The following review is reprinted in its entirety:

Outside the Box - A Meeples Next Door Review

Do you have what it takes to think “Outside the Box”? Read more to find out about this incredibly fun, social game!

Publisher: Sugarman Games, LLC.
Published: 2011
Recommended Age: 12 and Up
Number of Players: 4 - as many players as you can get! 
Game Length: 60-75 minutes

What is it that truly makes a game great?

It’s a seemingly simple question, but certainly one that has no clear answer. There are a number of factors that go into the creation of a game, so realistically, there will be a like number of reasons why a game could be considered great. Let’s also not forget that this is a highly individualized question and answer - what one person might feel is an amazing game, another may very well find disappointing. In truth, the question itself, while certainly simple in appearance, is easily indiscernible, open to interpretation to each and every individual to whom it is asked.

So, I ask again - what is it that truly makes a game great?

At this point, you’re probably wondering why I’m asking a question that is, as I stated above, somewhat unanswerable, at least when it comes to anything more than personal tastes. Well, let me get straight to the point - I have an answer to this question, one that truly embraces the concept of gaming greatness, but it’s very Douglas Adams-y, in a way. No, it’s not a numerical answer, I assure you. It is, however, summed up in one single word, a word that, when asked the question of what makes a game great, doesn’t really seem to drive the necessary point home. 

That word, you ask?

Now don’t say I didn’t warn you! The word is…

“Blubber”

There you have it. One word, totally unrelated to the question, right? I see that funny look in your eyes, that look that seems to say “Yeah, this guy’s clearly out of his mind”! However, I implore you to read on and to understand just how I came to this rather bizarre answer to such a ostensibly simple question.

For the past few weeks, my gaming groups have been playing a number of different games, many of which I’ve already written reviews for. In every case, so far, these titles have met with a great amount of popularity and interest, which I’m happy to see, as I often wonder about game diversity amongst these rather curmudgeonly gamers. One title, however, has been seeing a large amount of requests when it comes time to play and we’ve managed to sneak three or four sessions of this game into each meeting (meaning that, to this point, we’ve played the game roughly sixteen times in a two week period). That’s somewhat unprecedented with this group, as they like to vary things up quite a bit, but time and time again, these groups have made it quite clear that they want to play Outside the Box

… and indeed we played Outside the Box many, many times. 

Outside the Box is, in a nutshell, the ultimate party game, one of those titles that brings a large group together for a night of laughter and merriment. Instead of relying solely on one game mechanic, however, Outside the Box offers up a host of different play styles, each one engineered to force players to think in different and unique ways - outside the box, as they might very well say.

Let’s break the game down before we get into an actual session.

From the start, Outside the Box catches your attention, because the game board is, in fact, the box top to the game! Once you remove the lid to get at the components underneath, the box top is placed on the table and folds open! You’ve got an instant board, complete with tracks for your markers, a starting square, and four sides that present players with all the scoring information they’ll ever need! It’s a clever touch and only reinforces the concept that this game truly is “outside the box”.

At this point, players split into two teams. Now you could play the game with as few as four people (two people per team), but the game shines when you really have four people (or more) per team. Once teams have been decided upon, the team leaders decided which color they’re going to be (red or blue) and taken the corresponding pawn and scoring chips. The pawn is placed on the board, the chips are placed in reach of the team and the team captains take a stack of twelve pass cards for their team - these pass cards are important, as we’ll see later, and can make or break a team! Each team also receives four reference cards and should find themselves a pencil, pen and some paper with which to write upon. 

At this point, players should be on the start square and the game begins with a Volley Box round! 

As the game progresses, players make their way through three distinct phases, indicated by changes in color on the track of the game:

  • Green - Phase One - Easier categories
  • Red  - Phase Two - More difficult categories
  • Blue- Phase Three - Difficult Categories

Each phase, furthermore, is broken down into sixteen unique spaces, each one offering one of four different game variations to play through! I’ve mentioned one, Volley Box, but have yet to describe it, so let me talk about the four categories in more detail:

Volley Box - When you start the game, play is determined by the first team to win this type of round. In a Volley Box round, a category card is drawn, in this example the card will be “Parts of a House” and read aloud (along with any rules or restrictions the card may have (in this example, the “Parts of a House” card says that answers CAN be both inside and outside the property, cannot be furniture related, etc.). A timer is set for one minute and once started, players must shout answers out, starting from the letter A and going through the entire alphabet. For example, team Red will shout out “Awning”, and now it’s up to team Blue to shout back something that starts with “B”. Quickly, the Blues retaliate with “Bathroom”, leaving the Red team to scramble for something that starts with the letter “C”. Play continues until one team gets beeped BEFORE they finish their answer. If the Red team were to shout out “Chair”, the round would come to grinding halt. Why? Because “Chair” is an unacceptable answer according to the rules on the card - remember? No furniture! Of course, you can use a PassCard to skip your letter, but those cards are limited (you can win more, but still, you’ll be shocked at how quickly they can run out). 

