When people get together, they often share a love for a good, old-fashioned board game. In fact we have featured some great Seinfeld board games here in the past, however there has never been a board game specifically about Festivus. This all changed in September 2016, when the Seinfeld Happy Festivus Board Game was released.
On first impression, the exterior of the box looks delightful, but do the contents live up to the stringent requirements of a Festivus celebrant? Moreover, could this board game be an essential addition to a successful Festivus celebration? This is what we aimed to discover.
The first step was to get a copy of the game. FestivusWeb.com actually contacted the distributor and asked for a review copy. This was a complete waste of time. No worries… we went ahead and ordered the game from an online store. It wasn’t cheap as it cost $29.99 (Canadian dollars) plus shipping. In the USA, you can find it on Amazon for as low as $24.99 USD. The price will probably settle down once it is not a “new” item. Of course, you might be able to pick it up on “Black Friday” or “Cyber Monday” and save a little, especially on shipping. My suggestion is to use Google and look for a bargain.
The game arrived in a few days, and the first impression upon opening the packing material was how the game box is truly beautiful. It features the main Festivus characters, Frank, George and Kramer and includes other elements of Festivus, such as an aluminum pole. It should be noted, if Frank Costanza had made this game it would be offered in a plain corrugated cardboard box, with zero markings. Clearly, this is not the case.
Opening the box, we soon discovered that the game board itself is another work of art. Sturdy, colorful and dashing it gives the game a spontaneous air of quality and fun. Combined with eight differently-colored plastic Festivus pole game markers they make for an excellent pairing. In fact, most of the game parts and pieces are very well done, with the exception of the “Festivus Cards”. We’ll get to that later.
The premise of the game is to be the first to win the “Ultimate Feats of Strength” which (of course) makes you the “Supreme Celebrator of Festivus”. Makes sense.
To get a chance to compete for the “Ultimate Feats of Strength” a player has to win four “Feats of Strength” competitions, which are held whenever a player lands on one of the corners of the board.
According to the rules, the possible Feats of Strength competitions are agreed upon in advance by the game players. The game offers advice to some possibilities: Thumb wrestling, staring contest, who can do the most push-ups, who can hold their breath the longest, rock paper scissors, dice roll, who can place a hand in a bucket of ice the longest, who can balance on one foot with their eyes closed the longest, or who can whistle the loudest.
Some of these are great suggestions, as they would be enjoyable and quick. However, “dice roll” sounds like a complete dud and might only be suitable if you are playing the game in a retirement home. Might we suggest “who can make the other person smile” as an alternate suggestion? At least there would be laughter!
Once a person has won four separate “Feats of Strength” competitions, they now have the chance to progress to the center of the board where they can become the victor by winning the “Ultimate Feats of Strength”. It may sound ominous, however it’s actually just one more Feats of Strength competition. Sounds like a fun game right? But there’s more…
As you roll the dice and move around the board you might land on an “Airing of Grievances” square. In this case, you are forced to air a grievance against another player. The game provides a cute airing of grievances note pad in which to record your grievance. Afterward, the receiving player is to stick the note on their person and wear it for the remainder of the game. It’s a great concept, however in the game we reviewed the notes weren’t actually “sticky-notes”, and a roll of tape was required if they were to be stuck to any person.
It should be noted that the game designers shrewdly advise the players not to make the grievances too personal, and even include the disclaimer, “the makers of this board game will not be held responsible for any break ups or disinheriting that may result from the airing of grievances.”
What is interesting is how the “Airing of Grievances” are quite inconsequential to the results of the game play. It seems that this element has been included just to keep the game true to the Festivus motif, and hopefully add some fun. That being said, maybe it would be wise to cautiously air your grievances with fun and frivolity. For example, a grievance against your aunt might read, “I don’t get enough of her delicious cookies.” Just let her wear that around like a badge of shame for the entire game and you’ll be sure to receive a delicious package of goodies in the near future.
Another element of game play occurs when you land on a “Festivus Card” square. In this case you are asked to pick a Festivus card from the pile and follow the instructions. Most of the Festivus cards contain humorous directions which loosely tie the play of the game to the actual Seinfeld Festivus episode. For example: “Lose a Turn, you get caught giving someone a fake phone number” or “Move backward 2 spaces, Jerry makes you give back the $20,000 Human Fund donation”. Admittedly though, some of the cards are rather lame, such as “Move backwards 2 spaces, the Festivus pole falls on your cat.” Clearly the writers of the questions aren’t as skilled as the Seinfeld writers.
As for the “Festivus” cards themselves, they are a bit of a let down. Where every other physical element of the game is beautifully designed, the cards have mismatched and oddly sized fonts. Also, the text seems to be written in Yoda-speech, where the subject and the explanation are turned around. For example, one card states, “Lose a Turn – You get caught giving someone a fake phone number”. Wouldn’t it be better if the card read, “You get caught giving someone a fake phone number – Lose a turn.” However, this is a minor point and it shouldn’t stop anyone from enjoying the game play. Of course, having the players read the cards aloud using a Yoda voice would alleviate the issue.
The game is designed for 2 to 8 players (ages 12 and up), however playing this game with only two players would be as dull as dishwater. Certainly, with this game, the more the merrier. Still, the quality of your experience would largely depend on the quality of the people around the table. If you play this game with a fun-loving bunch, the laughs will be long-lasting.
In conclusion, this board game may be a decent addition to any Festivus celebration. In reality, it is nearly a complete Festivus in a box; When it comes to the four major elements of Festivus, this game covers three: The Festivus Pole, the Airing of Grievances and the Feats of Strength.
All you need to provide is a slab of meat loaf.
Pros: Box and game board are beautifully designed; Game elements are true to Festivus; Game play encourages maximum participation; Easy to play.
Cons: Game experience depends largely on the players; “Festivus” cards are poorly written; Airing of Grievance sticky notes are limited in quantity and they aren’t even sticky.
Grade: 4 out of 5 – Recommended for fun-loving Festivus fans.