The Closet Report: Off Your Rocker

Off Your Rocker

"I believe that if I took therapy, the doctor would quit. He would just pick up the couch and walk out of the room." -- Don Rickles.

I am Jonathan Albin, the Game Market Guru, and this, the third of my entries as "The Closet Report," is a part of my in-depth and detailed analysis of tabletop games of every stripe. The Closet Report captures and outlines the merits, values, and details about these games in terms that a casual player or a die-hard veteran will appreciate, providing not only the "straight skinny" on the product in terms of the big 3 (Class, Character, and Creativity) but also in terms of Materials, Marketing, and Mechanics, as well as identifying areas of imagination, innovation, and ingenuity.

Our attention this time turns on a new party/icebreaker game from Stratus Games, called Off Your Rocker. This fall-down funny game of pop psychology, sharp listening skill, and sharper wit broadens the party game category,all in a light-hearted game of deductive diagnosis. A tantalizing take-off of Twenty Questions with a twist, Off Your Rocker engages the acting and word-play skills of the players, and leaves each turn's "Doctor" in stitches.

Off Your Rocker Quirk Cards

Overview

Setting up the game takes little preparation, and the basics are easy to follow and comprehend. The most challenging part of the game is actually awaiting your turn at answering the Psychiatrist's question, as the score system rewards the best "patient" — the person who exhibits the symptoms best. Thus, each player is fundamentally trying to "out-quirk" each other, and still avoid "giving away" the actual quirk.

As a party game, there is no established Organized Play program for it, although I can see the possibility of various retailer-supported teams (Asylums?) competing against each other in the future to determine whom should be considered the most "Off Your Rocker" Dream Team. (Bonus points if you remember the film of that name!)

The game is readily available through many hobby retail stores, particularly those that carry classic, collectable, and family titles. It is currently available through most hobby distributors, or from Stratus Games' website. It is comparably priced in the mid-twenties.

Below are the somewhat wonky, somewhat useful characteristics the Closet Report reveals about the product, and of its game play.

Statistics

  • Total Time to Play – TTP: 40:00
    Total time including OBT, PT, and BiB.
  • Out of the Box Time – OBT: 1:00
    Time to open the box and set up pieces for the game.
  • Play Time – PT: 38:00  (could be longer, with fewer players, as the group dynamic seems to amplify cognition by the "Psychiatrist")
    Time from beginning of game to resolution, i.e., winner, draw, or quit.
  • Back in Box Time – BIB: 1:00
    Time required to put game back in the box configuration and return to the closet.
  • Time Per Turn – T/T: 3:00 (Egg Timer)
    We found it difficult to actually make a Turn last the 3 minutes...very rarely did a "Psychiatrist" not discover the "quirk" before each person had been asked at least one question...
  • Turns per Game – TPG: 8 or more
    Number of turns in an average game.
  • Turns to Engagement – TTE: Immediate
    Number of turns before players must interact. Party games and icebreakers are particularly engaging, so the competition starts as soon as the game begins.
  • Fun Per Turn – FPT: 75%
    Indicates how much enjoyment is to be derived from any given Turn of the game. It turned out that statistically, one of four players in our sessions felt unease about portraying a "Quirk" - that it is one thing to role-play as a "patient" and something else to have the "Psychiatrist" diagnosing the condition. May be an anecdotal anomaly, but it did affect our play experience.
  • Work per Turn – WPT: 25%
    Represents the rough percentage of the turn that feels like "work." In this case, I measured the amount of resistance to engage, and determined the fear of being ridiculed put pressure on one of four players in the test groups. The rest engaged easily enough, but there is something somewhat sordid about displaying one's self as demonstrating a "quirk" (flaw). That minor nuance made the game more difficult for some than others.
  • Turns Before Fun – TBF: 0
    The number of turns that must elapse before engagement with the other players occurs. Party games are intended to cause players to interact, and Off Your Rocker is no different.
  • Self-teaching time – STT: 2:00
    The time it takes to learn the game by only reading the rules with no demonstration. In this case, with role-players in the group, the concept was easy to translate. As many of the newer party games have exhibited, the bridge to play is one of imagination, and once crossed, is quick to adopt, even in a  larger group — maybe even easier!
  • Closet Time – CT: 6 weeks, or until desire returns to act like a wacko
    Average length of time between plays. The aforementioned resistance to ridicule is the only thing keeping this title above the once-a-month threshold.