Team Play - The second game mechanic to be found within Outside the Box is Team Play. In this two minute round, the team captain (or another player if people want to act as the captain), chooses a category card, but instead of volleying answers back and forth with the other team, they must, on their own, come up with as many answers as they can, one for each letter starting from “A”. However, the captain isn’t alone! His/Her teammates may offer clues to help coax an answer from the other player, though they have to do so without using “rhymes with” or “sounds like”. Unlike the Volley Box round, players may only pass a total of three times. 

To Each His Own - In this round, one team picks four orange letter cards and a category card. For this example, we’ll assume the category card is “Things you plug into an electrical outlet” and that the letter cards drawn were F, L, T, and P. The team performing this round MAY use a PassCard to choose different letters, but are only given thirty seconds to decided on all four letters! At this point, the time is then set for two minutes and the controlling team, independently of each other (hence the “to each his own” title), must write out four answers that correspond to the four letters they chose. In this example, player A may write “F”ork, “L”amp, “T”imer, and “P”opcorn maker (yes, these are actual examples from one of our games - even fork). Of course, the key to this round is to choose answers that your teammates won’t also choose, so you need to be original. In this case, two people chose “L”amp and thus the answer didn’t count. If the controlling team can manage to make it through the round without matching a response (or providing an illegal answer), they retain control of the board and may continue playing - if they matched, however, or provided an illegal answer, the round is over for them (though they still get to move). The other team can also write in answers, though as a group, and if they don’t match the controlling team, they get to move a few spaces, too! If the controlling team had no matches and all answers were legit, they are allowed to “Stump the Master”, which means they get to choose ONE player’s answers and compare them to the answers in the “Stump the Master” book that comes with the game. It’s a cute touch and believe me, we only stumped the Master a handful of times! The book is huge, too, so good luck!

Speed Round - This is my favorite round of the game. One person is chosen to be the “Actor” and the remaining team members choose whether to play either a one or two minute round. Generally speaking, we chose two minutes, but hey, feel free to challenge yourself. The actor chooses a Speed Round card and these cards follow a similar format to the category card, in that teams will be providing an answer starting at “A” and going through “Z”. In this case, however, the Actor is going to try and get someone to guess a specific answer that’s based on a theme on the side of the card. For example, one card we used was [BLANK] Day, with [BLANK] being the word needed to complete a phrase ending in day. The “A” word is “April Fool’s”, so the actor might say “Pranksters are out in full force on…” and so on and so forth. Points are distributed based on the number of correct answers achieved by the control team. In this round, the actor can pass three times without penalty - after three passes, each pass costs a scoring chip! 

As play progresses, teams will bounce back and forth through these categories repeatedly, until they reach the very end - or the very beginning, so to speak, as the start card is also the end game card! Once here, a team chooses their game style (regardless of the choice, the card used here is a Phase Two card) and must complete it with whatever rules apply. If the lead team manages to complete their goal, the game is over and the victors are crowned. If not, play continues with the next team trying to get to the final challenge square. 

All in all, that’s Outside the Box. In general terms of concept, the game itself adheres to a very simple set of rules and guidelines, but the rapidly paced gaming rounds make for an incredibly frenetic and wild experience. On our fist play session, we weren’t sure what to expect, but the game’s designer, Rick Sugarman, has made the game very easy for players to simply jump into by offering a complete set of rules that are designed to be read while you play. If that’s not enough, he’s also seen fit to include a CD that offers up a number of tips and tricks, as well as rules and examples of gameplay. It’s amusing and incredibly helpful, to say the least. If you need more, the Facebook page for Outside the Box features a slew of videos (most of which are pretty darn funny), all designed to give gamers an idea of what the flow of the game might be like. 

Getting back to our first session, as I said, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. After setting things up and reading through the first few paragraphs of the rules sheet, we were off and running - a feat that’s not altogether common these days. Thankfully, the rules are very simple, colorfully presented and well written. This is one of those games where we got through the rules and didn’t have to go back (because we had reference sheets, too)! Our first game only featured two teams of four and while it was a lot of fun, it was my later experiences with larger groups that made for an incredibly fun time. I’d still play with four, but the more the merrier!

