Review: Personal Preference
Publisher: Broderbund Games
Year: 1987
Tagline: You’re in the spotlight…

The cover is blocky like the board with four colors in each corner

how we met

I played Personal Preference years ago but hadn’t seen it for quite a long time. Then I met the Thrifting Minions in the Milwaukee area! Courtney is a very keen fan of Personal Preference. She found a fabulous copy at thrift one day, and I was the only person that didn’t have one yet! So it was quite a treat!

I have never seen it at thrift myself, but if I had I would have bought it. You know I love a vintage party game with lots of pictures!

how it plays

Personal Preference is a party game where players take turns randomly drawing four items, secretly ranking them in order of their personal preference, and letting the other players guess what their ranking will be.

Players each get chips indicating the ranking 1, 2, 3 or 4. The active player is called IT, and when you are IT you draw four items in the category of the space your pawn is on. For start and other corners, choose any category you want. Place these cards in the four quadrants of the board. Then secretly rank them using the envelope provided and cards for this purpose.

The colorful pawns and ranking chips
The team pawns and ranking chips

Then players (including anyone on your own team) use their ranking chips to guess what your rankings are. This is more difficult than it sounds because if you are playing with standard rules then you are on a team and you have to agree on the ranking together. How well do you know the active IT player? Do you know them better than your teammate does?

Placing a ranking chip within the hard-to-see center circle means you are very certain and wish to “DOUBLE” the outcome of that chip.

An overview of the board, the circle is a very lighter color in center
This shot of our play shows both the hard to see circle and an example turn where our IT player needed to rank Neon, Corn on the Cob, Walter Cronkite and Picketing for a just cause

When all players or teams have ranked their guesses at the active IT player’s preferences, the IT player reveals their ranking. Teams move their pawn forward one space for each correct guess and are not penalized for incorrect guesses. If the team chose to double on any guesses, right guesses get 2 spaces forward and incorrect guesses get 1 space backward! Don’t gamble, kids.

Four cards showing color and pattern of each quadrant for secret ranking
These four cards and this envelope are used for the IT player to secretly rank items

The first team to hit or pass the FINISH square wins! If more than one team passes FINISH in a single round then the one ahead wins, or play continues until one is ahead. That team wins!

how it went

I have played Personal Preference several times, and it’s always good fun. I have played both as part of a team and where I acted independently. Each has pros and cons.

Our play

On one hand, playing in a team results in compromise and imperfection which are both things we could learn to tolerate a lot more these days. You have to either fight for your rankings or concede. Discussions happen. Debates happen. Deals sometimes happen. And it ensures the IT player has no benefit in bluffing since their own team is guessing too. A certain Personal Preference purist I know would not have gameplay any other way than teams.

On the other hand, the first game I played where I acted independently I quickly went into the lead and never lost it. I listen and observe things, and sometimes I can make a pretty solid guess at rankings of even random things. I didn’t experience any false confidence in someone else’s rankings. But this type of play is a variation meant for fewer players, and that’s where it belongs.

Some individuals on BGG that have played Personal Preference a lot get to the point of lamenting the dated cards. As you likely know, I love dated cards. And while I have played multiple times, I have not worn my copy thin yet. So I am not one of these people.

People cards including Marilyn Monroe, Sting, JFK, Paul Harvey, Tony Randall and Franklin D. Roosevelt
The people cards get the most complaints in being dated. Here is a random example of me pulling out six cards. I don’t know who Paul Harvey is, but most people do.
Cards include strawberry daiquiri, stir fried vegetables, baked beans, cotton candy, cookies and brie
Tough one! No it’s not. Brie rules.
Activities include having a birthday, overhearing others talking about you, going to a nudist camp, going on a cruise and going to a casino
This is definitely a fun deck. You know what else is fun? Going to the casino.
Example cards here are computers, communism, labor unions, junk mail, Japanese cars
Another really fun deck because Potpourri = random. The one I accidentally cut off in this photo was “Incompetence” which is definitely timeless. Note: all cards are double-sided so there are quite a few cards in Personal Preference.

However if you are interested in trying the game with updated cards, Thrifting Minion Melissa made some and posted the files to BGG back in 2014. She did a really great job too. The cards strike that chord of being general knowledge, but also specific and well-known.

During our initial play after getting this copy, I was teamed up with Bill. At one point I complained over deciding a ranking, “This is hard.” To which Bill replied, “Is it? Are any of them?” I assume he meant the great games that I constantly buy, review and keep or donate. I am very lucky to have a game group that is willing to play random vintage board games and enjoy them!

An example of the People cards: we had to rank Angela Lansbury, Babe Ruth, Barbara Walters and Hulk Hogan

And we did enjoy Personal Preference. Sure it’s dated, but there is a timeless, inherent absurdity to comparing completely random things, like Nuclear Power Plants, David Letterman, chocolate chip cookies and cleaning house. It’s very fun to listen to the other teams discuss their rankings when you are the IT player. And you might even learn something about your friends! Important things like how they feel about unlisted phone numbers and acid rain.

I won our first game acting independently with four players. Bill and I won our first team game using the standard rules. Do I know my friends or what?!

play or pass

Definite play. Personal Preference captures the magic of a simple, fun party game with immense replayability. While the complaints of it being dated are valid, that can also add to the delight in ranking, particularly if you are around my age. And if not, updated cards are just a print and play away.