Snakesss is a new party game from Phil Walker-Harding, whose strategy tabletop games include Imhotep, Cacao, and Gizmos; and from Big Potato Games, which mostly publishes light party games like the hidden-identity game The Chameleon. Combining a Werewolf-style setup where some players are secretly trying to sabotage everyone else with the sort of silly trivia questions that have become popular in party games the last few years, Snakesss somehow takes two overused concepts and turns them into one very fun, quick-to-learn game. (It’s a Target exclusive right now.)
The idea of Snakesss couldn’t be simpler: Half of you are liars. Given a group of at least four players, the more the better (up to eight), on each turn, about half will be assigned secret roles as Ordinary Human and half will be Snakes, with one player assigned to be the Mongoose, who tries to get the right answer and whose identity is the only one that’s public. Everyone will read an esoteric trivia question with three possible answers. Everyone closes their eyes, and the snakes get to look at the flip side of the card to see which answer is the correct one. The honest players (Humans) will try to answer the question. The snakes, however, will try to convince everyone else to pick one of the two wrong answers. They can work together, or pretend to disagree, or use any tactic they’d like.
After two minutes of discussion, the ordinary humans vote, also in secret, by placing one of their three markers (A, B, or C) face-down in the center of the table. If you’re an honest player and you get the right answer, you get one point for every player who guessed correctly. If you guess wrong, you get … nothing. (Good day, sir.) If you’re a snake, however, you put your snake token forward instead, and you score based on how many people guessed incorrectly. After the question is resolved, everyone returns their character tokens to the moderator, who shuffles and redistributes them for the next question. This continues through six questions, after which you tally up all of the scores to determine a winner.
The questions in Snakesss are appropriately ridiculous, and certainly not the sort of trivia that that one guy in your group who goes to pub trivia contests four nights a week might know. For example, which of these three things has been proven to attract sharks: strobe lights, soy sauce, or heavy metal music? What is a truel: A duel between three people, a lie that is mostly true, or a type of farming tool? Which of these 1920s slang phrases meant to go to the bathroom: To get on the trolley, to pour a tall one, or to iron your shoelaces?
Games take a half hour or so, but that’s going to depend on how social the group is and how much time you spend laughing between questions. (In our case, it was a lot, especially over who turned out to be a surprisingly good liar.) The box suggests that it’s for ages 12 and up, but I’ve played One Night Ultimate Werewolf with much younger players and seen them lie extremely effectively. My only real complaint with Snakesss is that it’s limited to eight players—I think you could play at least 10, maybe more, if you had enough tokens, or just made a bunch of your own tokens, and that would just allow you to bust it out for larger groups, especially since four players is just barely enough to make this format work. It’s the best party/social game I’ve tried this year so far.
Keith Law is the author of The Inside Game and Smart Baseball and a senior baseball writer for The Athletic. You can find his personal blog the dish, covering games, literature, and more, at meadowparty.com/blog.