You know what makes Board Games amazing? Just how unafraid of experimentation they are. Unlike video games that have become multi-million dollar products where people NEED certain elements in order for your game to be released, board games are just strange ideas in cardboard boxes that are proud and unashamed of themselves. Some games are braver than others, though, and we’re proud to present a board game that we can safely say is completely fearless. Welcome to Drag Ball, hunty!
Drag Ball is a performance party game that encapsulate the irreverent, manic and fashionable world of Drag Queens. It is the first game designed by the New York developer James Campbell with art by Chad Sell, who has developed a rather loyal following from his comics and fanart of the reality TV Show, RuPaul’s
Best Friend Drag Race.
Now, Party Games tends to be simple, casual, low-commitment affairs. The staple, of course being the sardonic and somewhat offensive game Cards Against Humanity, or the mechanically identical but safer for the family Apples to Apples. Generally, Party Games are seen as less “game” and more “diversion,” and we’d be lying if we said that we had no reservations about Drag Ball when we got our hands on it. Reservations that were completely destroyed when we played our first game.
In Drag Ball you play as one of twelve Queens, ranging from Helga Hufflepuff to Rita B. Itch to Jewy Andrews. Humor and puns are the toast of the town, and each character has four stats: Tenacity, Wit, Aesthetic, and Tricks. No bonus points if you figure out the acronym. Each one of these queens is here to snatch the prize and be declared the Drag Ball Superstar!
Each round of Drag Ball can be cut up into four parts, beginning with the Mini Challenge. The Mini Challenges are simple role-playing exercises, word games, or just “bar games.” They’re fun, as they should be, and actually get people talking. This is partly why we fell in love with Drag Ball: Getting people to interact and have fun and compete with one another are what make games great, and by making it the first thing you do? It sets an atmosphere and a “party” mentality. We love it.
The winner of the Mini Challenge then gets the option of getting more clothes, more shade cards (both used in the third part of the round), improving your stats or taking a Fish or Filth Token, which become important at the end of the round.
The second part is the Main Challenge, which is a simple dice game. You take two stats (Aesthetic and Tricks, for example) and roll two dice. The better you do, the better off you’ll be. It’s probably the least interesting, but the randomness of the dice keep it from being “this character will always do well at this thing.” Moving right along.
Next up is a really easy to understand card game, where you take fashion cards, play them, and get more points as you strut your stuff down the runway. You then get to play SHADE cards, which are insults thrown at your opponents (or yourself) to lower their score or raise yours. Simple, yes, but they do have some strategy to them (certain outfits are worth more points, and sometimes it’s better to be a lady than be shady) which keep every one amused. After this part, though, we finally get to see the crown jewel of this game: The Fish or Filth Challenge.
The Fish or Filth Challenge is for the bottom scoring queens of this round. Before it begins, each player writes down a song and puts it in a hat. The losers of the round then select a song at random, and are forced to lip-synch it in front of the “Safe” friends. Vogue, swerve, werk, and pray you impress your friends to give you their Fish or Filth tokens so that you can stay, and your opponent can bite the big Bye Felicia card.
By now you probably know if this game is up your alley or not. Perhaps you don’t like having fun, making a fool, being fabulous and dropping it like it’s hot. We don’t want you sitting at our lunch table, but, y’know, to each their own.
However, this is the part where we start to find the smears in the makeup of this game. First, the mini games range from actually entertaining (Explain why you deserve to be Ms. Congeniality) to almost baffling or childish (Who can hold their breath the longest). You’ll still find them amusing, but it’s still something to clock. Also, the dice mechanic are a bit dull, and perhaps the inclusion of different dice for each stat (a ten sided for a good trait and a four sided for your worst, and the ability to upgrade the type of dice for winning, for example) could have made it more interesting. Just something to keep it more amusing as the dice rolling feels a bit like a lull in the game.
The biggest complaint with this game? The lack of a print and play option. While the physical copy does come with clear plastic chips for Fish or Filth and the four stats, which are admittedly nice, the game being printed on demand means you have a long wait between purchasing this game and getting to play it. I think being able to purchase a PDF to print yourself would get more people gagging on this games eleganza. And let us be clear: This game is an Eleganza Extravaganza.
While it’s reality TV inspiration is obvious, James Campbell clearly went a lot deeper than he needed to, with nods to Queer History and the Ball Scene of the 1980s. It’s nice, and the fact that the game features Drag Kings and a wide variety of styles of drag keep this brave game inclusive.
This isn’t just a party game, it’s a party of it’s own. It’s impossible for any one here at Skip-A-Turn not to find a game of this magnitude just a ball to play, and it’s hard not to applaud a game that is just so brave in it’s design and content. An absolute must-buy.
Buy Drag Ball
Players: 5 – 12
Recommended: 5 – 10
Skip-A-Turn Variation: Miss Congeniality: Before the big finale lip-synch number, every one gets to vote for whoever was the most Drag Queen like during the game, but was eliminated. That person gets to vote twice. Now let the music play!