Review: The Ungame
Publisher: The Ungame Company
Year: 1973
Tagline: tell it like it is …with

how we met

My love of old, quirky board games runs deep. My sister shares this appreciation, and she is actually guilty of introducing me to The Ungame. Yes I said guilty.

She texted me the first time she played. It was winter, one of those midwest nights where the snow outside makes everything inside seem warm and homey. The picture was her lovely hand over a board, holding a card that says, “Say something about angels.”

It was several months before I found The Ungame at a thrift store. All that time had passed and suddenly I was exposed to no less than two copies of The Ungame in the same location, each less than $2. It was as though I was finally ready. I opted for the one that still had the parts sealed.

FUN FACT: the copy my sister purchased at thrift also boasted sealed pieces. Curiouser and curiouser…

I immediately texted my sister the good news, to which she replied, “Now you can experience the unfun of The Ungame.”

how it plays

Let me say this for the first time: The Ungame is what it is. It is a roll and move game where the majority of rolls will result in you drawing a card challenging you to share a personal thought or anecdote with your fellow players.

Other times you may land on a square that will sanctimoniously judge how your day has gone and possibly send you to other areas of the board accordingly, such as Impatient Island, Complaint Campground, Cheerful Chalet, Happy House or some other awful place.

Once you roll and move initially, you introduce your pawn into a never-ending circle. There is no end, just another lap around the board. The rules say that you decide the finish by deciding the game length up front. Don’t forget to do that!

The game does have pawns and a die. It has a board and cards. It is otherwise not even trying to be a game.

how it went

It is called The Ungame, and it is what it is. My joke above about the pawns and die being unused is really just a shaky acknowledgment about what I brought into the lives of my loved ones.

My game group was patient and fun with The Ungame. We are quite possibly one of the most sarcastic foursomes you could hope to expose to this game. But – and here it is – even we were sharing and learning at times amidst our snarky fun. The Ungame was like water finding all of our cracks and running through, leaving us wondering why we decide to take one thing seriously and poke fun at another. But alas these anecdotal moments were few and far between.

My version of the game offers two decks of cards: Lighthearted and Deep Understanding. We primarily stuck to Deep Understanding because they seemed a bit more…interesting. This deck also contained a few cards that remind you how to be a good ungamer.

We foolishly did not set a time limit on the game when we set out on our circular, never-ending journey. We let the game conclude organically when we were all ready to stop torturing ourselves and each other. Actually it was just after that point.

We did find ways to add witty banter to the mix. My favorite quip was Keri asking if I needed to go to the Sarcastic Silo, which I spent the next 10-15 seconds looking for on the board before realizing it didn’t exist.

play or pass

Pass. Here’s the thing: the same part of me that loves these weird, old games wants to tell you how lucky you are to find The Ungame, pick it up and play it with your close people. How so many issues in this world could be solved by more communication. How there is an inherent nobility in giving a voice to those that would not otherwise speak up. How difficult it is to fault The Ungame in pursuit of these lofty goals.

But The Ungame is for ages 5-105; it is not trying to win you over, and it doesn’t. Its parts were sealed because it was unplayed; it is daring you to play it, and you can’t. It is called The Ungame; it is not trying to be a game, and it isn’t.

Finding The Ungame at thrift is not uncommon. I have seen it probably eight times since I bought it. And if you do try out The Ungame, you have my enthusiastic support. Does anyone care what you have to say about earthquakes or tornadoes? Of course not. But say it anyway because that is the (un)game.