The Metagame

I’d like to think that I have a diverse set of games in my current collection, anything from the highly strategic to the super casual. Usually the reason why I pick certain games is because they are unique, different, have a theme that stands out from others, or  has gameplay that is highly engaging to many of my friends.

Saying this, I have a bit of a confession to make. There is one type of game that I try to avoid putting into my collection. I don’t know if there is a universal term for them, so I’m going to describe them as “judgement party games”. These are the games where you have one person be the judge and be given some sort of category or situation, while the other players find a card or write an answer that appeals to the judge. The judge can set any criteria they want to determine an overall winner, such as accuracy, depth of the answer, or even humour. Once the judge picks an answer, the person whose card was picked by the judge earns a point. Then a new judge is selected and a new round happens with a new situation.

One of the most renown of these games was Apples to Apples, where a player was given an adjective such as “creative” or “awkward”, and the others had to find a card in their hand that the judge would most relate to that word. Since then, dozens of games have followed this mechanic, including What?, Say Anything, Crappy Birthday, Snake Oil, Superfight, A Million Dollars But, Personally Incorrect, and of course the now cult classic, Cards Against Humanity.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed playing these games.  I even owned the game “What?” until I sold it to a friend. I think the problem I find with these games, is that it’s so overdone at parties and gatherings that I’m just numb to it. I see it all the time. I would go to some friends’ house. One friend would suggest, let’s play board games. I become ecstatic, hoping that they are going to play something new and out of the ordinary. That is until I see that the friend pulls out The Bigger Blacker version of Cards Against Humanity, to which I then cringe. I swear if I see that Pac-Man card one more time…if you’ve played the game, you know which one I’m talking about.

If I was ever going to pick a judgement party game and add it to my stack of games, it would have to significantly stand out from all the others in some way, and sure enough, there was one game after reading about it I said, this definitely needs to come into the collection.


The Metagame is a party game created by Local No. 12 (Colleen Macklin, John Sharp & Eric Zimmerman) and is published by Buffalo Games. The game comes with 200 culture cards, which feature random things, anything from North Korea, to Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”, as well as 100 opinion cards, which have random categories, questions, or statements. Metagame also comes with a rulebook that has seven different games that you can play  with these cards. In addition, Local No. 12 offers two additional expansions for Sci-Fi and Movies. These just add more cards to your collection of culture and opinion cards.


Now prior to writing this blog, I have only tried two of the seven games found in the rulebook, Matchmaker, and Think-Alike and already I have enjoyed the game thoroughly.

Matchmaker follows the standard judgement party game style. Each player is given a hand of four culture cards and an opinion card which is placed in front of them. All players play simultaneously, putting culture cards on what they think would best answer the opinion card prompt, except on their own. If the opinion card has a blank on it, any player can fill in the blank with whatever word they like. Once all the culture cards have been placed, each player will take the stack of cards, shuffle them, lay them out in front of their peers, and determine which card best answers the prompt. The twist is that every culture card found on the opinion card is worth one point, meaning the more culture cards placed the more the opinion card is worth, and the player who appeals to the judge the best, gets the points.

In Think-Alike, players get into teams of two. The goal is to be the first team to get four opinion cards. On the teams’ turn, they will be given a prompt from the opinion cards. Then two culture cards are shown face up in front of them. Each player on the team silently picks one of the two cards that best answers the prompt and then reveal their answers in front of them. If they match they win the opinion  card and in the next round will have three culture cards, then four, and finally five.

Metagame also has rules for five other games:

  • History 101 – Just like the game “Timeline” players try to put the the culture cards in the correct chronology.
  • Debate Club – Similar to “Snake Oil”, where you try to debate why your answer will answer the opinion card better than another player.
  • Metaquilt – A strategic card laying game in which culture and opinion cards that are laid together side by side must make some sort of logical sense.


  • Head to Head – A three player game where one player acts as the judge, while the other two place culture cards on opinion cards as fast as they can.
  • Massively Multiplayer Metagame – A game that can potentially be played by more than 50 people. Each person will have culture cards and opinion cards. Any person can instigate and judge a debate by reading aloud their opinion card. The first two people to have a culture card that they feel will win the debate can go the judge and plead their case. The winner takes the loser’s culture card.

And after reading the website, the website boasts even more ways to play.

  • Special Occasion – It’s similar to “Crappy Birthday”, where you pick a card that you would give to the judge and play on the wishes of your friends.
  • What the What – A communication game like “Taboo”, “Password”, or “Time’s Up” where you are trying to get your team to guess as many culture cards as possible.
  • Get a Clue – Exactly like “Dixit” but with culture cards instead. A player gives a clue and has to ensure that only some people get the clue.

The Metagame is a minimalist’s dream. It is ingenious for Local No. 12 to essentially take all these different party games and consolidate them into this teeny-tiny box. What I also respect about this game is how it encourages creativity. They say in the rulebook that if you have tried every official game that Metagame has to offer, make up your own rules and try something original. I mean hypothetically, you could play in the style of Apples to Apples, where you give the cards to the judge and that person shuffles them up and picks a winner, if that is your cup of tea. You could even play the game “Would you rather?”, where you use the opinion cards and culture cards to determine what the majority would say. To me the possibilities are endless.

I also love how this game scales. This is a game designed to break the ice, and you can essentially have anywhere from 2 to 50+ players play this game. I don’t think I can fathom how it would work for 50 people, but I can see that it is highly possible as long as you have a great mediator.

Obviously, this is a game designed for conversation and based on the topics found on the opinion cards, it makes some pretty interesting debates. For example, one of the my favourite questions that came up during the game “Think-Alike” was “Which is better to have in bed? Helvetica or Comic Sans?” It was one of the strangest questions I’ve heard, but the debate that came out of it was so funny.  The only negative I see with this, like with many social games, is that it has to work with the group of people you’re with. If you have a bunch of friends who are introverted, Metagame might flop for these people.

The Metagame is a brilliant game. It is adult-themed, but is tasteful, not vulgar like Cards Against Humanity. It encourages conversation and creativity and although it may not replace every party game in my collection, it certainly lightens my load when I’m choosing games for get-togethers. It is a light-hearted versatile game that can be played numerous ways and can appeal to many different people. This definitely is one I highly recommend you purchase.

One more thing I should mention. If you don’t want to purchase the game, the game provides also a free print-and-play version. The link to this can be found below:


  • Unique judgement party game
  • Versatile; it can be played 10 different ways, and encourages players to find new ways to play.
  • Can be played by many players


  • Not recommended for the introverted




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