GAMING POINT OF LOU – CHEER UP!
I have a love / hate relationship with the entire “Party Game Genre”, I can most certainly understand the appeal of easy to learn games that cater to the masses (many times the inebriated masses), but I also bemoan their lack of depth and strategy. Not to say they are BAD games, I just don’t personally jive with them. Now being fully aware of this, a few weeks back Ganache put me on notice that the folks over at Cheer Up Games were getting set to launch the Kickstarter for the first major expansion to their aptly titled game “Cheer Up!”, and that he wanted me to play the game, along with the prototype cards for the upcoming expansions, and once again use the written word to (deftly?) convey my thoughts ahead of the campaign’s official start, and since I had never played this game before, I decided that I would break this review up into two pieces, the first will cover the base game, and the second part will cover the base game along with the expansion cards, this way you will not only get a feel for what the game IS, but also what it WILL BE. So before we get into the nitty gritty of it all, take about six minutes out of your day, and check out Cheer Up’s founder Chris demoing the game (expansion included) with the Jo(h)n’s at this past year’s CT Gamer Con.
Now that we are all on the same page, lets get down to brass tacks: The base game comes complete with 500 cards, broken up into three separate categories. A’s are Adjectives (such as Shaved, Salty or MOIST), B’s are Nouns (Tissue, Wizard, or Hipster), and C’s are Verbs (Laying an Egg, Plotting Revenge, or Ruining My Life). Along with these are the question cards and the answer modifying Rule cards. I am particularly fond of the packaging as it contains an intelligently designed (and damn near impossible to access unless you take out ALL the cards) divider for you to be able to stash some of the more raunchy cards, which are conveniently marked with an NSFG “Not Suitable for Grandma” in the lower right hand corner. This is a wonderful addition as it allows you to tailor the game to the sensibilities of the people you are playing with. It theoretically can be played with the younger members of the family as well, but you might find yourself taking out a fair number of cards to make it happen.
As with most games of this type, scoring is completely up to the whims of the dealer and the true strategy (much like a good poker player) is being able to read the dealer and crafting your answer to their particular sense of humor. I also took particular notice of how smartly designed the cards are. Unlike some of “Cheer Up’s!” Competition, the answer cards are VERY open ended (many of them are just a single word), this allows the player a far greater latitude in coming up with an answer. Take the noun “Gerbil” for instance, paired with a similarly innocuous adjective like “Unstable” you have a moderately humorous G rated answer, suitable for even your precious Nana, but now take that same noun (Gerbil) and pair it with an “NSFG” card such as “Well-Hung” and well….. you get the point. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the developers of the game are either English Teachers or Professional Authors, as this type of simplicity takes a certain command of the English language to design and balance properly.
English lesson aside I found the base game quite fun, simply because of the freedom it allowed me. At no point was I hamstrung by cards that didn’t work well together, all it took was the inclusion of a simple conjunction (or, and, but etc…) to create any answer under the sun from the raunchy to the ridiculous. Also, being an avowed (and rather hardcore) introvert, I was greatly relieved to see that the answer modifying “Rule” cards did not in any way pull me out of my comfort zone, yet still enhanced every round of play, often times in the subtlest of ways. So if you happen to be the wallflower of your social circle, fear not as you will still find the same level of enjoyment as your more outgoing friends.
As I mentioned above, not only did I have the base game available to test, but I was also given access to the prototype cards for the upcoming “Big D” expansion (launching on Kickstarter April 9th 2019), and full disclosure, I am going to find this next part difficult to write, as I don’t want this to come across as either A) too “infomercially” or B) Biased, but I have to say based on what I’ve seen, any current owner of “Cheer Up!”, or any folks out there looking to purchase the base game, are going to want to get in on the expansion, as quite frankly I can’t ever imagine playing the game any other way from this point forward. So lets take a look at what the expansion brings to the table.
The “Big D” pack will be comprised of four separate expansions (Big D, FE:TCH, ARF(ED), and NSFG2), totaling approximately 300 cards and injecting the game with a whole slew of additional A, B, C, Question’s, and Rule’s (including holiday themed ones) which seamlessly blend into the existing framework, you can add or subtract as many as you want without affecting the playability of the game. As a test I even tried a few hands with ONLY one of the expansions (nothing else), and while there were a fair number of repeats, we still had fun with it. While the thought of a smorgasbord of new cards should be enough to get your engines running, the “Big D” Pack will also bring a brand new category into the game: The “D” card, and it is the inclusion of the “D” cards that make this game even more enjoyable than it was before. Representing places such as: An elementary school, Your Mom’s house, or an 80th Birthday party, the “D” cards added a dimension to the game I didn’t know was missing, not only for their answer crafting potential, but also in the question phase as well, as many of the new question cards require the dealer to draw from the “D” deck, which adds yet ANOTHER layer of replayability and unpredictability to the game.
I have developed a special fondness for “Cheer Up” during the course of my testing. While it offers an experience that shares similarities with many of it’s contemporaries, it’s intelligent design clearly sets it apart from the pack, where most games of this type have a habit of restricting you, “Cheer Up!” Feels like a breath of fresh air, and while it offers up unique mechanics in the form of the rule cards, they never become the focal point of the game, they only serve to enhance the imagination of the player. Is “Cheer Up!” worthy of a spot on your gaming shelf? I would have to say: “Most definitely”, at the end of the day, the highest compliment I can pay it is this: It made a fan out of me.
If you are so inclined, I would recommend visiting them on the interwebs at https://cheerupgames.com/ where you can not only pick up a copy of the base game, but get a more in depth rundown of the upcoming expansions. And if you still find yourself on the fence, they even offer a free “Print And Play” so you can try the game out for yourself and make an educated decision, that alone shows the confidence they have in their product.
Until Next Time Everyone,
Be Good To Your Fellow Nerd,