Death Charades: a review

Modified from an etching by J. Gamelin, 1778/1779.

I hate charades.

I like words. I’m good at words. But I’m bad at a lot of kinesthetic things. So when you tell me to communicate using only action and no language, my brain becomes approximately three pounds of dead weight. Not my idea of a good time.

Despite that, I loved playing Death Charades.

Death Charades by Steve Luoma
© 2020 Macabre Enterprises LLC

I’m still not particularly good at it—the performance part, at least—but I found it far more engaging than trying to pantomime everyday activities, interpret movie titles, and portray mundane things like that.

Why? Because every single prompt in the game is (as you may have already guessed) a way to die. If you have a dark sense of humor and a couple like-minded friends, then that’s a recipe for a good time.

Materials

Death Charades’ concept comes in a neatly designed little package. The card backs and box feature clean-line icons, decoration, and text printed in a bright peach-orange against purple. (The box is printed metallic copper on slightly dustier purple for a little extra flash and class.) All the prompt cards’ faces are easily readable black on white.

The deck includes a handful of blank cards so you can make up your own horrible/ridiculous/horribly ridiculous ways to die and then laugh at your friends as they try to act them out.

Play

It’s charades. If you don’t already know how that works, an instruction card tells you what to do and how you can bend the rules to suit tastes and needs.

None of the prompts are graphic or gruesome. Some are irreverent (fork in an electrical outlet), some are silly (drowning in soup), and some are downright challenging to portray (falling into the sun).

Each prompt card has a point value. At the end of the game (however you choose to designate that), the team with the most points wins.

Besides the instructions and the probably 200ish prompt cards (I can’t find a card count anywhere, and I’m too lazy to sit down and count them myself), Death Charades also includes 10 gameplay cards that you can use against your fellow players. These usually confer some advantage like stealing a point, skipping a turn, or removing a player from the game for a round. Others add bit a of thematic silliness like forcing a player to make ghost noises during their next turn.

These cards’ faces are printed orange on purple, making them immediately distinguishable. There’s no chance of confusing them with prompt cards, and they’re easy to strip out of the deck if you’d prefer to play without them.

The gameplay cards do add some strategic depth to the game, but in the end, that game is still charades—and that’s fine. If you want to play charades, don’t reinvent the wheel. Just make the wheel more lethal.

🪦

Despite its macabre concept, Death Charades is not a particularly heavy game. The humor is dark, for sure, but it’s still a game for laughing at our own mortality alongside our friends. Like the instructions say: “We’re all just here to have fun and make death a little less heavy, man.”


Death Charades is available from various retailers who crave the grave and from the official website.

Liber Ludorum is entirely reader-funded. Please consider lending your support.

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