Review: Family Reunion the game
Publisher: USAopoly
Year: 2002
Tagline: Where every picture tells a story

Cover showing family photos and resembling a photobook

how we met

I found Family Reunion the game at the local thrift shop in my town, the scene of so many weird, obscure and wonderful game finds. It just so happens that I had family in town visiting and they were with me on this rummaging trip. I grabbed the game and looked it over – the cards were still in shrink but the board was missing – then put it back. Then a few minutes later my brother-in-law lifted a game board from another part of the shelves and unfolded it. I bet you can’t guess what it was.

I don’t typically ignore signs, least of all when it comes to buying games. I paid my $2.99 (yes, a lot!) and continued on with my day knowing that we had an entire night of board games ahead of us.

how it plays

The object of Family Reunion the game is to collect one photo card from each of the four categories: Traditions, Magic Moments, Happy Days and Hand Me Downs.

To begin play, one family secret is chosen randomly from the FAMILY SECRET deck and placed in the FAMILY SECRET envelope without being seen. The four photo decks are kept in their own piles and shuffled. The SNAPSHOTS deck is shuffled and set next to the board.

Each player also receives a YOU’RE NOT TELLING THE WHOLE STORY card.

From here it is roll and move where the space on the board indicates what happens next. You may land on a SNAPSHOTS space and the player next to you asks you a question from a SNAPSHOTS card. These are typically “how well do you know your fellow player” type of questions, like who gets the most sleep, who has traveled the most, what year was the shortest player born, etc.

Sample snapshot cards

Let’s get uncomfortable

Most of the spaces on the board correspond to one of the four photo card categories: Traditions, Magic Moments, Happy Days and Hand Me Downs.

Overhead shot of board with pawns in place

An image from our play

You draw from the deck of the category you land on and look at the photo. Really look at it. Then tell your fellow players a story or memory from your past triggered by the photo on the card.

After this touching moment of vulnerability, your fellow players can accuse you of not telling the whole story with their YOU’RE NOT TELLING THE WHOLE STORY card. They then fill in the missing pieces of the story. If they are generally believed then the accuser can steal a card from the original player. If not, the original player can steal from the heartless person who placed the accusation. Each player can only play their YOU’RE NOT TELLING THE WHOLE STORY card twice in a game.

If you are not accused in the first place then you keep the card. Remember you are trying to get one in each category. This will be largely based on the luck of your roll. There are two spaces that will allow you to choose from any of the categories.

Each of the four decks will also have SKELETON IN THE CLOSET cards. This really just requires you to tell a story that could be considered a skeleton in your closet, like an embarrassing moment, something you are not proud of, something highly personal, etc. The rest of the card is played out the same with accusations or not and card collection or not.

Cards showing a skeleton against a blue background

My friends and I used to write fake notes from our “sick mom” so the gas station attendant would sell us cigarettes. Now you go

The first player to collect each of the four category cards is the winner! They then are allowed to open the FAMILY SECRET envelope and force all the losing players to answer it. Celebratory confession time!

how it went

I think the idea of this game is to play it with your extended family to learn more about their past experiences and anecdotes – a noble goal. If the players are committed to play, then the game can be fun and interesting with new stories that you had not heard based on random prompts. Players can also be non-committal and not share. It all sounds very ungamely, doesn’t it? The Ungame was referenced more than once during our play.

For all of its lofty purpose, the game is fairly broken. Introducing an option to challenge players that they are being incomplete in their tale could mean anything. They are probably just a good storyteller and know that no one cares what exact month it was. But also, the accused can just say, “No you are wrong.” There is no real avenue for passing judgment, so that part of the game is broken. None of us used our stupid YOU’RE NOT TELLING THE WHOLE TRUTH cards. Good thing too, because there is no way to count their limited use of two times.

We got some good tales. Every so often players encountered cards that were very difficult to trigger our memories – they were just too far off. The instructions do a nice job of explaining all the ways you can look at a card to find memory prompts.

Example Happy Days cards including blonde woman holding a bucket and rag over concrete

Happy Days examples. I too remember washing concrete, and looking good doing it

Hand Me Downs example cards showing kids at school and in snow

Hand Me Downs was hands down the most boring of the categories

Example Traditions cards including one showing finger pointing at an Xray

Traditions. And no, I don’t know what’s going on in that X-ray photo. Just own it as a trigger

Magic Moments cards including one showing hands feeling a coin collection

Magic Moments cards. Hey buddy whatcha got there? Oh it’s the hair dryer! Good.

I can see the game being dangerous with certain company. For example the Magic Moments deck has a lot of wedding, marriage, birthday, having children and aging type of photos. That type of content can raise as many – or more – painful memories for people as happy ones. That is not to say they should not share. But a person that is typically positive will likely raise happy memories and anecdotes and a person that is typically negative will likely raise more unhappy memories. Be ready to navigate that in case it comes up. Fortunately it did not come up for our snarky crew.

My sister won our game and, per the FAMILY SECRET card, asked each of us to, “Share a little known story about your parents.” I shared a memory of getting caught smoking by my dad when I was in 5th grade, an anecdote more about me than my parents and one where my mom was not featured at all. But hey. I shared.

Example secret cards including one asking you to describe a time you skipped school

Example secrets. Joke’s on you, I skipped school at least once a week!

play or pass

Pass. Family Reunion the game by USAopoly is for ages 8 to grandparent. This game is not for you, it is for the family member that finds comfort in sharing their old memories at the drop of a hat. It can be fun, it can be revealing and interesting, it can even be a decent way to pass the time. But it is consistently ungamely.