Play Ratings

Numerical ratings from 1 to 10 on various aspects of the game. See each for a scalar definition.

  • Aggression (categorizes the rules by oppositional dynamics)
    Scale from cooperative (1) to stridently adversarial (10) – Score: 2
  • Beauty (categorizes the rules by sheer aesthetics; is it “pretty”?)
    Scale from functional (1) to art gallery quality (10) – Score: 3
  • Complexity (categorizes the rules by how easy or difficult to comprehend)
    Scale from expected (1) to intricate beyond comprehension (10) Score: 4
  • Depth (categorizes the rules in terms of subtlety)
    Scale from shallow (1) to unbelievably nuanced (10) – Score: 4
  • Engagement (categorizes the rules in terms of player interaction)
    Scale from parallel play (1) to strong need for teamwork (10) Score: 5
  • Fun (categorizes the rules in terms sheer derived pleasure)
    Scale from mildly amusing (1) to fall on the floor laughing (10) – Score: 6
  • Innovations Quotient (IQ) (identifies any characteristics that make the game unique)
    Numeric rating, and each “point” is defined that make this product memorable – Score: 3
    The innovation in this case, of using the terms that suggest the players are "insane" or that they need to be "diagnosed" cast a thin shadow over the play experience. In this world of political correctness and requirements to be sensitive to every person's perception of what is "wrong" or "flawed," the play experience may have actually suffered from player perceptions about mental health or challenges.

Miscellaneous

Breakout Events are the times and circumstances where this game may shorten its Closet Time, or otherwise help it "break out" of the closet.

  • Off Your Rocker is perfect for times when we just want to forget who we are, and when we start to experience 'the crazies." Break it out when a trauma has impacted a group, as a "pressure valve," as disassociating from an event is cathartic, and will allow players to distance themselves from an awkward or difficult situation.

Shelf Rating is the overall game shelf rating, when compared with every other game in the closet. Scores will vary as new games come into being, and based on other characteristics such as marketing and promotions of similar games.

  • Off Your Rocker is a "lose your mind and just play" kind of experience, and is perhaps a stellar example of how powerful mass hysteria can be in conveying information in a collective fashion. This one would be perhaps closer to the front of the closet if people were less sensitive to possible or imagined offense that was clearly not intended. Bonus points should be awarded, though, for courage in the face of political correctness.
Chuck Waterman
Chuck Waterman's picture

I agree heartily with most of your evaluation with the following exceptions:

1) This game is not about REAL mental illnesses.  It is about ACTING to make other people LAUGH!  The "delusions" on the cards are unbelievable and comical.  In other words - this is an acting game.  

I can imagine sensitive players might get hung up on the labels chosen to be written on the "point cards" (nutty / loony / etc). I'd recommend replacing those with colored chips or some such to avoid insensitivity with those players.  However, the "labels" on the point cards are IMHO the only piece of this game that could possibly be objectionable even to mental health professionals.

2) Time Per Turn.  I don't think you have completely understood the rules, if you end a round before each person has had a chance to answer a question from the psychiatrist.  This isn't really a "deduction" game.  The competition (if there is any) in this game comes from each player getting a chance to act out the delusion in a more amusing or more complete way than the other players. Then, AFTER EVERYONE answers one question, the psyciatrist is allowed to guess the symptom.  Then, all the people who answered the questions have a "1-2-3 VOTE!" and point a finger at another player who they thought did the best job acting out the delusion.  Everyone with at least one finger pointed at them gets one (and only one) point. Therefore, several people get points each turn.  That won't be possible if the turn ends whenever the psychiatrist guesses the delusion!

Chuck Waterman