se·ri·ous·ly – with earnest intent
snap·py – cleverly concise | ru·mi·na·tions – deep or considered thoughts

BELRATTI
> Quite fun socially interactive game reminiscent of Mysterium/Codenames/Dixit which condenses deduction and conversation into quick game play.
I especially enjoy the constantly changing teams and focused constraints which highlight the brilliance of its design.

SYNOPSIS
Players compete cooperatively as rotating groups of either museum managers (depicted as cats) or painters (as owls) in contributing art to a museum gallery while at the same time preventing the game’s antagonist, Belratti (a rat), from adding his fake art into the collection.

Cards with simple pictures of mostly mundane and easily recognizable objects, e.g., a rose or shoe, serve as art for the game. Museum managers randomly draw two such cards each round to represent their desired themes. Then they form a consensus in deciding how many works of art to demand from the painters to match these two themes, always a choice of 2-7 cards. Next, painters discuss with each other using only vague descriptions of their privately held art cards to determine how best to match the theme and fulfill demand as a group. Once determined, painters secretly submit the demanded number of cards which are shuffled along with four randomly drawn cards from the deck to represent Belratti’s fake art. Now all cards are revealed to the museum managers for them to collectively identify which painter’s art belongs to each theme and which art is fake without any assistance or guidance from the painters. After managers deliberate as a group and are satisfied with their conclusion, painters confirm which art was their own thus revealing whether Belratti successfully duped the managers or not.

Successful guesses score points and play continues until Belratti sneaks his sixth artwork into the collection to end the game at which time scored points are evaluated against a scale indicating the level of overall success attained. Additional joker cards provide slight advantages when activated.

COMMENTS
Belratti deftly maximizes the experiences found in other group guessing games by paring down play to focus on the deliberations that ensue from such cooperative endeavors. In quick succession painters are pressed upon to provide art to match a randomized theme while the museum managers must ferret out fake submissions and correctly guess the intent of painters. Game elements extraneous to consensus building are dealt with expeditiously so that flow of play remains centered on groups discussing their opinions, explaining their thoughts and championing their intuitions. The guesswork which comprises the heart of the game for both groups – painters deciding which art will match to satisfy demand and museum managers divining which art is real or fake – takes center stage without much left in the way to clutter the experience. This is accomplished through the constraint of limiting the first groups’ choices to match with the selected theme, and expanding the second groups’ choices to allow for false positives. It works brilliantly to quickly get all involved in making decisions affecting everyone’s chances for success.

This all plays out with remarkable ease. Cards are dealt, groups assigned and themes revealed in mere seconds. Then play truly begins. Managers determine demand based on the strength of presented theme cards, purely speculating as to how painters might meet that demand. A minute or so later painters agonize back and forth over what to submit. Notions of having matches that fit “well or partially well” with the theme are the only indicators painters are allowed to reveal to anyone about their art. So it becomes an act of faith that each person’s contribution will match close enough to be correctly guessed in the next stage of play. After upwards of a minute or more for painters to choose their art submissions, managers agonize for the remainder of a round over how to match these submissions to the theme while fretting over selecting Belratti’s fake art by mistake. Discussions last as long as necessary to formulate a unanimous decision which can happen quickly or draw out for a short while. Then a round ends as speculations are swiftly confirmed or debunked with points scored for any correct guesses. Groups are reassigned spit spot for the next round as play begins again with a new theme. It’s clean, lean and keen to keep everyone’s attention throughout. The only drawback is that the group of painters must wait patiently while museum managers work to suss out the correct arrangement of art to the themes. This can last several minutes, and it’s imperative that painters not reveal anything by their reactions to the managers’ discussions to avoid swaying their decisions.

PROS+, CONS- & NOTES*
+ Everyone fully participates each round in one of two groups.
+ Reassignment of teams each round nicely varies group dynamics.
+ Constraints keep decisions from feeling too open-ended and help to focus game play.
+ Art may be selected based on color, shape, association, etc., allowing for multiple interpretations.
+ Limited joker cards provide options for improving chances of success.
– Painters must be careful not to inadvertently divulge information while waiting.

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Seriously Snappy Ruminations on Belratti

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