Note: This preview uses pre-release components and rules. What you see here may be different from the final, published game.
Being happily married to an English teacher, Shakespeare is as constant as the Northern star in our house. You could say that all the world is a tabletop, and we are merely players.
Like many plays that interpret the Bard, Bill Shakespeare is Dead by Brikenbrak Games, presents familiar mechanics with new twists and variations. Is this game destined to be, or not to be? Read on to find out.
Bill Shakespeare is Dead by Brikenbrak Games is a card game for adults that has no time limit and requires at least 5 adult players.
In Bill Shakespeare is Dead, players act out scenes from some of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, while players play cards that have nouns and verbs that traverse the spectrum from quirky to raunchy. A “Stage Manager” calls out what type of word is needed while two players read along from a script card, doing their best to act out the scene in a convincing and entertaining manner. The Stage Manager decides who has won the Act (based on their personal preference and criteria), points are awarded, and a new “Stage Manager” is selected to begin the cycle all over again. Whoever has the most points at the end of the game is declared the winner (or not. See below).
How to Play:
At the beginning of the game, one of the plays is selected as the one to be acted out, and each player selects a character card. A Stage Manager is randomly picked, and that player picks out two character cards (also at random) to act out in the first scene. Each player draws 5 cards that contain nouns and verbs of varying subject, from the oddball to the ribald.
The actors read from the script card for Act I, which have blank spaces at strategic points in the verses. When a blank is reached, the Stage Manager calls out the part of speech that is needed, and the rest of the players play the card they think would be the most humorous, appropriate or inappropriate, at which point the Stage Manager chooses one of the words for the actors to work into their performance. When the actors reach the end of the Act, the Stage Manager picks a winner based on either whom they felt had the best performance, whom contributed the best words to the scene, or any other criteria they see fit.
Points are awarded to each for how many words are selected, for whoever wins the scene, and for being the Stage Manager. Whoever scored the most points during the scene becomes the next Stage Manager, and the next act is started. However, powers of the character cards can affect this process, in various ways (thumb wrestling, performing behind a curtain as Polonius, and so forth). Gameplay continues until the end of the play is reached, at which time points are totaled and a winner is declared.
Bill Shakespeare is Dead does a good job in implementing a “Cards Against Humanity”-style game in a way that is original and novel. The source material that Shakespeare provides is a great backbone on which to build an off-color game, since the Bard himself had plenty of ribaldry in his works (i.e, In R&J, Mercutio talks about “cut off the heads of the maids, aye, or their maidenheads.” Think about it, people). Like any other adult card game, the noun/verb cards are very off-color at times, straddling the line between humorous and awkward effectively.
The variable powers presented by the character cards work well to shake up what could be a mechanically boring game, and some of the powers are extremely thematic in their implementation. For instance, Polonius’s power gives that player an automatic, once-per-game Act win if they perform their entire scene behind a curtain or with a towel over their head (again, think about it.) The theme shines through in this game, as it is constructed with a solid Shakespeare foundation.
The rules for Bill Shakespeare is Dead can be explained in less than two minutes, which is perfect for a game that is meant to be played at parties and by people who may or may not be indulging in spirits. While the game can ostensibly be played for points, with a winner declared, we found that acting through the scenes and having a great experience trumped any need to keep score.
While the copy of the game we reviewed contained a smaller pool of cards to play and only two plays (Hamlet and R&J), an issue that concerns us is the replay value factor of the game. While any Shakepeare play could be adapted and improvised to fit the mechanics of the game (King Lear!) that might be too much work for any non-English major.
Bill Shakespeare is Dead is a fun party game for adults that provides a solid variation on other, better known raunchy card games. This game is perfect for adult gamers who have no difficulty in self-expression and performance, and who do not mind taking liberties with the Bard’s words.
This game should be avoided by anyone who has a serious Shakespeare scholar in their gaming group, as they will continually interject the correct words, attempt to explain context and history, and throw withering looks at everyone who just doesn’t get it. Then again, that could just be my wife.
If you’d like to become a backer, pledges start at $30 the full game and stretch goals. Bill Shakespeare is Dead is scheduled to be in backers hands in October of 2015 and you have until Saturday, May 9th to become a backer. Head over today and check it out.
As always, we don’t post ratings for preview copies as the components and rules may change from the final game. Check back with us after the game is produced for a full review.