With its cards featuring sometimes only subtly different geometric triangular shapes, Sign could scarcely look less like a party game, but that’s exactly what it is.
Published by The Mountain Men, in Sign, players are divided into two or three teams (so this is a game for between 4 and 9 players). Players each have their own hand of five cards and there is a row of cards on the table. In what, depending on the players, can be a frenetic scramble or an orderly routine, players swap cards with those on the table with the aim of collecting a hand of five identical matching symbols.
It’s a party game so card swapping is a free-for-all: there is no genteel taking of ‘turns’. Players can only take and discard one card at a time, though: they cannot increase or decrease their hand size by more than one. Players also need to remember that Sign is a team game. A player cannot just declare they have completed their quintet set of five – they need to have one of their team members declare for them by pointing to them and calling out ‘sign’. This means that teams need to agree beforehand a word or gesture that they will each use to signal to teammates they’ve got a set. The sign mustn’t be too obvious, however, as rival teams can steal points by calling ‘sign’ before the teammates of the player who has collected the quintet.
This game is actually more fun than it looks – which isn’t meant as a back-handed compliment. It plays well: with players striving to complete a quintet but also trying to keep track of the quintets team members and opponents may be collecting. Those who play the game are usually hooked and keen to play again. The problem is that it doesn’t immediately look like it’s going to be a fun game: players look at the cards and initially assume it’s a maths or puzzle game. That can mean you can struggle at first to get people to play.
The design of the cards also means that experienced games players may be tempted to wander off on a tangent using the cards to create their own very different card games. That’s no bad thing – there is the potential for several quite interesting and very different games utilising the Sign cards – but you may find such speculation again detracts from this as a fun team party game.