Critical Play – We’re Not Really Friends

I played “We’re Not Really Strangers” for my critical play which is an analog/digital card game created by Koreen Odiney (I played the digital version). It seems like the game is geared towards adults with a close relationship with each other or people that have enough life experiences to reflect upon in general. The game requires at least 2 players with a cap of 6 but does not strictly prohibit one from playing solo (they would answer the questions to themselves). The premise of the game is simple and involves cards with questions on them that players take turns answering to each other. Each deck of cards pertains to a certain theme and ranges from relationships, self-reflection, healing, and breakups (or just a general pile). The decks also contain different levels which correspond to the level of “vulnerability” that is required to answer them. Lastly, the game contains “wildcards” which are special cards that ask all players to complete a particular action within a time limit (such as a card that asks someone to draw a picture of their relationship in 30 seconds). 

For my gameplay, I played the game with a close friend from my dorm. At first, it was a bit confusing to figure out who was supposed to be asking who what during each round (was I asking myself the question or was I asking the other person the question) but once we got into the flow of things we got into the zone rather quickly. I found that the level 1 cards were too shallow for our taste but that level 2 and 3 were much more within our desired wheelhouse. Similar to my observations from Quiplash, I found a lot of enjoyment in discussing the various answers that we all shared and not just the immediate answers. Although we didn’t actually answer every card and I felt uncomfortable answering some of the questions, it was overall a decently vulnerable experience and I felt like we gained a greater understanding of each other afterwards. 

Overall, I see the game as a form of expression that is meant to encourage fellowship since the game does call for a high level of vulnerability. The game is simple but for the most part succeeds since it provides an explicit environment for talking about difficult or emotional experiences (which may not be brought up organically in everyday life). My partner offered an interesting comment by saying that the questions themselves were less relevant than the greater purpose of the cards which was mostly to open up conversation and allow people to talk. In comparing this game to a similar categorical game such as Truth Or Dare which contains less setup and relies on the players to come up with the prompts, We’re Not Really Strangers has a more defined flow and structure (via the prewritten cards) and has defined stopping points if the players exhaust all of the cards in a deck.

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