Review – Buffalo
Paul Carboni, Play Unplugged
With the notable exception of Cranium, I don’t normally go in for what some call party games. I don’t have anything against them per se; I just tend to find a game like Settlers of Catan or 7 Wonders more stimulating. However, every once in a while a game comes along that is so entertaining, I find myself buffaloed at its existence.
The slightly old-timey bit of slang in that last sentence is the segue for the game I’m reviewing today. Buffalo is a game by Tiltfactor (you may remember their other infectious game reviewed on Play Unplugged). Like any good party game, Buffalo is pretty fast to learn. You have two sets of cards, an orange deck and a blue deck. The orange deck is filled with adjectives, while the blue deck is filled with nouns. Players take turns flipping a blue card and an orange card simultaneously. The first one to name a real or fictional character wins the cards, and two more cards are flipped over. Lather, rinse, repeat. The game ends when the decks run out, and the person with the most cards is the winner.
It’s a simple mechanic to be sure, but one of the marks of good design for games or anything else is that you only use what you need. Buffalo does exactly that. It has the fast paced excitement of a game like Slap Jack, and everyone participates at the same time (a mark in its favor by my estimation). Of course, there are times when the groups find themselves buffaloed, or stumped, by the pair facing them. One time my group played, we got “Single Parent” and “Married” as our noun and adjective. But fear not, after the chuckles or intent stares subside and the group decides they can’t make a match, you just turn over two more cards.
Now, normally when you make a match you only get to take the cards you matched. So if you had “Loved”, “Eco-friendly”, “YouTube Star”, and “Wordsmith” on the board, and then shouted “Hannah Hart” you’d only take “Loved” and “YouTube Star”, leaving your fellow players to puzzle with you over who an eco-friendly wordsmith would be. However, both decks contain a number of Buffalo cards which, instead of a word, have the buffalo face printed on them. These cards give you a real opportunity to get ahead because if one of them is on the table and you make a match, you take all the cards.
+ Elegant design is blisteringly fast to learn
+ Involves all players at all moments
+ Inevitably starts people talking; you’ll probably learn something you didn’t know before!
- Somewhat limited replay value. While the nouns and adjective may change, it is generally the same game each time.
- Likely a “popcorn” game. The one you settle for because it’s there when you want to play something, but aren’t feeling up to the commitment a game like, say Trajan might require.
My play group had a lot of fun with Buffalo, and it allowed us to include some friends that didn’t normally like to play the bigger board games or RPGs with us. Which is great. Ultimately I feel like Buffalo will be a game that gets pulled out during a party when people are looking for something to do rather than the kind of game people clamor to play again and again. Which is fine! The world needs party games for moments like that, and Buffalo is a fantastic specimen of its brood. If you’re looking for a game to bring to gathering that isn’t known for its tabletop proclivities (especially those with casual gaming friends), Buffalo is the game for you. Grab it from Uncommon Goods today for $19.