ADVENTURES IN GAME TIME: Bring Your Own Book

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The Apples to Apples model of party games has turned into a tried and true format, going dirty with Cards Against Humanity and performative with Funemployed, among others. Even Dixit owes a little bit of its whimsical DNA to the now iconic game.

For the uninitiated, Apples to Apples has players offering up a word that best exemplifies an adjective, with the winning choice selected by the round leader. The results are generally hilarious, but after a while, the thrill can fade as the same options pop up time and time again. This is most apparent in Cards Against Humanity, whose titillating offensiveness transitions into stale joke within two sessions.

Variety is what ultimately kills these games — or at least removes some of their luster — but a new entry in the genre seems to have found an ingenious workaround. The game is called Bring Your Own Book, and it breathes hilarious, intelligent new life into the party game scene.

In BYOB, players must live up to the title and indeed bring their own books to the game. These can be novels, textbooks, cookbooks, instruction manuals — whatever your adorable little paws can get a hold of. Then the fun begins.

A person dons the title of “picker” and draws a card, which helps establish a theme for the round. Potential contenders: “Lyrics from a hip-hop song” or “Text from a nature guide.”

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The rest of the players then scour their books to find a word, a phrase, a sentence, or a passage that best fits that theme. The first person to find a suitable answer turns over a sand timer, and then everyone else has about a minute to home in on their choices. Run out of time? Too bad. You’ll just have to read whatever you land on.

At this point, everyone goes around the table and shares their findings, and the picker awards the card to whoever best captures the theme of the round. Whenever a player receives two cards, everyone rotates books, and the silliness continues. The game goes on until someone reaches four or five cards, depending on group size.

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Inside the box. Nothing more than some cards and a timer. If you’re feeling particularly intrepid, you can jot down the books you’ve used inside the cover.

Options are limitless. No longer are players confined to a deck of cards (except for choosing themes). Each book alone has a myriad of hilarious and inventive answers. Multiply that by the sheer number of books at the table, and you’re bound to have variety in spades.

In a recent game, my group served up a near perfect array of books: a history of pigeons, a study of butterflies, a romance novel, a Star wars entry, and a salty text by George Carlin.

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At first it seemed like Carlin would always win, what with his generous use of vulgar, blunt language. However, as the game continued, we found all sorts of interesting facets in our books, and soon Carlin was no match for a graphic description of butterfly reproduction. Unsurprisingly, half the laughter came from discovering how many odd phrases could be taken wildly out of context.

In fact, this is what makes Bring Your Own Book a more challenging, intelligent affair than something like Apples to Apples. There’s a certain amount of brainwork and creativity involved at looking at someone else’s words and contextualizing them as something else entirely. Even more importantly, poring over the pages of a book, looking for the exact line that will crack up the whole table, is FUN. You’ll chuckle to yourself, proud that you’ve found the perfect phrase, and then seconds later, something even better will pop off the page, and you’ll hem and haw, eager to share both options. That’s when you’ll look up and see everyone is doing the same (except for that one poor sap who’s still frantically turning pages in search of something suitable — a.k.a. me with the Star Wars book).

Like many party games, Bring Your Own Book can overstay its welcome, but also like many party games, there’s no need to truly see it to its end. The game comes with several variants, which is fun, but ultimately, it’s all about the variety of books and using them creatively. With larger groups, the game may slow down as it might take forever for each person to read their selection, but it’s worth a try.

Thanks to Gamewright for providing a complimentary copy of Bring Your Own Book

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