Updated: 5 days ago
News reports need to tell a story and editors reputedly used to tell cub reporters that every news story should answer the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How questions. That's the essential premise behind Mad News from Creative Live and YWOW Games.
Mad News is a part game for 3-6 players (the box suggests it can be played with two but, like most party games, it's hard to make it work with fewer than three). There are decks of cards marked Where, Who, What, Who To, What With and Why, and every player starts off with one of each card dealt them face down. They place the cards in a rack.
There's a Monopoly-style board with squares that mostly correspond to the card decks. You roll a standard six-sided die and move your news reporter cartoon avatar around the board. If, for example, you land on a Where square, you take another Where card and add it to your rack in place of the Where card already there. Some other squares have bonus or penalty special effects but the four corner squares are each labelled Breaking News. When you land on one of those, you reveal your rack, flip the sand timer and recount a news story to the other players that uses each of your cards. You do this before the sand timer runs out, then take any questions on your story. Then the other players give you either a thumbs up or thumbs down. If you have more thumbs up than thumbs down, you receive a medal token. The winner of the game is the player with the most medal tokens when the game ends.
The idea of a storytelling party game using these 6Ws is certainly sound. As with most storytelling party games, the fun you get out of the game is dependent on the participants (you get out what you put in). We found tho' that some of the trappings of Mad News got in the way of the game. Some will find the roll & move mechanic more appealing than others. Some of the penalty/bonus squares add player interaction effects, but you're mainly picking up 6W cards. The rules say that cards you pick up replace those previously in that position in your rack; we'd have preferred the extra agency in allowing players to choose which of the two cards to keep. You might try house ruling that. In our Board's Eye View plays, some players called for us to dispense with the board completely and just focus on the storytelling party game. That too would be a viable option.
Timings were also an issue in our plays of Mad News. While it is commendable that Nuno Markl, the game's designer, pushes players to inject pace into their storytelling, the sand timer that came in our copy of the game ran for just 26 seconds, which seemed overly tight. We all of us have timers on our 'phones, so it's no great hassle to substitute your own timer - giving players perhaps 60-90 seconds to recount their stories. You'll need an external timer anyway because Mad News doesn't have a set ending: the rules simply say set your own 30-, 60- or 90-minute playing time!
Mad News will appeal to those who enjoy playing storytelling party games like Funemployed (IronWall/Mattel) and Snake Oil (Out of the Box). Those are both card-based games, and, for brevity, you can easily turn Mad News into a similar card-based game by just ditching the board. In either event, it's a game that's at its best with four or more players and a similar number of drinks.