Published by Tulenkantajat Oy, Impro is a party game but it's also a pencil & paper game so it's perhaps most suited as a dinner party game, perhaps played after a meal and a few drinks. It's intended as a humorous pastime but you'll need to play with the right group because there's a chance that some prospective players may find aspects of the gameplay awkward or embarrassing.
The game comprises a circular board, several decks of question cards, and notepads and pencils for the 3-6 players. There's also a 45-second sand timer to stop any activity taking overly long. Impro is a roll & move game, so the core mechanics will be universally familiar: you roll a single ordinary six-sided die and you move your pawn that number of spaces around the board. The spaces each relate to one of the decks, and when you land on a space you draw and action the top card from that deck. If you land on a space marked Impro, you just get to choose which deck to take a card from.
The decks are labelled Creativity, Emotion, Self-knowledge, Task and Mental Health. The Creativity cards all list 6 objects or activities; you roll the die and, depending on the card, you have to draw or act out the word on the card corresponding to the number drawn. The Emotion cards show both the word and a facial expression photo for an emotion and you have to model the expression for the other players. The Self-knowledge cards set out a scenario to be read out with its four multiple-choice answers. You write down your chosen option and the other players record which one they think you've chosen. Other players get to move their pawns one space forward for correctly identifying your drawing, charade, expression or multiple-choice answer, and you get to move forward a space for every correct guess.
Draw a Task card and you have to write down on your pad which other players would answer the question on the card in the affirmative. The other players all record their own answers. The questions vary widely from the factual ('guess which players often sleep naked') to the highly hypothetical ('who'd take the agility of a cat if, at the same time, they had to subsist on a diet of rats and mice?'). The player whose turn it is moves one space ahead for each correct guess. The rules for the other players are not quite as clearly written in the prototype we've been playing at Board's Eye View but we assumed the intention was that they'd each move forward one space if their answer was correctly guessed by the player taking their turn.
The Mental Health cards each set out a bizarre scenario that gives rise to a mental health evaluation. The player drawing the card reads it out and then has to justify or explain the activity. Players then vote on whether or not the player is sane. If the majority write down 'psychiatric hospital', you are committed. You take the hospital card and you miss your next turn. If the majority vote to 'discharge', you move ahead two spaces. Ties are resolved with a die roll. The Mental Health cards offer the most opportunity for 'improv' (improvisation), which is what we were, perhaps mistakenly, expecting from the game's title. Anyone playing competitively, however, will be likely to vote to commit their opponent to make them miss a turn no matter how inventive they are with their improvised explanation.
Like many party games, you need the right people in the right mood to enjoy Impro. There are cards marked with an '18+' logo to indicate that they aren't suitable for a family game, mostly because they refer to sex, excretion or drug-taking. Include them and the game would have to be classified as NSFW (Not Safe For Work). Unfortunately we didn't find this labelling wholly reliable. There are cards without the 18+ logo that some will find distasteful or offensive and there are some quite mild cards that seem to have been given the 18+ label merely because they refer to nudity. This is a game built on black humour so unless you know the people you are playing with very well, we'd suggest careful filleting of the decks before breaking Impro out for a play. Happily, that should still leave you ample cards to play with tho', as each of the decks comprises 50 cards!
Impro is currently live on Kickstarter. Click here to check it out.