Full disclosure: A review copy of Match 5 was provided by Luma Imports.
Hey look, it’s a rare party game! I don’t often get these to the table, since, as you might have read in previous iterations, I just haven’t been able to play games with large groups of people. When I do, I tend to play trick-taking games. You know how it is. Thankfully, I’ve been able to get enough of those played that I actually can try some new stuff, like Match 5! So let’s check out what going on with this game and see how it plays.
In Match 5, players have a bunch of categories and need to find out where they intersect! Single word, phrase, or something clever, anything will work as long as you can convince your opponents that it’s valid! Just keep in mind that if you write the same thing as other players, then you get even more points! Will you be able to sync up with your opponents?
Not a ton! Give each player a player sheet:
Take a die of each color and roll them!
Place them in the indicated spots on the matching Word Tiles:
You’ll only use five each game. Once you’ve done that, set out the timer and you’re ready to start!
The game is pretty straightforward, which I appreciate. Once the dice are in place, flip the Sand Timer. Everyone now has about three minutes to come up with their matches! Now, what makes a match?
Let’s say you have “HERBIVORE / VEGETARIAN” (Purple) and “FLOATS” (Yellow). You could put “plesiosaurus”, but that would be incorrect, as they ate clams and snails. Manatees might be more accurate. If you wrote “PETA’s Annual Cruise”, you might get some side-eye but people may allow it. They may not. That one’s on you. But generally speaking, you may write one or more words to join the two prompts, and they can be clever if you’d like, but they should be accurate. If there’s contention, you’ll deal with it later. One last thing! Each answer can only be used once per player per game. So no writing the same thing multiple times!
After time runs out, players will read their answers aloud (either each player reads for a given prompt or all players read their individual sheets; up to y’all). If you disagree with a player’s answer, you may dispute it. If a majority of players agree that it’s invalid, it’s rejected and the player scores 0 points for that answer. Otherwise, a player scores 1 point. If two or more players wrote the same answer for a dice pair, they each score 2 points! It’s better to match with more people.
Once every player has scored their first round, write the total on the bottom of the score sheet, reroll the dice, and play another round! Note that answers from the first round cannot be used again in the second round. After two rounds, the player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
The nice thing about Match 5 is that the player count … doesn’t really matter? Not in a gameplay sense. Half the fun of the game is just seeing what weird things people come up with via free-flowing word association. To that end, the more, the merrier! You’ll generally see player scores increase as player count goes up, just because there are more players to potentially match each other. It’s probably similar in logical space to the Birthday Paradox, yeah? Essentially randomly choosing options will have some decent degree of overlap. That’s entertaining! It’s a very positive player interaction; in my games, players have cheered when other players have matched, even when it wasn’t them! Naturally, since that likelihood increases at higher player counts, I’d probably recommend Match 5 at higher player counts? But I wouldn’t say it’s bad or worse at lower player counts at all! I just think it has the highest potential of that entertaining player interaction with more players.
One slight exception, though? Two players is far too few for this game. Like, it functionally will work, but it’s a party game. Try to play it at 4+.
- I usually focus on one die color at a time and try to do everything I can based on that die + the other color combinations. I find it too difficult to go in the order that the score sheet indicates! It consistently requires me to switch both themes, rather than pick one theme and then try to connect it to other ones. It’s essentially a game of Venn diagram construction; having one circle remain fixed makes it easier to draw the other one and find overlaps, rather than having to consistently create and recreate the circles for every combination.
- Sometimes just reading the Word Tile combinations can give you inspiration. One particular combination was “TIME + FLIES”, which made me immediately think “like an arrow”, rather than trying to come up with something about time that flies. Sometimes even just saying things to yourself can quickly inspire a useful idea.
- Phrases, clever pairings, words; those all work as options! Make sure that you can come up with something. Trying to come up with clever pairings can take a lot of effort, though, so try and just write down whatever your brain comes up with first. Let free association be your emotional guide or whatever.
- While being clever is fun, I think it’s also pretty important to match with other players, so you want to try and find the common denominator. You’ll get some impressed nods from other players when you do something particularly clever, but it also takes a lot of time to come up with something (unless you immediately think of it). I think it’s more worth trying to think of what other players might think of so you can get those extra points. It’s essentially a reverse Just One.
- You might as well try to write 10 things down before time runs out so that you have something. They may be just … blatantly wrong, but you can at least have potential options to try and argue for. Maybe some of them will actually work! Stranger things have happened in the land of free association.
