Phantom Ink Board Game Review

Phantom Ink Board GAme Review- Box Art

Phantom Ink isn't my usual type of game.  It's a party deduction game based on spelling.  So, I was pleasantly surprised when my first game ended to discover I had enjoyed myself enormously.  So we played again

And again.  

And again.

What I had thought to be a very light game that we would play for a bit and then move on to something else not only got stuck to the table, every table nearby was watching and listening to what we were playing.  As other games ended people drifted over to see "what all the fuss" was about.

I've been told to bring it along to the next game night too.

Phantom Ink is a game of communication, it fits into that same category as Codenames and Decrypto, and although these games are certainly in the same group, Phantom Ink is executed very differently and so feels very separate.

Phantom Ink Board Game Review- Writing Clues

Players are in two teams, the Sun and Moon, each team will nominate one player to be the Spirit with whom they will attempt to commune.  The two spirits take a card and of the six words shown on the card they agree upon one that they will both try and communicate to their team.

Their teammates on the other hand have a hand of seven cards, all of which have questions, they select two and pass them to their spirit who will answer only one of them, by writing their answer, slowly on the answer sheet.  As soon as their team knows (or thinks they know what the answer is) they shout stop and that’s it.

The challenge the teams have here is that although they can see the answers(or just a few letters of it) they don’t know what the question was.

When all you can see is: “CHIL” knowing what the question was makes a huge difference.  

Phantom Ink Board Game Review- In Play - What is CHIL

These questions are simultaneously bonkers and brilliant.  Such as “What noise would it make if you dropped it?”, or “What would happen if you ate it?”.  These questions seem very random, but the right “odd” question at the right time can lead to amazing moments of clarity…or hilarity.

The wonderful thing about this game is that it creates a sense of linked “inside jokes”.  The spirits are laughing at trying to convey the word cloud when one of their questions is “How would you make it into a weapon?”, but do so in a slightly cryptic way to not give their opponents too much information.  The answer needs to be obvious as early in the spelling as possible, but also be as generic and ubiquitous as possible too. 

Each team also has their own “inside joke” as they are trying to piece together the clues and wrestle with extremely vague and open questions, and conjure possible answers.

Phantom Ink Board Game Review- In Play - Choosing Questions

With a huge variety of subject words to work out and hundreds of very open questions, the games I’ve played have always ended the same way.  The victorious team laugh, clap their hands and sigh in relief that not only did they make it to the end of the game but they won too.  The losing team has this sense of delight, that a great puzzle was solved, in most cases the winning team has won by one round.  But then this great thing happens, all the question cards are flipped over, all the clues are re-examined, and all the hypotheses are explained.  Everyone laughs and jokes about how silly the questions were, or how the answers were too obscure and for a few moments all players on both teams are equal in the victory or loss and they all revel in the time spent playing a good, fun game.

Phantom Ink Board Game Review- Rory's Thinking Face

There are points in the game where choosing a question is gruelling because you have no clue what the object could be and all of the questions simply feel silly and unhelpful (but trust me, every question is useful in that deck).  As a spirit when you get handed two questions and you have no idea how to possibly answer them it can suddenly feel like very unwelcome work.  But these moments, though unpleasant at the time, will be very funny by the end of the game, you just have to ride it out.

If you’re interested enough in this game to still be reading, then do yourself a favour and give it a go, but, play it with six or more players, anything less is like telling a friend a funny story when they were with you when the funny thing happened.    And if you own and love Codenames and/or Dycrpto or other such games, Phantom Ink would be a welcome and different addition to that collection of games. 

This review is based on a full retail copy of the game provided by the publisher. 

Next PostNewer Post Previous PostOlder Post Home


Post a Comment