At first glance, Likewise, a game from Buffalo Games, looks like it’s going to be a new clone of Balderdash or Apples to Apples or another word association game. But the instructions tell you the unique hook: In order to score points, you have to come up with the very same things as at least one of the other players – as if you would be able to read their minds. So what could have been just another word association game becomes a very unique form of How Well Do I Know You?
Likewise is for three to six players, and one of its conveniences is that instead of simple having players throw cards out and try to match them to other cards with terms that exist in the game’s universe. You know how it goes: Pick a card, try to match up the word on the card with another word on another card that at least semi-plausibly defines the first. Likewise fixes this dynamic by giving every player an erasable thought bubble and a marker. (Bring your own napkins.) It also makes the game more challenging, but what I liked most about the thought bubbles is that they keep the game flowing at a fast pace. Also, you can write anything you want on the thought bubbles, no matter how absurd.
Each player takes a turn rolling a single die with the terms “likewise,” “wiseguys,” and “doodle” on the sides. After the roll, a player picks up a pair of cards which reveal a kind of item you’ll have to think fits the description. My own play came up with ideas like “romantic thing in the fridge,” “weird sports team,” and “smelly quote.” Like in Balderdash, you have to come up with something that best fits the term, except in Likewise you’re thinking of something that already exists in order to meet a weird, off-color description.
On “likewise,” you write down what it is you’re thinking of. This is the most common result. “Doodle” lets you draw it instead, which can lead to some interesting Win-Lose-Or-Draw situations. In “wiseguys,” you and another player team up to think of something. I didn’t think the “wiseguys” set was thought through enough. It doesn’t work very well with less than four players, for one thing. For another thing, how are you supposed to share with your teammate without letting all the other players in on your secret?
On my maiden play of Likewise, my compadres and I found ourselves really getting into it. We found ourselves getting into weird arguments about the little technicalities and word quirks which could potentially give alternate meanings to whatever item came up on our cards. Other times, we found ourselves stuck for ideas, so we just wrote down the first things that came to our heads. It got to be great fun as my opponents and I berated each other over good answers, and for not knowing each other quite as well as we’d hoped we did. Games of Likewise, due to the nature of the way points are scored, aren’t going to go by very quickly. But in the midst of the conversation, it will certainly SEEM quick.
During a game, one of the things my opponents and I had to describe was “weird sports team.” Now, there are a million different ways to describe just what a weird sports team is. Do you pick out a particular, existing sports team that is known for having a weird, offbeat character, marching to the beat of its own drummer, like the Chicago White Sox? Or do you just name a particular sport which is weird, and in which the very existence of a professional team is weird by default? My group chose the latter option just for kicks.
Likewise has a few packaging issues. The first is that the markers all come individually wrapped in the tightest, most stubborn plastic since CD jewel cases, which if you remember is slightly stronger than adamantium. The second is that the directions felt a little bit sparse. There weren’t many examples to go on, and so they take on a see-game-play-game feel.
If you’re able to play Likewise, though, it’s by all means refreshing to play a word game that allows you to make any kind of association you want. It’s also less mess than the endless card flipping from Apples to Apples or the sloppy, slow writing in Balderdash. Likewise is made by a game creator called Buffalo Games which is based in Buffalo, New York, so chances are if it sounds interesting, you’ll be doing some internet scanning for it.