It’s said that if you gave a monkey a typewriter, and an infinite amount of time, they’d end up writing the works of Shakespeare. But what if the monkey clocked off early, having bashed about a bit for a few millennia? Then they’d probably produce something worthy of a submission in word magnet game Ransom Notes.
The premise is a simple one: up to six players respond to the same prompt, each using a pool of random magnetic words and a small submission board on which to arrange them. The Judge (chosen using the box itself, spin-the-bottle style) picks their favourite, and the winner keeps the prompt card.
The game ends when someone wins five prompt cards, or, as the rules state, ‘until you’re out of beer.’ Much like the rule-writer, this game doesn’t take itself too seriously; in fact, the game’s creators dictate ‘the more creative, absurd and horrible the response, the better!’.
Once you’ve got over the initial, fiddly setup of sorting out a handful of smallish tiles (around 75 is recommended, but who’s counting?!), the gameplay itself is brisk. A suggested time limit of 60-90 seconds per round means things move quickly, and the pressure’s on! To challenge ourselves further, we played the ‘Shrink City’ game mode, so didn’t replenish our tiles after each round.
We found that this game got the creative juices flowing, as players attempted to craft an intelligible response from what amounted to a hodgepodge of nouns, verbs and adjectives.
There was a real sense of satisfaction, and a lot of laughter, when the words available to players aligned well with the prompt card, and they could create a funny and relevant submission. As we found out, it was possible to describe single life as ‘Have crush on friend, try to bag them' or just ‘Finally alone’.
If you don’t fancy being alone, we felt it would be best to play this game with adult friends and older family members – the makers themselves have gone with a 17+ age rating.
Be prepared to find out what your nearest and dearest really think about a range of topics covered by the 250+ prompt cards, including: ‘How would your best friend describe your previous partner?’, ‘How do you feel about billionaires?’, and ‘Explain why you got fired from your last job’. Ransom Notes would also be a great icebreaker, as long as you don’t mind confessing your darkest sins to people you’ve just met.
Just as the prompt cards tackle adult topics, some of the words available would turn the air blue, and do skew American (e.g, jerk, y’all). However, there have clearly been some adaptations for a British audience, with options including ‘What does Boris Johnson believe in?’ and ‘Write a business plan for Chicken Cottage’.
As we were figuring out the gameplay, lots of comparisons were drawn to the popular – and also very adult – party game Cards Against Humanity, which has a similar question-and-answer mechanism. However, the ability to create your own submissions word by word in Ransom Notes means they can be as sincere, or risqué, as you’d like.
This is a Kickstarter success story and we felt the look and feel of the game was solid, sleek and good quality. The current price tag is towards the top end for party games of a similar size and style, but we chalked the higher price up to the cost of ‘magnet production’. However, in the spirit of reusing and recycling, it was suggested that the magnets themselves could enjoy a happy second life on the fridge.
As a group that loves to play around with the written word, we thoroughly enjoyed this game, and there was a unanimous ‘Yes’ when asked if we’d play Ransom Notes again.