Each year, while doing home school reviews with the TOS Crew, my family comes across two or three products that are clear cut favorites, ones that will absolutely, positively, 110% be used until we can no longer use them. I'm excited to say that Snake Oil is one of those products.
The game was given to us for review by Out of the Box Games, a leading American game company since 1998. Snake Oil, billed as "The Best Party Game in the World!", is perfect for kids and adults ages 10 and up.
The game comes in a very sturdy box, about 8.5" by 11" by 2.5". Inside the box is a set of 28 sturdy colorful Customer Cards (double-sided for 56 customers in all), listing different "Customers" on them, such as a Taxi Driver, Beggar, Diva, Rapper, Witch, or Gangster. There are also 336 glossy Word Cards, with words like Safety, Pocket, Powder, Belly, Hook, Banana, Whip, and Bra.
Very simply, one person acts as the customer, adopting the persona of the drawn Customer Card. The other players combine two Word Cards from their hand and then work to persuade the customer to purchase their product with smooth, not necessarily practical, talk, using the techniques made famous by the old snake oil salesmen. After hearing all the sales pitches of the players the Customer chooses the product he feels would best suit him because of the awesome sales pitch and gives the customer card to that player. Then the player to the left becomes the Customer and the Players make their sales pitches to him. At the end of the game the player with the most Customer Cards wins.
Easy enough, right? Learning how to play the game is certainly easy, taking just a minute or two to explain to new players. Selling something to a Cheerleader when the cards in your hand are Barf, Diaper, Banana, Cliff, Wind, and Seat isn't easy at all. That's when the game gets hilarious, because you will do your very best to sell a Diaper Banana to that Cheerleader or a Lava Tarp to a Teenager, and if you sell it right you just might win the round.
Game play last as long as you choose. You can have the game end when one player obtains a certain number of Customer Cards or after a certain number of rounds. We tended to play until we had to do something else, with games lasting anywhere from 20 minutes to 90 minutes.
River, at 5, couldn't read most of the cards but once they were read to him he did as good a job as anyone creating a "marketable" product and did just fine as the customer. He and I teamed up a few times, which worked well too.
The game, while being educational, doesn't feel educational. I'm sure if I asked my kids right now what they learned playing Snake Oil they'd just look at me funny, because in their minds they were just playing a really fun game. But it is educational. The players learn to think and reason very quickly, to speak well in front of a group, to clearly sell their product through persuasion with plenty of descriptive adjectives and adverbs, vocabulary skills, and to be very, very creative. Snake Oil also caters to many Common Core standards, as can be seen in this spreadsheet. Snake Oil has won a number of awards such as the Mensa Select National Competition Winner.
So, yes, the kids were learning. But to me that wasn't the best part of the game. The best part was the way family and friends played together and laughed. This is a game anyone can play and can learn quickly, making it accessible to everyone. I loved listening to the conversations going on as this game was played, the laughing with each other and bonding over the silly sales pitches.
My oldest daughter dropped by with a new friend while the kids were playing the game. The two college students sat right down and started playing. Within moments the new friend was an old family friend and everyone was in hysterics. Perfect.
We found that age is not a factor in this game. Kids and adults can easily play together, with no one having a real clear cut advantage. While the adults might have better grasps of some of the words and a more mature sales style the kids were much more creative more quickly and had an easier time coming up with off-the-wall products.
I give this game two thumbs up!
From the kids: "I have a great game for you. It's called Snake Oil. Every family needs this game. It's entertaining for the entire family and will keep everyone young and healthy because they'll be laughing all the time. When you play Snake Oil your whole family will get along and do something together, making great memories. Snake Oil is really, really fun. And it makes a great Christmas gift."
Snake Oil is available from Out of the Box Games for $19.99, and is geared towards players ages 10 and up.
If you play this game, or have played it, let me know what you think of it ... and what your craziest sales pitches are!