In every game, for the most part, I had to ensure that my team was always chock full of people who thought similarly to me. You know, those gamers with whom you have some kind of bizarre mental connection - people who can provide you with the lamest clues imaginable, but you know exactly what they mean, because your thought processes work exactly like theirs! When it came time to creating teams, I sought out only the most like-minded individuals I could find - which meant my wife, who is also a big gamer, was always on the opposing team. Snicker, if you must, you’ll soon understand why this choice was not only a good one for our side, but a truly necessary one in this game (and almost every other game I play). It sounds cold, I know, and I love her dearly, but read on and have your “Oh, I see what he means” moment.

Once our teams were in harmonious arrangement, it was time to get down and dirty with Outside the Box - I was the captain of the Blue Team (we called ourselves the “Blue Meanies”, because one of our players is a die-hard Beatles fan and that’s the most original name we could come up with), while my wife took control of the opposing Red Team, aka the Red Death (yes, they got a much cooler name, but you’ll soon see that a cool name means very little when it comes time to play a team game. 

Our first round was obviously a Volley Box round, as it’s the first space on the board, and the category chosen was “Positive Personality Traits”. Blue Team was to go first and the timer was set. I shouted out:

“Amiable”

Good so far. The Red Team follows quickly with “Bold”, which we counter with “Colorful”… this continues until we hit Q at which point my wife shouts out “Queenly”.


We quickly paused the timer and a crazy (yet well paced) discussion ensued. Apparently, being akin to a queen is, according to my wife, a very positive thing. Her own team seems a bit baffled, because I don’t think they quite agreed with her logic and presentation, but they still nodded and said “yeah, good point Erika”, because they’re on her team. We on the Blue Team, of course, see monarchy as a less than positive trait (especially if one uses history as a basic guideline) and quickly pointed out that people acting “Queenly” are generally being referred to in a less than positive light. We equated it to being “snobby” or “stuck up”. 

The two people who were not playing (they were snacking, sadly, and talking amongst themselves) arbitrated this heated argument. They first heard our discussions, listened intently to the other team’s justifications and concluded that “Queenly” really isn’t all that positive! Thus, they sided with the Blue Meanies because, and let’s be fair here - we rule. 

As we played on, the game continued like this back and forth. Tons of simply amusing discussion, loads of necessary arbitration, one somewhat grumpy wife (after all, who can blame her? We challenged a lot of her answers), and laughter like I haven’t heard in a game in a long time. The best point in this game, however, came on a “To Each his Own” space and what an adventure that was.

The category card we chose was “Anything to do with a scary movie”. The greatest point about this card - you could write down the names of actors, characters and even the titles of  the movies themselves! Heck, the card was so general that you could put anything that even remotely connected with a scary movie and it could count! The letters for the round were drawn:

L, B, C, and R

The control team, which at the time was the Red Team, had to write out answers individually, while our funky blue team decided on four answers of our own (as a team). When it came time to read the answers off, people did very well with “L”. Lighting, Lairs, Leatherface and so on. When it came to “B”, however, things took a dark turn…

Evelyn, my daughter, had said “Bats”. We all agreed that yes, Bats would typically be found lurking within the confines of most scary movies.

Kathy wrote down “Blades”, which made sense from a slasher film point of view. After all, where would Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger be without their culinary equipment?

Nicki felt that “Basil Rathbone” worked well, as he has been in a number of early horror flicks. Yep, even that made sense, though I tend to recall him in the role of Sherlock Holmes more than anything else. 

Then it came time for my wife to answer and her choice was  both baffling and amusing at the same time. 

She simply said “Blubber”.

Blubber, according to Wikipedia, is “a thick layer of vascularized adipose tissue found under the skin of all cetaceans, pinnipeds and sirenians “, or as our group tactfully put it, something very unlikely to be featured in any kind of scary movie because it isn’t, for all intents and purposes, very scary at all. The ensuing argument over this one unique answer led to some of the funniest conversations I think I’ve ever had with a group of people - period. Of course, nobody at the time came to the realization that to “blubber” also means to “cry” and makes 100% perfect sense in context of the question, which is probably why the conversation was as amusing as it ended up being. Regardless, the raucous laughter continued for some time, though eventually, we had to move on, agreeing that blubber simply isn’t a worthwhile answer, especially given that not one player on that team had said “The Blob”.

In the end, the Blue Meanies conquered all. Many songs were sung in their honor, while gifts of snack foods were presented before them. Statues were erected in tribute to their victory and they lived and loved like Kings and Queens for the rest of their days (well, we did get snack foods, I can vouch for that at least). 

