Party games are difficult to invent. Well, new party game designs, at least. Very often, new party games are just rethemed versions of already popular games, like how Cards Against Humanity is just Apples to Apples, but written by a team of Chicago comedians. And this is actually for a good, but ironic, reason. Party games by necessity need to be simple. Like, dead simple. They need to pack as much fun and interaction into as few rules as humanly possible. It’s intuitive to think that this would make party games easy to design, because there’s less work to do; but really, this doesn’t give a designer a lot of room to make all the little changes needed.
This is why something as derivative as Cards Against Humanity gets a pass - it’s not about the rules necessarily, it’s about the humor baked into the game, and the company you play it with. Party games don’t need to have the level of innovation that strategy games do, as long as the game is fun in the end, cribbing other games’ designs is permissible and welcome.
So under the auspices of these high-minded concepts, do we consider the game Concept. Concept is, obviously, a party game that mimics prior party games, and does so cleverly. Concept follows the model of Pictionary, Charades and other guessing games. The twist in Concept, though, is that it uses emojis instead of drawing or pantomimes. The centerpiece in Concept is its board, which is covered in a myriad of descriptive pictograms (which are a lot like emojis, but not actual Unicode emoji). A player draws a card with a secret word, and tries to get other players to guess the secret word by pointing to specific pictograms. The pictograms range from concrete ideas like Arm, Leg, Life or Death, to abstract ideas like High, Low, Round or Flat. In the between is the classic tension-and-release of a well-done guessing game.
Of course, this structure is really flexible. The game comes with tokens to keep score, or players can just play until they’re ready for a new game. Players can organize themselves into teams, or guess in a free-for-all frenzy.
And following in the footsteps of well-known guessing games works for Concept. It makes it easy to explain to new people - it’s Pictionary, but with emoji. Being a twist on an old classic makes Concept a fantastic party game that can find a home on anyone’s shelf.