#834 – Snakesss

Base price: $20.
4 – 8 players.
Play time: 20 – 30 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 2

Full disclosure: A review copy of Snakesss was provided by Big Potato Games.

We’ve been slowly getting back to some of our games and our gaming events, and one thing that has changed is that a lot more people want to play party games. They’re not the bane of my existence, but I usually … haven’t played party games as much, in the past, because, I mean, I already have a bunch that I like. My tastes evolve some, though; for instance, Match 5 was very fun. So party game reviews happen from time to time, and here we are, with another party game from Big Potato! Let’s see what’s going on in Snakesss!

In Snakesss, the name of the game is trivia! You have some questions, and you need to guess the correct answers. Little do you know, that not everyone is who they seem; some players are devious Snakes, here to poison your mind with a little bit of venom (and some bad information / speculation). Thankfully, you have a Mongoose of Truth to help you fight off the Snakes, but are they … good at trivia? Or do they just hate snakes? Guess there’s only one way to find out. Will you be able to answer these questions unhindered? Or will you drag your fellow players to the wrong answer with your lies?

Contents

Setup

To start off, put each player’s name on the scoresheet. Then, give each player a set of Answer Chips. There should be an A, a B, a C, and a Snake for each player:

Set out Character Tokens based on player count:

  • 4 players: 1 Human / 2 Snakes / 1 Mongoose of Truth
  • 5 players: 2 Humans / 2 Snakes / 1 Mongoose of Truth
  • 6 players: 2 Humans / 3 Snakes / 1 Mongoose of Truth
  • 7 players: 3 Humans / 3 Snakes / 1 Mongoose of Truth
  • 8 players: 3 Humans / 4 Snakes / 1 Mongoose of Truth

After doing that, set out the deck of cards, question-side up.

You should be ready to start!

Gameplay

A game of Snakesss is a game of trivia and a social deduction game! Over six rounds, you’ll try to answer challenging questions with the help of your players. Unfortunately, some of those players are not Humans like you and me; they’re Snakes! They already know the answer to the question, and their job is to make sure you get it wrong.

Start a round by shuffling and dealing out the Roles. If a player gets the Mongoose of Truth, they should reveal it immediately and take the Mongoose token; all other players keep their roles hidden. One player then takes on the role of Moderator and has everyone follow these steps:

  1. Everyone closes their eyes.
  2. The Snakes open their eyes and look at each other.
  3. While the Snakes’ eyes are open, the Moderator flips over the top card of the deck, revealing the answer on the back. If the Moderator is not a Snake, they need to do this with their eyes closed. It’s not too hard.
  4. After five seconds or so, the Snakes close their eyes. All players should have their eyes closed at this point.
  5. The Moderator flips the question card back to the question side.
  6. All players open their eyes.

At this point, I read the question and the available answers again for all players, and then a two-minute timer starts! Players may freely discuss the question and what they think the correct answer is. The Mongoose of Truth does not get any additional information, but they are guaranteed to not be a Snake. That may not help.

After two minutes, everyone votes! Choose from your face-down chips what you think the right answer is. If you are a Snake, you must choose the “Snake” option; don’t show players your chips! Everyone plays their chip face-down, and once everyone has a face-down chip in front of them, everyone reveals!

Now, the round resolves and players score based on what they voted for.

  • If you are a Human / Mongoose and you answered incorrectly: You score 0 points. Better luck next time.
  • If you are a Human / Mongoose and you answered correctly: You score 1 point for every player who answered correctly! Nice work.
  • If you are a Snake: You score 1 point for every player who answered incorrectly. Your schemes worked! Maybe.

Then, take the roles, shuffle them, and start a new round! Play six rounds, and the player with the most points wins!