When it comes to Outside the Box, this is the kind of game time you’ll come to expect. Rapid fire questions and answers, people challenging each other over suspect clues/answers, and amusing interactions that make for fantastic social gaming. There were a few minor things that people felt could be improved upon, but nothing that made the game any less entertaining. For example, the back of the box and the instruction manual feature some amusing cartoon characters, but the actual game board is devoid of anything apart from colored boxes. This leaves the game remaining functional, but aesthetically confused - I think the characters could lend a bit of flair to the board (and the cards, too). Again, this is truly a nitpicky point, but when the game sees a second edition, this would be one concept I would consider. Apart from that and a few objections to certain difficult categories (that’s not a fault of the game, it’s a fault on a team level), the game was a hit through and through. 

After playing Outside the Box, I came to a very unique realization - this is one of those games that you’ll play time and time again, not only because the game is fun, but because it’s something you’ll remember for a long time. Out of my library of board games, I can honestly say that there are only a handful of games that truly stick out when it comes down to remembering how I felt when I played them. Some, admittedly, I have incredibly fond memories of, while others I have simply forgotten. It’s the power of a game to truly bring a group together, to create a social atmosphere that encourages player interaction, that makes people think as a unit and not just on their own - it’s the ability of a game to make people enjoy their time together and want to spend more time together just to play a game with one another. 

That, my friends, is what truly makes a game great - and this is one great game. 

More reviews:

"I've been sharing the game with my coworkers, friends and roommates, and we can't get enough!  
Our team rivalries are starting to get a little more heated each time we play.
 Fast-paced and so much fun!"

~ Marie Stringer

"LOVE the game. Fun and 
easy!"
~ Tiffany Parks Branch

"This game is awesome and my family loves to play!"
~ Alicia Ferraiolo Quayle

"I think the game is amazing!  Astounding!'
~ Larry Young

"My family loves this game!  We played 4 v 4 and the competition was fun and challenging.
  My son at Oglethorpe College here in Atlanta took it to his school for their game night.  
They played Girls v Boys and had a blast, though he did admit the girls killed them."
~ Maureen Lovett

"This is a great game. Very addictive and I look forward to playing it with my kids."
~ Rosemary Fedorchak

"Just bought the game yesterday...already we have played this addictive game 3 times!!!!!!!
We love it!  Thanks."
~ Tracy Cradeur Opfer

"...the game is fantastic...you have done a great job with this and soooooo very creative...
It's hard to find truly smart, inventive, creative games and you have done that..."
~
Adrienne Baker

"Outside the Box has quickly become one of my favorite games!  It is so fast paced
and hilariously fun. You'll want to play it every chance you get,
even if it's just a speed round or two or ten  
:)"
~ Hannah Gordon

"Outside the Box is not like anything you've played before.  When I played it for the first
time with some family and friends, we lost track of time and stayed up way too late.
Unlike other team games, Outside the Box engages every team member, there was
no one who wasn't participating fully. Order this game, you will love it!"
~ Mike Dunbar

"This game is bar-none THE MOST ENTERTAINING GAME that we've played in a long time!
Living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with plenty of time spent indoors over the long winters,
Outside the Box is a game that we play with all of our 3 children and we never get bored
 with it!   It is constantly changing and evolving with the group that is playing which
makes it different and exciting every time you play! Outside the Box keeps everyone
on their toes--not only building on the young one's vocabularies and quick wit,
but keeping us parents sharp as well. It is truly a game for all ages...and
 that's hard to find these days! We just can't get enough!"
~ Suzanne Buchanan

 "This game is so much fun!  It's a great way to bring people together to get to know each other
and I actually learned a lot from the answers.  I gave it to my best friend as a birthday gift
and she loves it too.  It's perfect for a game night party."
~ Colleen C.

"Finally, a new spin on what a "board game" is supposed to be!  Not only is it fun, it's
educational at the same time!  Can be played by practically any age, although people
who happen to be trivia-whizzes will benefit tremendously.  However, after
playing a few rounds, anyone can become a trivia-whiz!"
~ Jon Edgar

"Once you start playing you won't stop...we love it and keep introducing it to friends and
family.  Easy to play and then you get Hooked!  We are planning our next game night
with friends to play it, but it is also fun to play with my daughter over breakfast."
~ Wendy Menneg

"Be bored no more! This game will challenge you, make you laugh, and entertain you for
hours...days...years to come.  It just doesn't get old.  Each time you play it's like a brand
new game. It has levels and phases and then more
levels and more phases.  I've got
 teenagers and lots of friends who like to play games, so glad we found this one,
it's been a winner for all of us!"
~ Maggie Kennedy

