Review: The Game for Boys
Publisher: University Games
Year: 2009
Tagline: The Official Handy Game

Cover of metal tin box saying The Game for Boys

how we met

I confess I have had this game for so long I don’t remember exactly where I found it. I feel like I found it on clearance at a discount shop back in Minnesota many years ago (I haven’t even lived there for six years). I am sure I bristled slightly at the implications of a game for boys and decided to pick it up. I like astronomy and gaming and code breaking, and The Game for Boys offers two of these three things!

how it plays

The object of The Game for Boys is to get your worm pawn from the start to 100 Boyzpoints by answering questions and completing tasks. The first player to 100 Boyzpoints wins!

The board art shows tree roots underground and the pawns are worms trying to get to the surface

A shot of our play

On a player’s turn they roll the die and take the top card matching the color they rolled. If they roll black they get to choose a card.

Players begin the game with six different chips – two each of red, blue and brown – that allow them to make choices. If a player is not comfortable with the card they drew, they can pay a blue chip to pass the card to the player to their left. They can also pay a red chip to choose a player to team up and split points with. They can also pay a brown chip to make their card all play and split points with all players. Chips do not replenish, so spend them wisely!

Small chips and a die showing colored blocks on different sides

The chips and the die

The game also comes with a deck of playing cards, a rope, a timer and a useful guide for boyhood (we’ll get to that later). And two sheets of glow-in-the-dark star stickers so you can make your favorite constellations in your room!

The star sheets, playing cards, timer and rope

The star sheets, playing cards, timer and rope

The categories of the cards are as follows:

BRAINTEASERS: this category includes little riddles, word play teasers, tongue twisters and things like that. Their points are typically low, but they are often easier than other categories.

Examples include riddles and tongue twisters

This was my favorite category, but most worth only 5 points

KNOTS and NOT KNOTS: this category is challenging. The majority of the cards ask you to create a knot using the rope, but some demand a card trick or decoding a message. It’s funny to look at these cards after play because almost all we saw just asked for a knot.

Examples include magic trick with the deck of cards, tying knot, pattern recognition and dancing

The knot cards took up the majority of our play in this category

BOYZ LIFE: this category is a lot of trivia and obscure knowledge. These cards may ask you to identify animal prints, name all the Harry Potter books, list where the Summer Olympic Games have been held or dive into your geography knowledge.

Examples include naming insects based on drawings, naming the differences between crocodiles and alligators

Kind of difficult, but a nice diversity of cards in this category

ASTRONOMY: this category is the worst thing that ever happened. The cards list a constellation, the number of stars in it and ask you to draw the constellation from memory. There is no diversity in this category; every card asks you to draw a constellation for points.

These cards are all the same and ask you to draw constellations from memory

Draw a constellation from memory with 19 stars in it? You’re kidding right?

GROWING UP: this category has some funny things, like you may need to name items from a table setting, dance a Tango, say “I love you” in multiple languages, cite a tongue twister, match famous works of art to their museums and other random things.

Examples include naming place settings on a table, naming famous buildings by a drawing, saying "I love you" in different languages

Kind of a fun category

The cards will tell you how many points you get for a correct answer or task. And often the cards will assign a point value per answer – for example I may have to name ten countries that are in the European Union to get 20 points, but I can get 2 points for each correct answer. If you share the card, you share the points.

The first player to reach the base of the tree with 100 Boyzpoints wins!

how it went

The Game for Boys is based on the facts and skills taught in a book called American Boys’ Handy Book, which was written by an original founder of the Boy Scouts of America. We had not read this book, but surely we would find some fun in a game directed at Boy Scouts. Plus with the rope, the playing cards and the stars we were clearly in for a treat.

The first issue we noticed with the game was the board and how difficult it was to use the worm pawns to accurately track points. Keri implemented a pointing system and moved our pawns for us, so it worked out. But this is an example of a flaw so obvious that clearly no one tested play of this game with final components. It would be like if I handed you a ruler and told you to track the centimeters using a penny. You can make it work, but I am a terrible person in this scenario.

The size of the pawn takes up about 10 points of space

A close up of the worm pointz tracking issue

John was generous with his chips, so early on we had a lot of shared points while we tackled questions together. Very early on we got a question asking us to name the five oceans in order from smallest to largest. That was funny mostly because none of us got the memo that back in 2000 a fifth ocean happened, the Southern Ocean. Not even the boys knew!

We frequently got ASTRONOMY cards and usually skipped even attempting them. Eventually – probably much later than we should have – we stopped including the ASTRONOMY category at all. This improved the game considerably.

The KNOTS AND NOT KNOTS category was interesting. We assumed we were supposed to make a given knot from memory based on what it is called on the front of the card. But then this happened.

The image on the card shows a loop and the rope is in a loop

Keri showcasing her rope skills

And then John got a magic trick that he never could have completed without the instructions on the back of the card that walk you through it. These instructions even tell you what to say to your audience. So finally he proposed that those are meant to be read entirely and then the action performed, whether it is tying a knot, doing a dance or performing a magic trick. But not the entire category because some of them are questions. The instructions on the backs of the cards are labeled as Answers, which implies you should not be looking at them. The game instructions, of course, do not directly address when to read the entire card and when not to. I think it is cool to learn little tricks during play, like tying a certain knot, but if you are learning then the entire category should be that way – not mixed and matched. Again, this seems obvious to me.

The Game for Boys also has that one flaw that always irks me where success is measured by the judgment of all of your fellow players. This was not a problem for our game in particular but it is lazy design and a pet peeve of mine. I don’t mind games with judging or voting, but deciding whether you completed a task sufficiently bugs me.

Keri was leading the way during almost our entire game, and she ultimately won The Game for Boys! I mean, you saw her knot-tying abilities above.

This card asks the player to secretly tie a knot so they can trick fellow players into believing they did it one-handed

A favorite card. Let me just tie this knot on my turn with no one looking

After the game, we enjoyed perusing The Game for Boys: A useful guide for the trials and tribulations of boyhood. You can learn about all sorts of things in this useful guide. I will leave a picture of the table of contents here and let your imaginations run wild.

Sections include golf tips, building an indoor fort, the gettysburg address and other random things

I particularly enjoyed Fun Websites to Investigate and Stain Removal

play or pass

Pass. Neat idea, really, but terrible execution. I believe there is a similar game out there called The Dangerous Book for Boys Game that is also based on a book that aims to teach you about all the things the game asks you to do. I have been intrigued by that game at thrift, but it appears so similar to this game that I will not be picking it up now.

If you are unfamiliar with astronomy in general but decide to play The Game for Boys, please do not judge the subject of astronomy based on this game. That would be unfair to astronomy and unfair to you.