Today’s guest review is by Stef of HappiMess Media! Stef is a thirty-something writer/artist who used to want to be a mermaid. She currently freelances in Orlando with her bae, Honey Bear, and their dog, Max.

Review: What the Face?
Publisher: Spin Master
Year: 2014
Tagline: The Game of Inappropriate First Impressions

Max the dog laying down next to What the Face

how we met

My husband, HB, and I visited a thrift store in search of an offbeat, two-person game we could play. In addition to Spy Alley, I eventually came across What the Face, which is actually a three-or-more-player game, but it promised such a catty time that I vowed to make it work. And that’s the story of how I became $5.99 poorer.

how it plays

The game contents include

  • 260 face cards featuring photos of the weirdest people you’ve ever seen
  • 88 label cards reading things like “abducted by aliens,” “still sleeps with a teddy bear,” and “Twilight fan”
  • 12 voting cards
  • A rather pointless board to highlight cards in play
A messy mess of card backs

The instructions were annoyingly absent from my copy of the game, although the premise seemed straightforward enough: judge what people are like based on their looks alone. 

The one-minute tutorial video on the publisher’s website (since removed) advised that game play goes as follows:

  1. Each player gets five face cards.
  2. The oldest player (Player A) selects a label card and places it on the needless board’s question mark space.
  3. Player A and the player to his/her left (Player B) select one of the face cards from their hands that they think best suits the label card.
  4. Some secret card mixing-up takes place so no one knows whose card is whose.
  5. The face card selections get placed on the A and B spots of the aforementioned useless board.
  6. The other players vote between A or B.
  7. The player who gets the most votes wins the round.
  8. Steps 2-7 repeat, this time between Player B and the player on his/her left (Player C).

If you draw a label card that ends with an ampersand (“Bible study teacher &”), you draw a second label card (“smooth operator”). The two label cards work together as a pair—both labels have to make sense for the chosen face cards. According to the video, these label cards are worth double points, which is the video’s first and only mention of these mysterious points.

It isn’t clear what anything is worth, how points accumulate, when new cards should be drawn, or even how to win the game. It seemed like a mix of Apples to Apples and Heartthrob, only not good.

how it went

I summarized the intended game play for HB, who was disappointed: “I thought we’d just look at each card and be like, ‘This person looks like a pedophile,’ and then everyone else is like, ‘Nah!’ or ‘Yeah!’” But how does one gamify that? Maybe the answer is “just add alcohol.”

After the game sat around the house, unplayed for a year, I ultimately wound up playing it with my three bridesmaids the night before my wedding. I asked them, “Will you guys play this crappy game with me so I can write about it for my friend’s blog?” When they asked what the premise was, I said, “We judge people based on how they look.”

“Middle school, we’re playing middle school,” said one bridesmaid.

“We’re playing me in real life!” said the maid of honor.

We wound up ignoring the voting cards and the board (did I mention how useless the board is?) and straight up played this just like Apples to Apples: One player puts down a label card, the others ascribe to it one of the seven face cards in their hands, and the player chooses her favorite of the proffered options. The player who has seven of her faces chosen wins the game. 

For fun, we said that whatever faces of ours were chosen at the end were our friends. Three of the faces I played were chosen, so this was my end-game squad:

The second time we played this, we flipped it: The player would put down a face card, and then we’d attach labels to it. Again, the first one to seven wins. This time, our finale twist was that whatever label cards were left in our hands, we’d assign to each other. For example, these were the labels ascribed to me by the other players: 

play or pass

“Our version is nice,” one bridesmaid said reluctantly. “I would not like the real version.” 

“I like judging people,” said the maid of honor.

In other words: Pass, unless you’re really desperate, or you’re imaginative and can put your own spin on this. The face and label cards really aren’t that funny, and once you go through them all, it gets especially boring. But maybe you can use this game to deduce how judgmental your friends are…? WHAT FUN!