Critical Play: Competitive Analysis of Ransom Notes

Ransom Notes is a board game created by Evan Katz. I have not played it but am basing my post off of the game’s website page. The game is aimed at creating hilarious sentences constructed from word magnets that are in response to silly prompt cards, for example: “Write a missing cat poster”.


The theme is truly absurdity as the words that are in your hand are limited, so you will need to work with what you got to construct a sentence. Having a limited supply of words to construct answers to the prompts is a hallmark to the game. The creativity comes in how the players choose to structure the words. 

Delight seems to come from the serendipity of sentences that actually end up conforming to the theme contrasted to the absolute absurdity of those that do not (e.g. the top answer to the missing cat prompt and the bottom answer). 


The mechanics are simple—word magnets and prompt cards. The game play and fun comes from the creativity in coming up with the sentences and then reading them out to each other. The structure of answer is so open ended that it gives users a lot of freedom and diversity in the answers they come up with. 

This is definitely furthered by the design of the game. Each player gets a card-sized magnetic tray that they can put their word response onto. This way, it looks just like if it were a pre-made card like in cards against humanity, but it is constructed entirely by the player. The silliness is echoed by the ability to place magnets in a chaotic way, making the answers look even sillier. In the example below, the player is able to control the phrasing of their answer by keeping the first line straight as if it is a directive and then making the second line all over the place. 


The game is novel in its ability to give full creative reigns to the user without making the user get out their pen and paper. By giving players a word bank to choose out of, it taps into creativity a player might not have been aware of since anyone can arrange a couple of words onto a board. 


I honestly don’t think any abuse would come out of this game based on how absurd the prompts are, but it is possible that some might not be comfortable with the subject matter in the game.

This game is great and I don’t have a lot of criticism for it. However, if I were to make it slightly better, I would issue a limit on the amount of words they are able to use. The instructions say to grab a handle of the word magnets and get started, but I think limiting the quantity will keep people on their toes, and might lead to more out of the box answers.


Although I didn’t play this game, I am really inspired by it and hope to buy it at some point. I think more games need to lean into the idea that rules don’t have to be strict, and that there’s a lot of material that comes straight out of the player’s minds and their creativity. 

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