You’re sitting at home on a casual weekend afternoon, watching movies with your friends and your dog. Suddenly, you see a massive, living, breathing, real dinosaur stroll right past the window. Naturally, you rush over to watch the dinosaur and try to get your friends to come witness it as well. But for some horrible and unfair reason, your ability to speak is suddenly gone! You must explain the dinosaur without using words! Somehow you manage to convey that there’s something like the dog, but not like the dog, and it's huge and green and outside. Your friends abruptly grasp what’s going on and join you in watching the dinosaur walk towards the horizon, sharing with you this wonderful, uncanny moment. This is basically what it's like to play Concept.
In the game Concept, you and your opponents use the icons on the game board to convey words or phrases to each other without using sound or speech. Each player takes a turn conveying a concept as the others guess at it. One point is awarded for conveying a word or phrase clearly; two points for guessing one correctly, and if you want, you can grant more points for guessing more difficult ideas. Concept is best played with a minimum of four players, and players can compete as individuals or in teams. The game can end once a player or team collects twelve lightbulb-shaped victory points, or you can keep going as long as you like.
Conveying a Dinosaur
The rules of Concept are simple and malleable. You draw a card, which gives nine words or phrases for you to pick from. The suggestions are divided into “easy,” “hard,” and “challenging,” and if your group wants, you can give players additional points for guessing more difficult ideas. No matter what, each card has enough options for you to find a word or phrase suitable to your group’s body of knowledge and age level. Obviously, concepts like “dinosaur” and “flying saucer” are probably better material for eleven-year-olds to guess than “Bill Clinton” or “Hannibal Lecter.”
Start by placing the main concept pawn—the green one shaped like question mark—on an icon that indicates the core of what the concept is. Then, place cubes on icons that convey connected ideas. Player aids are included to give you a basic understanding of what the icons on the board can mean, although the meanings go far beyond what the aids suggest. Really, as long as others can understand what you’re indicating, you can use the icons to mean whatever you want. To convey “dinosaur,” you might begin with the icon that depicts different animals. Then, you could use cubes to show that the animal in question is large, green, and either old or from a long time ago. A group of cubes could indicate that something is very old or from a very long time ago.
Put together, those separate clues may be enough to get the other players to guess “dinosaur,” at which point the person giving the clues is free to shout, “Yes!” If they interpret these clues to mean Cthulhu, that makes perfect sense, but it's not the right answer this time.
Taking It to the Next Level
Some concepts involve more than one line of connected ideas. In that case, sub-concept pawns and cubes of the matching color can be used to indicate a secondary descriptive idea. For example, here the main idea is a building that involves metal.
Alright, but lots of buildings involve metal. Introducing a sub-concept helpfully narrows things down a bit. This sub-concept is the building’s location, marked by a sub-concept pawn on the icon of a flag stuck in the globe. Placing cubes on blue, white, and red in that order signify the French tricolor flag. Therefore, the metal building is located in France. The most famous metal building in France is the Eiffel Tower.
For even more complex ideas, or if players are struggling to guess the word or phrase, you may want to use multiple sub-concepts. At the outset of this player’s turn, all you can guess is that the main idea is a book that is also somehow connected to television.
The player then introduces a sub-concept, linking together the icon that represents toys, games, or playing with ones that represent weapons or conflict, security or a wall, and political power. The fact that the cube is specifically on top of the crown hints that royalty is involved, not a president or democratic process.
The concept has still not been guessed correctly, so the player adds one final subconcept: some kind of music that has to do with fire and cold? Rain? Winter? No, ice. Music that has to do with fire and ice. The final subconcept is A Song of Ice and Fire, so the book/television series in question is Game of Thrones.
You must make clear everything you need to convey through the pawns, cubes, and icons. “Yes” is the only word you are allowed to use. That still leaves you plenty of options. You may find yourself stacking cubes, using multiple colors on one icon, moving them back and forth between icons, placing them on a very specific part of an icon, or removing them from an icon that the other players didn’t interpret as you wanted. Perhaps tap the “0” icon with a cube to indicate a wrong guess, or move a cube around on the icon of a blue and grey grid to mean “sort of.” Any way you use the cubes, pawns, and icons to convey meaning is valid, as long as it is effective.
What icons would you use to signify brainwashing, tea, the Great Sphinx of Giza, “blind as a bat,” or Beyoncé? How many ways can you interpret a red-roofed house, a Cartesian plane, a blue-irised eye, or a computer motherboard? There are no wrong ways to use the icons, pawns, and cubes of Concept, no time limits, a simple point system, a few essential rules. Instead, you’re encouraged to play around with Concept, be inventive and, above all, make meaning in unique and original ways.
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