28 July 2022
You’re only a word away
There certainly are a few party games with spooky themes, aren’t there? I’m not complaining, goodness knows I love a farcical séance or werewolf hunt as much as the next gothic geek, though eventually we must surely reach a critical mass of ‘games that have you speaking to dead teammates’. Thankfully that day isn’t today, as Phantom Ink delivers a fun word association game without needing to spell it ou-.
Phantom Ink is a Party Game for 4-8 players split into two teams, with two spirits (one for each team) trying to get their teammates (known as ‘mediums’) to guess a shared mystery object, like “Orange” or “Umbrella.” Each turn, mediums can either send two question cards from their hand to their spirit player, or make a guess as to what the object is. If given questions, the spirit will return one of the two cards and slowly answer the other, writing out one letter at a time until told to stop (by the mediums shouting ‘Silencio!’) whilst if mediums make a guess, they also write out their answer one letter at a time, getting stopped the moment they get a letter wrong.
Because both teams are trying to guess the same object, each clue would give another word associated with the mystery object. For example, with the word “Potato,” you could have clues like “ground,” “eat,” and “chips.” Even without knowing what questions the other team asked, it’s possible to deduce the correct answer with the full words. Unfortunately, you’ll very rarely ever have a full word spelt out and instead be looking at “gro,” “ea” and “chi.” Naturally, this is where things get silly.
The explosions of incredulous laughter after someone writes “Fa” and one medium shouts ‘Silencio!’ whilst everyone turns to stare at them is what makes or breaks a party game. It’s also a game that scales well when playing 2v2 (with one medium desperately trying to interpret their partner’s clues quick enough before giving the other pair any advantage) to 4v4 (as a gaggle of mediums breaks into barely concealed whispers after every letter slowly scribbled.)
The game’s visual design is also wonderful, with the gold embossed box and 1920s ornately stylised graphics capturing the kooky vibe of the game’s theme brilliantly, plus the double-sized pad that folds into the box is one of those “ooh” moments when unpacking that is far more satisfying than it should be.
Game length can fluctuate greatly depending on how well teams know each other. I’ve played a game where after one clue we know exactly what the word was, another game took eight drawn out rounds as me and the other spirit waited very patiently for our teammates to go through every fruit other than the correct answer. Thankfully you’ll rarely ever want to just play a single round, as everyone will want to rotate out as they try their hand at being a ghostly clue master, but it also means finding a natural point to stop playing is often when everyone has gotten tired of the novelty.
Whilst not a game you can play all night, Phantom Ink delivers a charming twist on the “give out cryptic clues” genre which titles like Master Word and Codenames have been offering for some time. For fans of word association puzzles or who just like to watch friends lose their minds working out whatever on earth “Th” could possibly mean, this game is an easy include in any collection of “night-time party games that will keep you all giggling.”
PLAY IT? YES
The spooky theme and silliness of scribbling half-baked clues makes a fun few rounds of play, plus a team game that keeps everyone involved is sure to be a hit at your next board game party.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED Mysterium
I’m aware that this is literally the only other ‘Ghost makes people guess things’ game around, but both are perfect at being gently spooky titles, where swapping out abstract pictures with word association is going to be a winner for some.
Designer: Mary Flanagan & Max Seidman
Time: 15 minutes
What’s in the box?
- Double-joined game pad
- 2 Pencils
- 52 Object cards
- 102 Question cards
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This review came from Tabletop Gaming Magazine, which is home to all of the latest and greatest tabletop goodness. Whether you're a board gamer, card gamer, wargamer, RPG player or all of the above, find your copy here.Get your magazine here
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