type that some groups will be better at than others. Some people will likely be very good at the game, and others will likely struggle. Part of this is likely due to the fact that the game relies quite a bit on pop culture. If you don’t really follow pop culture you likely won’t do that well in the game as knowledge about celebrities and pop culture in general go a long way towards helping you do well in the game. Because of this reliance on pop culture I am a little concerned about longevity as more of the cards will become outdated as the years pass. I generally didn’t have a lot of issues with the pop culture references, but I could definitely see some players struggle solely because they don’t even know the person that the card is referencing.
While the rhyming mechanics are the main emphasis of Obama Llama, the game does have one other mechanic that I haven’t really talked about yet. That mechanic is the memory game that ultimately decides who wins the game. Basically you score points in the rest of the game in order to get the opportunity to try and find matching pairs. This adds a memory mechanic to the game as you have to remember the locations of the cards that have already been revealed so you can find a match later.
I just don’t get why the designer felt the need to add this mechanic as I personally don’t think it adds anything to the game. In fact I think it detracts from the rest of the game. It adds a memory element which would be fine, but you likely will end up forgetting at least some of the cards that have been revealed due to how long it takes between guesses and having to concentrate on other elements of the game. All it seems to do is add more luck to the game as the ultimate winner could be considerably worse at actually figuring out the rhymes but did a better job at finding the matching pairs. A team could theoretically score considerably more points from figuring out the rhymes just to reveal the cards allowing the other team to sweep in and make a bunch of matches to win the game. The game is not meant to be taken seriously, but I don’t see what the memory mechanic really adds to the game. I would honestly recommend just ditching it entirely and instead play a certain number of rounds with the team scoring more points winning the game.
While I had mixed feelings towards Obama Llama, the game has clearly been successful for Big Potato as it has already received a few sequels. Obama Llama 2 was released in 2018 and seems to mostly just have new cards including ones that don’t feature celebrities. Also released in 2018 was Santa Banter which is a Christmas themed version of the game. If you enjoyed the original game I could see checking out these games as well. If not though they don’t seem to change things up enough where you will enjoy them much more than the original game.
As for the components of Obama Llama, I would say that they are kind of mixed. As I mentioned earlier the rhymes on the cards can be pretty good at times even if some are better than others. The card design is pretty basic, but it doesn’t matter all that much as the cards serve their purpose. The biggest issue I had with the components is just the fact that I think the game should have included more of them. The game includes 60 cards of each type. The problem is that you will likely run through most/all of the cards within just a couple games. Having already played through a card and having to use it again will take away from the experience on future playthroughs. Therefore the replay value of the game does suffer due to the number of cards. Otherwise the components are basically what you would expect them to be.
Should You Buy Obama Llama?
I ultimately had some mixed feelings towards Obama Llama. The game is basically what you would get if you built a party game around solving rhymes. The game is not particularly deep, but its not meant to be. It is meant to be an easy to pick up and play game that works best in party/family settings. Looking at it this way, I think the game succeeds as it is a game that you can enjoy without having to put too much thought into what you are doing. The rhymes are generally pretty good and it is satisfying when you are able to solve a harder one. The game makes it too hard to solve the rhymes at times though. Part of this is due to the game not giving you enough time each round, and other times it is because the game relies on quite a bit of pop culture knowledge. The bigger problem with the game is the memory mechanic as I don’t think it really adds anything to the game outside of some additional luck. The game would have been better if it just had a normal scoring system. I also wish the game had more cards as you likely will play through them pretty quickly and having to reuse the same cards will take away from the experience.
My recommendation for Obama Llama really depends on whether you are interesting in a rhyming party game. If that doesn’t really sound like your type of game, I don’t see the game offering anything to change your mind. If the idea of a rhyming party game sounds interesting to you though, I think you will enjoy Obama Llama and should consider picking it up.