That’s Not a Hat Family Game Review

17 April 2024
Or is it? If you say a game contains memory as a key component, most people will about-face and become an Olympic sprinter. It’s as hated as roll & move when it comes to board gaming staples. That’s Not a Hat is a memory game. No, no, hold up. This one’s actually something special.

How to play That's Not a Hat

The structure is simple. Everyone is dealt a faceup card showing a black and white drawing. It’s something simple, like a melon or a baseball. It’s probably not a hat, but it could be. Then a start player draws a new card off the deck and reveals it to everyone. After a moment, they turn this card facedown, and then pass it either left or right, depending on which way the arrow points on the card back.


Passing cards in this game is similar to the splendid Cockroach Poker. You make an open claim on what drawing exists on the card’s face, and then present it to your neighbor. They can call you out, flipping it faceup and revealing the truth. When such a challenge occurs, whichever player is incorrect takes the card, which is bad.


If the card is not challenged, then the receiving player must pass the card they already possessed, flipping it facedown if it was previously visible to everyone and then again, passing it in the direction of the arrow on its back. After awhile, all of the cards are facedown, being passed about like a blindfolded game of Hot Potato full of suspicion.


Related article: 10 of the Best Family Games


Is That's Not a Hat a good game?


It’s kind of an awkward game to explain through words, as it’s something that’s quickly internalised with just a couple of in-person examples. The brilliance of the game is that it rides a fine line between serious and silly. You can focus on memorising the facedown card you have in front of you, or if you’re feeling a little bold, maybe a couple of others being passed around. It doesn’t take long before someone is talking trash or prodding another player to challenge a card they’ve just been dealt. In this way, it’s equal parts bluffing, particularly at larger player counts where it’s impossible to remember all of the cards in play.


There is a strong affordance of creativity. I’ve played games where I’ve spent 10 seconds pretending as though I’ve forgotten what my card is before timidly passing it with a wince. Luring a player into the trap is hilarious. Laughter ensues and everyone celebrates the snare.




Other times I’ve legitimately forgotten my card and passed it with confidence. “Here, have the flower pot.” More than once a player has accepted the card without challenging, despite that exact card already being out of play and forgotten from an earlier turn. Those moments are the best.


The sole rough spot with the design is that the game ends when a player must take a third card as a penalty for incorrectly challenging someone or being caught as a liar. When this occurs, the player with the least amount of penalty cards is the winner. There’s a fragility there in that someone taking the game too seriously would want to stall until they have a shot at winning, not challenging an obvious lie if it would end the game too soon. Thankfully, most don’t approach That’s Not a Hat with such a demeanor, but the design would have benefitted from following Cockroach Poker’s structure of declaring a single loser and awarding the victory to everyone else at the table.




Regardless of this structural deficit, this little card game is a beauty. Its ratio of amusement to playtime is among the best in class, and you can present it to players of any age or skill. The bluffing element, combined with the memory aspect being somewhat simple, surprises hesitant players and wins them over quite readily. This is a fantastic experience absolutely worth seeking out.

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Related article: 7 essential tips for playing board games with family


Should you play the That's Not a Hat family game?


Play It? Yes


A very inviting and humorous play experience that overcomes the stigma associated with memory games. You can play with this your child or your grandparent, and it will assuredly deliver laughter and drama. Despite its diminutive size and strategic scope, this is one of the stronger releases of 2023 and a real underrated gem.


Try this if you liked Cockroach Poker…


It occupies a similar bluffing space as a player must decide to challenge another’s claim. The resolution produces similar moments of baited breath as the card is revealed and someone gets shafted. Meanwhile, everyone else is laughing and throwing a celebration.


Designer: Kasper Lapp

Publisher: Ravensburger

Time: 15 minutes

Players: 3-8

Age: 8+

Price: £7.99


What’s in the box?

110 Cards



You can purchase That's Not a Hat from Amazon



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