Player Count Differences

The thing about party games is, it’s difficult to say. I can tell you right now that while I respect the idea of this game at four players, the whole “one human, two Snakes, one Mongoose” is a breakdown that I don’t think I would particularly like to experience. Playable? Probably. Fun? Depends on the group, I guess. Not my cup of tea, and generally speaking when I have four people I’m not as party game-focused, anyways. At the higher end of the spectrum, having more humans or more snakes doesn’t really matter; it’s just a question of whether or not you’re listening to the other players’ noise or if you have a good sense of what the answer is, yourself. I wouldn’t necessarily say I have a preference for a specific player count, here; I just find it amusing to have more Snakes than Ordinary Humans. But yeah, more formally, as long as we’re pushing 5+, I wouldn’t say one player count seem to be better than another.

Strategy

  • If everyone’s agreeing with you, that’s usually not a great sign. That usually means that you’ve got Snakes and Humans on the same page. If they’re both agreeing, ask yourself: why would Snakes agree that an answer must be correct? Because it’s probably not. That said, if they know you think that, they may use that information against you, and so on.
  • Sometimes the best thing you can do as Snakes is to divide and conquer. We try to do this to avoid the case I just mentioned, where everyone’s pushing for one wrong answer. This means that players can’t necessarily trust any answer, which can be a fun bit of discord. The only issue with this is that some players might notice there are answers we’re just not pushing as hard for (so they may be the right answer) or try to reverse our reverse-reverse psychology or whatever and assert that since there’s no critical mass, that the Snakes are sitting on various answers and just sowing discord. Honestly, it’s not really a good idea to start delving into how much gaslighting happens in this game, but I generally recommend that Snakes stay away from all endorsing the same incorrect answer.
  • One thing I really like doing as a Snake is to just state what answer I’m going with right as time is running out, in the hopes that I can at least pull one skeptical player into agreeing with me for some points. It’s generally smart to do as a normal human, as well, just because it helps get everyone on the same page, but as a Snake just putting the thought of “well, I don’t agree, so I’m voting B” in someone’s head might be enough for them to be like “well huh, I guess I also will do that”. I’m not sure why that works on people, but it totally does. It feels like almost psychological anchoring? Anyways, be definitive.
  • There’s not much you can do if a player actually knows the right answer. This happened to us on a question. The Mongoose happened to just have read about the fact on the card and was extremely confident, so there wasn’t anything we Snakes could do about it. That seems relatively
  • The game will develop its own metagame with players, so relying too much on a consistent pattern is going to lead you to mistakes at some point. As I implied a few times above, Snakes should remain somewhat inconsistent. Do they focus on promoting a wrong answer? Sowing discord on a right answer? Promoting a right answer so that too many players are promoting the right answer and the group starts to second-guess itself? There’s no guaranteed correct pattern, but they’re all fun to try!
  • It’s a party game; go wild, to a point. Don’t be disruptive, but feel free to latch onto ridiculous conclusions and hope for the best. The game’s supposed to be fun, and you vote for yourself. Nobody can make you vote for anything, anyways, so vote your conscience. Sometimes you’re right! I mean, if you’re riding the lighting, I imagine that sometimes is fairly few and far between, but it’s a nice idea, right?

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • I appreciate the lack of plastic in this game! I think Big Potato is trying to do a no-plastic thing, which rules. Big fan of that. I saw it in What Next?, as well (which was fantastic, by the way; review is coming).
  • It’s a cute theme. It does seem like they started with Snakes and then worked their way to Mongoose of Truth, but it all fits together, kind of. Just like real life, I don’t necessarily expect a Mongoose to be better at trivia; I just know it’s not a Snake.
  • I appreciate that even if you get outed as a Snake, you’re not necessarily out of the game. People might not trust you, but now you’re a wild card; they have no idea whether or not anything you’re leaning towards might be true or false. You can still sow discord, if that’s your kind of thing to do.
  • Everyone getting to vote individually also is a nice touch; even if your team is wrong, you may still be able to get points! I like that it’s not all-or-nothing like a few other social deduction games; the individual element makes voting feel better. My one complaint is that since the scoring is individual, this can present some odd incentive structures, but I haven’t seen a game yet where someone betrays their own team to prevent a player winning, and I hopefully won’t. That seems like a crappy way to play.
  • Fun art style, which is always good for a party game. The snakes look great! I love the blue and green combination. The game is very eye-catching, which I think is kind of a must for games in this space. It has to pop on the shelf, right?
  • Honestly, this is a lot more fun than standard trivia games, for me. I like games that are blended genres, and taking the trivia genre and social deduction genre and pairing them up seems to be pretty good for me.
  • This feels like fairly obscure trivia, which is probably best. I’ve, so far, only seen one question that anyone had actually known the answer to up front, which is good. Keep people guessing. The nice thing about the questions is that they tend to lead to discussion and postulation and all sorts of guessing, so there’s a good bit of conversation in the time allotted.
  • Also seems like a pretty easy game to retheme for more licensed stuff, if they want to go that direction. I’m not really out here jonesing for Harry Potter trivia for reasons that I think are probably obvious, by this point? But, I could see this being a good framework for themed trivia, be it sports or movies or whatever. Snakesss has a similarly flexible premise to Codenames, in that regard.