- This isn’t strategy, as much, but … don’t try to contest players answers so that you can keep them from getting points. That just sucks. This isn’t strategy as much as it is poor gamesmanship. The game has a slight functional vulnerability in that it allows a plurality of players to argue that another player’s submission is invalid. That’s fine and all, but don’t rely on that as a strategic play. Use that only when something’s legitimately invalid or you’ll just end up with a kind-of bunk game.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I tend to prefer cooperative party games, but as far as competitive ones go, this isn’t bad! The emphasis on matching other players makes it feel less competitive. I think it’s almost a solo game where matching other players is helpful! You can’t do much within the spirit of the game to really bring other players down, anyways, so you’re kind of just doing your own thing. The player who does their own thing the best wins! Sometimes even just filling out every space does enough to secure a win, for you.
- The word association elements of this are super fun. It’s fun to see what players come up with for weird combinations of words and phrases! Everyone appreciates a clever answer, even if you get more points when multiple players agree on the same thing.
- Very easy game to teach, which is kind of ideal for a party game. Write down prompts that match the pairings on the dice. Now you know how to play at a very basic level. Good party games should be simple like that, I think; you don’t want to invest a lot of time explaining things, and more complicated pathways will just end up frustrating your players.
- Also a very quick game, which is a good fit for a party game. The longest part of the game is going through everyone’s answers, since everyone has to read them out and then they need to be accepted or rejected. The actual rounds are only about three minutes each.
- The timing element makes it difficult to get “good” answers for all 10 prompts, which is nice. It’s a very good amount of time. It makes it very hard to successfully even write down something in every space, much less to write something that’s actually good for every prompt. I think that tension does a lot for the game, and it makes for an exciting time.
- Pretty portable, even if you don’t want to use the box. You can largely just group the tiles and dice together in a bag and take them pretty much anywhere. You hardly even need the sheets! Just take one and have players use their own paper. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this route, but it’s functional.
- The dice are a nice way to randomize the categories. There’s just a nice variety and a lot of options from randomly rolling five dice. You end up with a pretty decent spread in the first round, for sure, and I like that.
- If they were going to make ten unique dice, it may have been easier to make five dice of a slightly different color scheme than the five other dice, since they’re a bit difficult to tell apart. This is really not that big of an issue, but it does complicate setup while you’re trying to match the dice with the corresponding Word Tile. It would have been nice to have them be just a touch different, so players could set it up super quickly.
- I assume this was done for “gameplay” reasons, but it would be more helpful if the Match 5 sheets grouped the answers by at least one dice color, so you’re not repeatedly having to skim all the Word Tiles. I think that this ends up making the game much easier, since it makes the patterns easier to see, so that’s probably why they didn’t do that. But I do kind of wish that’s how the sheets were organized? I kind of want to test it out and see how I feel about it.
- Generally, I think it’s bad form to leave the decisions on which answers are “valid” to players who are in direct competition with each other. This incentivizes a really gross player interaction where I, a player not in the lead, could try to argue that the player in the lead’s answers are invalid. Don’t do that, but the rules do technically allow for that. Thankfully, this never happens in my games, but I don’t love that it’s possible.
- It can be a bit annoying when you re-roll some of the same dice faces as the previous round. It’s not that bad if it’s only one die face, but if it’s multiple, the round can be kind of challenging since you need to often come up with a new iteration of the same prompt. That’s not my favorite thing, but if that bothers you, you can just reroll them.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, I think Match 5 is solidly fun! As I mentioned, I’m kind of leaning more towards cooperative party games, these days; mostly just gratified to be able to sit in a room with enough friends for a party game, I suppose. That said, I think Match 5 does a nice job of presenting a competitive game that is largely an individual challenge with fun player interaction. The interaction here is completely positive; if you and another player write down the same thing, you’re both rewarded! This incentivizes players to try and find common denominators for extra points, which I appreciate. That said, seeing a player pull off a clever answer and convince the other players of it is also fun, even if it’s not worth quite as much. The third circumstance, just getting something that counts, is a relief for players, so you kind of have all of your bases covered, here. Match 5 does well in trying to be a simple word association game with a lot of potential options for play, but it’s a lot less stressful than, say, Anomia, which I can appreciate. This is more generative, where the latter is more competitive. Half the fun is just seeing what random stuff people come up with, after all. Quick, clever, and portable is never a bad combination, and I think Match 5 brings even more than that to the table, so it’s a keeper in my book. If you’re looking for a fun, light, and quick party game, or you just like word association, I’d recommend trying Match 5! I’ve had a lot of fun with it.
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