"I just want to say right off the bat that I am, bar none, the best triumphing winner of this game.
You cannot beat me! And, with my unbelievable skill as evidence, I also wanted to tell you that
this game is amazing. No, you will never be as good as me, but you might come close, and that
is the kind of happiness that will last a lifetime.  And all because o
f Outside the Box!
You should probably buy it. Or get someone else to buy it for you.  Either way."
~ Mary Grace

"When we first started the game 'Outside The Box' we were a bit overwhelmed by all of the directions.
 As we started playing the sequences and directions became clear and it was actually rather easy to play.
Players in our group ranged in age from 12 (his birthday gift) to 69 and all were active participants
with lots of laughter mixed in! We like a challenge but are not real competitive, so that made this
game even more fun for everyone. It is fast moving, easy to follow yet challenging in unique ways.
It is a game that can be played by a variety of people from those who have a large stock of
trivia knowledge to draw from -- to those who are more conceptual and can make wide
use of the cues implicit in the alphabet triggers to think 'outside the box'.

It is an excellent game and will see lots of use at family gatherings!"
~ Ann Louise, Illinois (review from Amazon.com)

Reviews from the The Toy ManŽ 2012 Product Guide:
"Outside The Box captured the interest of many of the participants in our independent evaluation
and hands-on evaluation at Disneyland™ and California Adventure resort parks in Anaheim, CA.
When you consider the powerful image of the Disney™ branding, for a game to still manage
to maintain the interest of the resort's guests speaks volumes."


"Outside The Box is a gutsy new approach to board game design creating its own new path,
 yet it still manages to defy the odds and draw plenty its share of attention all the same."

"Outside The Box was available for consumers at the Anaheim Hilton™ and Disneyland™ along with a variety of other products
 for consumer hands-on evaluation. To spice the experience up, The Toy ManŽ and his staff gave away over 1,000 non-Disney products
at Disneyland including one copy of Outside The Box .  
The excitement for our consumer hands-on evaluation participants seemed
 endless as we all had the enjoyable experience of watching guests of the Anaheim Hilton™ and Disneyland™ resort parks
 playing
Outside The Box. The products were in abundance in this latest visit to the Anaheim, CA area for our consumer
 hands-on evaluation and product give-aways. 
Outside The Box was of course one of them.  For some of the participants
 the experience was while they were waiting for family to come to the lobby of the hotel, while for others
 it was while waiting for family members to come off of a ride at Disneyland or California Adventures. 


When you consider the size of the game box with Outside The Box, this was a very unique event.  Plenty of people were inquiring
 about the game which drew far more immediate attention in comparison to the balance of products we had available for the event.
For
everyone this was the experience of a lifetime, even for our staff!

At the Disneyland™ parks it was such a delightful experience as we saw so many people so anxious to continue in their
playing Outside The Box, knowing that at any moment their family members or friends were soon to arrive
 and it would be time for them leave for the next ride. This was an entirely new breed of excitement
for these people.  Even the manager of the Guest Relations and his staff at
one of the Disneyland resort parks were excited with
Outside The Box

In reading our feedback forms and reviewing our videos from the consumer evaluation, it was all too obvious that Outside The Box
 held many people captive with the challenge and fun which made the game a success in this segment of our evaluation.
 
Outside The Box passed this segment of our evaluation with the highest of recommendation."
~Reviews from the The Toy ManŽ 2012 Product Guide



Once you’ve played Outside the Box, we would love to have your game review or
video (a review or clips of you and your family and friends playing the game). 
  Simply fill out the form below and let us know what you think!*

*By doing so, we have your permission to publish your review or video.

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So what is your "Outside the Box" game review?



Outside the Box is also the proud recipient of the following
awards from The Toy ManŽ 2012 Product Guide:

The 2011-2012 Award of Excellence

 




The 2011-2012 eChoice Award

The Toy ManŽ eChoice™ Award, by Rev. James
G.W. Fisher, (Chief editor and Product Evaluation Specialist of The Toy ManŽ Product Guide), and staff.  
These products have demonstrated that they possess the potential as well as high probability to be top sellers.


The 2011-2012 eco-Recognition Seal

The Toy ManŽ eco-Recognition Seal™, by Rev. James
G.W. Fisher, (Chief editor and Product Evaluation Specialist of The Toy ManŽ Product Guide), and staff.  
These products have demonstrated that they possess the potential as well as high probability to be top sellers.




Visit: www.facebook.com/OutsideTheBoxGame to view hilarious videos of people playing the game!


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