Anything But Small Talk! (ABST!) is the first game I designed and it is a personal favourite. It is inspired by three things: the idea behind YouTube channel SourceFedNERD’s ‘Table Talk' series, Apollo Robbins' TED Talk on 'The Art of Misdirection' and introversion. These three very different topics were on my mind at the time of designing the game and something had me believing they could work well together. So, this storytelling card game was born based on the themes of memory, misdirection and conversation.
I had been reading about introversion when I came across the quote “Introverts do not hate small talk because we dislike people. We hate small talk because we hate the barrier it creates between people." by Laurie Helgoe. That was something that I related to so strongly that I wanted to design a game that would allow people to skip the small talk and encourage us to listen to and give players the opportunity to get to know each other and share stories. This is where the series ‘Table Talk’ comes in.
The way the series works is that fans would submit topics or questions for the hosts to then discuss/answer. It had crossed my mind as I was watching the show that there are so many interesting or even simple topics that just doesn’t come up in every day conversations. As mundane or silly as the question “do you believe in ghosts or aliens?” can seem, it amazes me how much you can learn about someone by asking it. If I were to ask a stranger that the first time we met, I would seem crazy and yet, it’s perfectly normal to discuss the weather for fifteen minutes. ABST! is intended to make it okay to skip past all that. Besides, I'm horrible at first time conversation, it's awkward more often than not so why not have fun with it.
So how does it all work? Each card will have two parts - talk and listen. On the talk side is the conversation topic. The listen side will then have a question relating to that topic. Let's use a simple example: on the talk side may be ‘Your favourite movie and why?’ and the listen side can be ‘Who is the director of the movie?’. Player one will draw a card and share only the topic (talk) with the rest of the group. Then for the next *five minutes, the group will discuss and talk about that topic. During this time, the player who drew the card must clearly mention the answer to the question on the listen side of their card at least twice. In this example, they must mention the name of the director twice. Their objective is to do so subtly. This is where ‘Apollo Robbin’s ‘The Art of Misdirection’ comes in. Your goal is the misdirect the other players from the real question. You can do this by steering the conversation away from the director and towards the actors or mentioning other aspects numerous times.
Meanwhile, the goal of the other players is to (try and) figure out what the question is and remember the answer. All the while, trying to distract the other players from doing the same. Once every player has had a go, in the same order the cards were drawn, the question on the listen side of the cards will now be asked by the one who drew the card. For example, At the end of the round, player one will now ask everyone ‘Who is the director of my favourite movie?’. For each wrong answer, player one will get a point. For every answer a player gets right, they get two points. This will continue till all players have asked their question. The first player to reach *10 points wins.
*You can tweak the rules too!
ABST! is a flexible game and there are many variants that can be tailored to suit the environment you’re playing in. The above is simply a guideline. The asterisks indicates where alterations can be made. You can vary how long each discussion is and how many points are required to win. You can even switch it up by changing the winning conditions. You may decide that instead of first to x amount of points, you have most points after x amount of rounds. Or maybe it's game night or a dinner party and you want conversation to flow all night. You can eliminate time limits altogether. For example, at the start of the night, each participant draws a card each and conversation on those topics carry on throughout the night. At the end of the night, the questions are asked and the best listener wins!
Finally, the topics are entirely customisable! We may be working on a prototype but that doesn't stop you guys from being creative. There will be blank cards provided so you make the decisions! The stories you share can be real or they can be made up. They can be hypothetical topics or factual. The answers can be as serious or as silly and light-hearted as you want. That’s all up to you, make it suit your game group, have fun with it! If you give the game a go, I'd love to hear about it. Happy conversing!
Results and Experience
As mentioned in the beginning, we're working on a prototype and the game is still just an idea with no real playtesting. However, it is a personal favourite and this is for a number of reasons. One of them is that it's my first game. The only instruction I had was to come up and design the basis for a non digital game. I had no clue what to do for the theme and I had a small understanding of mechanics. Despite all that, it was a fun and exciting process that I quickly fell in love with. Once I had an idea for for a theme, the design grew and the prospect of making and sharing the game was thrilling. Not only was I designing a game that I wanted to play, I was designing it based on something I cared about deeply. It's for this reason that ABST! will always have a soft spot in my heart.