Final Challenge Preview
In case you hadn’t heard, many of us are allowed to play games in the same rooms as other people again. While Covid-19 had most boardgamers playing online or solo, it could never replace the feeling of getting around the table with friends and family. One genre that works better in-person, and could never work solo, is the party game. There are plenty to choose from, and now there’s another on that list of games hoping to act as your social lubricant – Final Challenge, from Kerber Games, a small studio from Serbia.
It’s a game in the style of those classics like Charades and Monikers, where players draw cards and try to do whatever’s said in them. Complete challenges, earn points, laugh, and get to know your guests a bit better. Let me tell you, when you play Final Challenge, you’re going to know everyone around the room a lot better than when you started.
What most party games have in common is the shallow level of depth. That’s not to say they’re not fun, or clever, but for the majority of games there’s a familiar format: play a round, collect a point/card, rinse & repeat until there’s a winner. Final Challenge keeps this general formula, but adds another layer of game. The cards you collect for completing your challenges get played into a tableau in front of you, where they have two jobs.
Firstly, completed challenges grant you passive and active abilities. Passive abilities do things like halving the length of time your challenges last (many last until your next turn), whereas active abilities can be used once, and offer up things like swapping a card with one from the discard pile. “Why on Earth would I want to swap a card with one from the discard?”, you might ask yourself, and it’s a good question, one which leads on to where Final Challenge takes things one level deeper.
Completed challenge cards have a colour, and when you complete one of each colour in your tableau, the backs of them have a series of verbs, nouns and adjectives written on them. When read-out, they form a sentence which becomes your final challenge. For example, you might look down and find that your final challenge is “Hyperactive cavegirl flirts with a box while panting heavily”. Yes, that’s an actual example from a game I played. It’s a really clever way of adding a bit more Game to the game, and drives the competition. It’s great to have a clear game winning situation too, instead of just collecting a certain number of cards or something similar.
Know your audience!
Final Challenge is a game which should come with a big warning – Do not play with your family! Some of the things the game gets you doing are far better suited to a game night with a few drinks and your best friends. I don’t know your family, true, but I imagine most people aren’t too comfortable with giving their mum a massage until their next turn, or being ‘overly intimate’ with uncle Steve until your next turn.
It’s safe to say this isn’t a game for everyone. But then, not every game is. Cards Against Humanity is ridiculously successful, despite the fact that a lot of people find it intolerably offensive. While Final Challenge never gets as outright bad as Cards Against Humanity – there’s nothing like racism, sexism, or anything depraved – it’s the sort of game you’d play with the same kind of crowd.
It’s also worth saying that the base set of cards are definitely the more SFW, and with a little vetting you can probably come up with something you can play with your family. There are two expansion decks: Twisted and R-Rated. Twisted cards are pretty good fun, and offer lots of chances to get creative and imaginative. R-Rated speak for themselves, and will see you swearing and getting wildly inappropriate with other players. It’s a pretty cool thing to be able to tailor the game for the people you’re playing with, I’d like to see it with other party games in the future, instead of milking the brand and making ‘Family’ or ‘After Dark’ versions of games.
Final Challenge is a lot of fun, if you enjoy that sort of game. There are a lot of people who can feel really self-conscious and don’t like to come out of their comfort zone, especially with all that’s happened in the world in the last two years. If you don’t like that sort of experience, I’d say go with something lighter like Telestrations, Codenames, or Wavelength. However, if you have a group that know each other really well, and like a bit of banter and a couple of drinks to unwind, I think you’ll love this.
I really like that Kerber Games have gone that extra step and turned it into a game of collecting coloured challenges, building a tableau, and working towards a definite winner. The game doesn’t just peter out at the end of the deck. You’re able to attack other players too. So if you were to draw a purple challenge, and you can see someone close to winning who already has a purple card, you can force them to take yours on. On the flip side, if there’s a card you’re really not comfortable with, you can ask for volunteers to take it on instead.
Final Challenge is a Marmite game. Groups of young adults with a couple of Babychams in them will have a wild time. 40-something groups of friends who’ve known one another their whole lives will be hooting with laughter. It’s just not a game you’d take to your game club though, or around for after Christmas dinner with the kids and Granny. Kerber Games have made a game which takes the beaten-to-death party game formula and brought it up a notch. If it sounds like your sort of thing, you and your gang are going to love it.
Preview copy kindly provided by Kerber Games. Thoughts and opinions are my own.
Final Challenge (2021)
Designer: Dusan Jovcic
Publisher: Kerber Games
Art: David Bilobrk
Playing time: 30-45 mins