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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The 7th 'Jackbox Party Pack' Is the First Perfect Pack

The Jackbox Party Packs are, collectively, a great collection of mini games that can liven up any party. Individually, though, they can often be a bit of a mess. Some of the packs have a few good games with a couple snoozers, while others have maybe one or two fun games, tops. Which is why it was a pleasant surprise to learn that the company’s latest, Jackbox Party Pack 7, is the closest thing the company has ever had to a perfect party pack.

It Started With a Quiplash

Quiplash is one of Jackbox’s classic games, so putting in a third version feels like a cheat to raise the pack’s average quality. However, this version does something crucial: it fixes the godawful endgame. In previous Quiplashes, players would compete to fill in prompts against each other, only for everyone to get the same prompt in the final round.

That ending is … fine. It’s fine! But having so many answers to one prompt can drive home how difficult it is for your group to be funny. Plus, it’s over pretty quickly in something of an anti-climax. Instead, Quiplash 3 gets rid of this ending and swaps it out for a three-prompt round, where two players are pitted against each other, and can provide three answers to a prompt such as “The three steps to have a perfect little morning.” Each answer is read out one at a time, giving players more of a sense of timing and presentation to their answers. Overall it just flows better and feels more like a proper ending to the game.

To make things even better, Quiplash 3 supports user-generated packs, so if the usual stable of questions start to get boring, you can try your hand at some prompts generated by other players, usually centered around a theme. In my experience, these were hit or miss, but after playing the regular game a few times, the extra content will come in handy.

Then a Round of Blather ’Round

The first time I played Blather ’Round, it didn’t go well. “Ah, here we go. One of the first duds of the pack,” I thought. Fortunately, I have a general rule that I don’t give up on a game after one round, and coming back a second time paid off.


This game is a Taboo or Catch Phrase–style game, where players have to choose from a set of preexisting prompts and then have to use mad-lib style sentences to help the players guess what phrase they chose. The trick in this game is that players can’t arbitrarily choose what clues to give. If I get the phrase “Olive Garden,” I can piece together the clue “It’s where you are the crowd,” but I can’t arbitrarily write “When you’re here, you’re family.”

You can also follow up with sentences based on things your friends have already guessed, like “It’s kinda similar to Taco Bell.” Which is sort of true, I guess! And that’s where the real fun with this game comes from. Once you get into the swing of it, trying to figure out what convoluted hoops the host has to jump through to make a clue land is more fun than the game might be if you had all the freedom in the world to make up your own hints.

The Devil and the Details and You

If there’s one game that did actually bomb (for my groups, anyway), it was The Devil and the Details. Although it seems that, much like a lot of things in 2020, it’s a victim of circumstance. In this game, players have to coordinate to accomplish tasks in the totally normal home where devils are pretending to be human.

It’s a game designed to be chaotic, forcing players to both work together, and undermine each other, which would be exactly the kind of convoluted, messy gameplay that would liven up any party … if it could be played in person. Unfortunately, my group has been playing these games over Discord, where it’s a lot harder to direct conversations to one other person without disrupting everyone else. We tried a couple times and it fell flat, but the potential is so clearly there. Maybe someday I’ll be able to leap off the couch and run to Chris’s chair and collaborate with him to undermine Amanda, but for now it’s firmly in the “good, but we can do better” camp.

Which is still a step up from some of the other Jackbox duds.

Take the Stage With Talking Points

Thank you for coming to my TED talk. Over the next three paragraphs, I’m going to describe to you the fascinating world of trying to explain randomized topics to a room full of people who are constantly judging you, while your presentation partner screws with your slides. That’s the set up for Talking Points, a game where you have to put on a presentation about … whatever your colleagues decide.

The game is reminiscent of the also-great Patently Stupid, though with a lot less drawing and planning involved. Players fill in some simple prompts to generate topics that other players have to choose from to give a presentation on. Each presenter is paired with another player who will choose from some pre-set images of nonsensical graph charts to a dinosaur with a traffic cone on its head. The presenter can type or mark on the images to draw attention to whatever helps make this presentation make sense.

All the while, the audience has a thumbs-up or thumbs-down button they can use to judge the presenter. If there’s one downside to this game, it’s that it’s easy for the audience to forget that they have a role to play while listening to the presentation. Fortunately, scores don’t really matter when you’re listening to your friends explain why you shouldn’t give into despair…you should give into melancholy instead.

Wrap Up With Champ’d Up

Jackbox’s drawing games can be a tough sell. For certain drawing games to be fun, players either need to be really good artists … or really bad ones. Perhaps the best Jackbox drawing game, Tee K.O., is a little outdated these days, but its biggest flaw was the set up time. It took what felt like ages for people to draw their shirts, create slogans, make matching pairs, and finally get them battling each other.

Champ’d Up balances its downtime much more effectively. Players are given a prompt along the lines of “The Champion of Good Vibes!” and they have to draw who or what they think could win such a contest. Then another player is given that drawing to create a competitor, but the trick is they don’t know what contest they’re competing in.

Not only does this make for some fantastic mixed signals, but it gives the second round of drawing an entertaining mid-prep break. Everyone sitting quietly and drawing for five minutes would be kind of a party-killer, but Champ’d Up manages to balance it’s time well. This is only driven home more when future rounds let players bring back the drawings they’ve previously used. The longer the game goes on, the more potential matchups there are with minimal extra work.

It’s small changes like this—not just to Champ’d Up, but to all of the games—that push this pack over the edge. Jackbox games are, en masse, great ways to liven up a party, but it’s rare to see one single pack that has so many bases thoroughly covered that you don’t need to buy another one to entertain a crowd for an entire night. Finally, for once, we have one.

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