Critical Play #3: We’re Not Really Strangers

For Critical Play 3, I chose to play We’re Not Really Strangers at game night (4/26) created by the company of the same name. It is a physical card game that costs $25, which feels pretty steep. The intention of the game is to “allow you to deepen your existing relationships and create new ones”, yet the target audience is arguably 18-30 year olds due to their increasing presence on social media i.e. Instagram and TikTok. 

However, the game can be enjoyed by any group of 2-6. Players purely answer the prompt card or perform the action delineated on the card. Rounds are short, defined by each player answering the question on the current prompt card, which likely takes about 15-20 seconds per person. 


Fellowship is the primary type of fun / value add created by the game – feeling seen and getting to know fellow players. Their mission statement says the game is “all about empowering meaningful connections”.

My main insights come from my personal experience with the game. My group of 4 was immediately confused by the complex instructions for more than 2 players. We didn’t understand what a “dig deeper card” and felt that some of the questions did not suit our age group. For example, “Say what you think is the hardest about my job” took us aback because we wondered if they meant school, internship, etc. as opposed to an older player easily defining their work.

In terms of formal elements, it felt to be a multilateral player landscape with every person as their own unit. There was no clear objective or outcome, as there was no winner. However, the procedures including the mechanic of everyone having to answer the prompt about you, created a dynamic of intimacy and camaraderie – forming the fellowship and friendship aesthetic. 


Getting vulnerable certainly makes the game more enjoyable, and our group did not have an issue with that. Our main qualm was with the difficulty to onboard to the game. I would recommend not using “dig deeper cards” or the “do the action together” because those confused us to the point of not enjoying the game. An additional potential improvement alongside simplifying the mechanics and rules would be to add intensity markings to the flags / having different decks for the vibe of the group playing. As 4 peers that had not spoken, some of the prompts were too intimate to have meaningful discourse or bond over. In our game, Hot Takes, we have gotten a lot of compliments about having different intensity level stacks and as a similar genre game, I think it would be a great fit here. Lastly, more clearly delineated rounds or levels of the game would make the pacing more intuitive. 

In terms of playing like a designer, since we did not have a great experience, this was a great effort toward “good designers play all games” even if they are out of your comfort zone or are less enjoyable. It was difficult to focus on the games MDA structure and pain points since the players were less invested in gameplay. 

Uncurated, as a peer game, has more structured rounds. It has a more intuitive gameplay flow. Therefore, uncurated has better pacing intuition. When we played We’re Not Really Strangers, we were confused about playing for 10 minutes or 3 hours. I think the two games’ ability to help you get to know each other are roughly equivalent.


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