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What on Earth Are You Talking About?

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

We featured the card game Psycho Killer on Board’s Eye View last year. Now the same team of Michael Wilkinson and Mitch Young, and publisher Escape Tabletop are back with What on Earth Are you Talking About? - a novel and rather challenging party game for 4-10 players.

The premise is that players have been abducted by aliens who are trying to communicate with them. The alien players have a card with the mostly one or two-word term or phrase they are trying to communicate. They also have a card that sets out a series of letters. The alien can only communicate by constructing a sentence that only uses words that start with the letters on their card and only in the order the letters appear on the card, except that where the card shows dashes the alien can use any word.

If we give an example, you’ll get an idea of how fiendishly difficult this can be. If the code card shows B _ P _ D B A S O M, the alien might give the clue: Bottle of Plonk not Drunk But A Sip - Only Merlot. Would you get from that the phrase 'Wine Tasting'? In our plays at Board’s Eye View, there’s been fun and amusement at the tortuous sentences that aliens end up with but it can sometimes be just as much fun watching the alien agonising over their choice of words.

The suggested set up is for two players to be human abductees competing against each other to decode the communication efforts of the other players who are aliens. Tho' What on Earth Are You Talking About? is very obviously a party game, the challenge for the aliens in concocting clues is such that it’s a game that risks long pauses that could mean other players drifting off from the game. Our solution was to set the game up like a comedy panel show where the panellists dazzle us with their wit only because their seemingly spontaneous responses are actually the result of prior warning and preparation. In short, we had the greatest fun when players were each given their pair of alien cards (phrase and letters) in advance so they each had a few minutes to work on their clue, and write it down; perhaps while playing another quite separate game. Play What on Earth Are You Talking About? this way and you avoid the pregnant pauses and instead focus on players’ witty badinage and often hilarious misguesses.

We’ve been playing a preview prototype of What on Earth Are You Talking About? ahead of the game’s launch on Kickstarter. It incorporates a huge pile of around 200 or so cards covering everyday phrases, some modern slang and just a few terms and phrases that might be considered risqé and which might cause offence to some. There are ample cards in the deck tho’ to allow you to fillet out any that might be unsuitable for playing with granny or which might be classified as NSFW (Not Safe For Work). We'd also recommend culling cards where the words or phrases are too obscure to be realistically guessed by those playing the game: for example, when the players are all Brits, it'd be a good idea to take out cards that reference American sporting terms. Finally, if players find the game too difficult, allow clues that use fewer words (so, taking our example above: 'Bottle of Plonk not Drunk', using just the first five letters of the sequence) and then maybe scale up to insisting on words for all the letters on the card.

Escape Tabletop are bringing What on Earth Are You Talking About? to Kickstarter on 7 February. We'll add a link to the campaign when it goes live.

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