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Sound Box

Designed by Hjalmar Hach and Lorenzo Silva, and published by Horrible Guild, Sound Box is a light cooperative party game for 4-7 players where one player has to identify the sounds being made by the others. One player dons a pair of cardboard 'glasses' that act as a blindfold. They are the 'guesser'. If you play with six or seven players, another player is similarly blindfolded as the 'recorder'. It'll be their job to listen to the sounds and help the 'guesser' by mimicking them as the 'guesser' tries to identify what they've heard.

The objective in Sound Box is to advance the players' collective token to the end of track, moving it forward for each correct guess. Get a guess wrong tho' and another token advances along a 'heartbreak' health track. If you get to the end of that track, it's game over and you collectively lose. The board will have 10 words/scenarios along one side. The 3-5 players who will be making the sounds will pick tokens from a bag showing them which numbered word they need to make the sound for. Players can take a few moments to think about what sounds they are going to make and then they flip the supplied 13-second sand timer and all simultaneously make those sounds. When they finish, the 'guesser' takes off their cardboard eye cover and points to the words they think they've had clues for. The 'guesser' needs to pick first the sounds they're most sure of because, just like in Codenames (Czech Games Edition), all guessing ends as soon as you get one wrong.

With most party games, whether or not they work for you depends on who you play with. That's especially so with Sound Box. The game made an appearance at our local games group where it bombed so badly that nobody was willing to play even a second round. This was surprising because Wee Whimsical Creatures (Stuff by Bez) has become quite a popular filler game choice over the past year or so. Sound Box is obviously what we term in the UK as a 'Marmite' game - named after the strongly flavoured yeast extract that people famously either love or hate - because the game proved to be quite a hit in subsequent plays with family groups. It depends perhaps whether you are repelled or entertained by the inevitable cacophony of sound.

There's a bit more to the game design than merely making and guessing at noises. You can vary the difficulty by limiting the cards to those marked with a star as being easier and more suitable for playing with children. That's not to say that any of the cards are NSFW (Not Safe For Work) but some words - for example, 'Honeymoon' - could potentially give rise to sounds that might be considered risqué. As you advance along the track to success, the game ups the difficulty level by adding more cards into the mix and by requiring a player to give clues to two cards rather than one, either simultaneously or in succession but all within the 13-second sound slot. And if players are struggling - as well you might because many of the words are quite difficult to clue - there are mechanics for easing up a little if you're a long way down the health track.

For us, the sweet spot for Sound Box has been five or six players; in both cases, player counts that have four players making sounds simultaneously. With five sound makers (in the seven-player game), the barrage of noise can make it too hard for the 'guesser' to discern all the individual sound clues; with just three sound makers, it's less fun because it can be too easy to distinguish the clues. In any event tho' the crucial requirement is that you play Sound Box with the right group in the right frame of mind. It's a game we'll certainly be breaking out to play next time we have a family gathering.

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