Mehs

  • Being the Mongoose of Truth is cute and all, but it would be nice if it afforded you some more useful ability than “Confirmed Not-Bad Person”. It just feels like it should be more significant, like Avalon‘s Merlin or Deception‘s Forensic Scientist. Instead, it’s more like being a confirmed Villager in One Night Ultimate Werewolf. You’re good, but that doesn’t mean you really know anything.
  • The cards feel a bit flimsy. Gotta keep costs down somehow, I suppose, but they’re definitely not the thickest cards I’ve ever used. Thankfully, I don’t really shuffle the cards much (better to have a section of the box for “seen” cards and “unseen”, so, shuffling would make that pointless), so it’s not a huge deal.
  • I’m never going to remember how many S’s are in the title. This is just BEEEEES all over again.

Cons

  • Given the unpredictability of trivia games, you’re either going to see the Snakes winning a lot of these rounds or you’re going to need to have some players who are very good at very obscure trivia. I imagine there’s some group that can read their group’s Snakes very well and divine the correct answers, but that hasn’t traditionally been my groups. I am so bad at it that I basically just don’t bother and I try to intuit the answer from the aether. It doesn’t really work. This does tend to tilt the game towards the Snakes, since there’s not much you can do short of sabotaging your own team, which seems like a not-great way to play. It’s ironically kind of the opposite of Saboteur, a game I reviewed forever ago. There, your odds of winning are kind of inversely related to how often you’re a Saboteur; here, it seems you’re more likely to win the longer you’re a Snake.
  • The game has kind of a finite lifespan within one group, since once you’ve seen an answer the card is kind of burned, for you. This is kind of a good argument for having the game be a bit app-driven; without having actual cards, you can’t necessarily see the answers on the cards (since there aren’t any) and you’re not burning the entire set if you happen to need some cards for Photography Reasons or something. Also, you need a stopwatch anyways, so integrating the two would be helpful. Yes, it does kind of just reduce the game to a few components, but, the One Night series is already doing that, so, I’m not that bothered by the concept. It also seems like it would make it easier to either cycle in new questions or to make sure that a player doesn’t get randomly assigned the same question for a long time. Apps!

Overall: 6.75 / 10

Overall, I like Snakesss!, but I think my major gripe with it is really just that in the games I’ve played, the strongest player is usually the player that’s been a Snake most often, just because I think new players aren’t used to adversarial trivia. It’s not bad, but it does make it challenging to catch up if you’ve been an unlucky human, and the game is six rounds. Once you’re behind, you’re behind. That moves it down my Ideal Party Games list, just a bit. That said, it is a party game, so the actual “who scores and who wins” may not matter as much to your group as long as the game is fun. And I think the game here is fun (as you might expect from Phil Walker-Harding, though, to be fair). The game lets players debate in a fairly harmless way, and even the social deduction elements don’t lead to shouting matches or angry debate; they just make everyone a tiny bit paranoid at all times. As they should, I suppose. Beyond that, it looks like Big Potato is trying to make the game more sustainably with less plastic, which is laudable, and they kept a fun and inviting color scheme (and a goofy Mongoose token, which I like). If you’re into those things or looking for a silly party game or just like trivia (or gaslighting, I guess), you might enjoy Snakesss! I’ve had fun with it.


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