Review: Outta Control
Publisher: Parker Brothers
Year: 1992
Tagline: Hit the Buzzer! Someone’s…

cover showing give caricature people playing

how we met

I found Outta Control at a thrift shop that seems to always, always, always have something for me, whether it’s for play or to resell. They have this strange atmosphere of popcorn and cleaning agents that seems to cause 1313 Dead End Drive to grow out of the shelves themselves. I typically find anywhere from one to four games at this particular shop when I am able to get there. On this day, I found three games and one was Outta Control.

how it plays

Outta Control is a roll and move game all about memory and discipline. And trickery and attention. As part of setup, each player gets ten pink chips with the ultimate goal of trying to lose all of their chips. Then one DO card is revealed, read aloud and placed face down on the #1 spot on the DO card side of the plastic board. The same is done for a DON’T card. (Note: technically the rules do not specify whether DON’T cards should be face up or face down, so I had to reference the commercial and I can still hear children barking like dogs when I close my eyes)

The play of Outta Control is really simple. Before a player rolls the die, they must remember and do each thing from the in-play DO cards, in correct order. And all players must never do something from an in-play DON’T card, regardless of whether it is their turn or not.

Overhead shot of the board

Here is more of the board for your eyes

As a player rolls, their space will dictate what happens next. Spaces most frequently allow you to add or change a DO and/or DON’T card. In these cases, you may choose which card you are displacing if the card spots are already full.

Example space saying add a don't and put in a chip

An example space

Spaces will also allow you to turn in one or two chips. And if you remember to do that, good for you. However, and this is important, the game has touchstones for play. It is important that you hand the die to the next player at the end of your turn – not just to make sure they are paying attention but to indicate that you are acknowledging the end of your turn. And any chips you are allowed to turn in must be turned in before you hand the die over.

As an example, if you are on a space that indicates you can turn in one chip but you hand the die to the next player without doing so, then your chance is gone and you may not turn in that chip. Them’s the breaks!

Small pink chips

The chips in all their pinkness

Why does all this bean counting matter? Because if you think someone has erred then you can call them out in the moment by pressing the buzzer (also pink) in the middle of the game board. You can accuse your fellow players of things like, “You did not do the fourth DO thing,” or, “You touched the die with your thumb,” or any number of silly things if they didn’t do a DO card or did do a DON’T card. If the accuser is correct then they can give the accused one of their chips. If they are mistaken then the accused can give the accuser one of their chips.

And if you catch yourself making a mistake you go straight for that buzzer and turn yourself in before anyone else does, and nothing bad will happen to you.

At times the DO and DON’T cards may contradict each other. In these cases, you do the thing during the DO part of your turn and not otherwise.

Other spaces on the board are SAFE spaces. These allow you to completely ignore the DON’T card requirements until you are no longer on the SAFE space and skip (on your next turn) the DO card requirements. This is your chance to play dirty and bait people. Don’t waste it.

The first player to ditch all their chips wins!

how it went

I have played this a few times in different company, and in all cases one thing it has in common is giggles. This game is simple, funny and ridiculous.

The other thing Outta Control has in common is me falling for every trick in the book. I fall for all the tricks. Bill can have his pawn on a SAFE space and rest his head on his hands, elbows on the table, in such a way that is completely foreign. Suspicious, even. But I will slam my hand on the buzzer and call him on it.

If you are so fortunate as to land on a SAFE space on the board, then you can lure your fellow players into this pretty trap to get rid of your chips more quickly.

My memory is not as great as it used to be, and it’s funny how frequently things will just fall out of one’s head. The DO’s are easier to remember because they must be repeated before every die roll. The DON’Ts are trickier both for being passive and being just plain difficult. Some of the DON’T cards will be that you can’t move your pawn by picking it up, you must slide it. Or that you can’t touch the die with your thumb. Or that you can’t point. Or that you can’t say the word “chips” which is a very difficult one.

Example do cards like "do give yourself a hug"

Do check out these example DO cards

Example don't cards like "don't stand up"

Don’t forget to read these example DON’T cards

It’s funny how nervous I would get during play at times. I became afraid to move, afraid to touch anything, afraid to say anything. There were periods in both games where people were semi-frozen just trying not to mess up. Which is pretty funny.

play or pass

Play! Slowly, wisely and with great care, but DO play. This game is simple and fun. I think it has a way of playing off your group dynamic that is interesting too. And if I am at the table, you almost can’t lose.