Before I begin I was sent a prototype copy of the game, and will be sent a production copy of the game if it funds in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid review. Learn more here, and you can watch a video of this review below.
One of my oldest games in my collection is the classic drawing party game Telestrations. I have had so much fun with it over the years, and one of my only complaints about that game is that the scoring is not something that I have ever wanted to bother with. It is really, to me, more of an activity than a game. So I was certainly curious about Facing Off. Here was a game that promised the same joy of looking at poorly drawn pictures, with a scoring system that just might work!
The game is played in teams, with a judge (or if you have an even number the group works as the judge collectively, or if you have fewer than 6 there is one person who acts as judge and describer). The teams alternate between being the sketcher and the describer.
Each round the judge reveals a face to the describers, and they then have two minutes to describe to the sketch artists what the face looks like…like a cartoon police sketch artist. At the end of the two minutes everyone reveals their sketches, hopefully has a good laugh, then moves into the scoring phase. In scoring the judge will secretly pick which sketch they think is the closest to the actual image. After they have secretly chosen the teams each vote on which sketch they think the judge will pick. The winning sketch gets two points, and each team that correctly guesses gets one. That’s it! (Note that in an even player game there is no single judge, and therefore no voting by the teams.)
So what do I think?
As promised the game is funny. It is funny to be the judge and watch players do their best to describe what they are seeing, and hear another team describe it in a completely different way. It is funny to see the sketchers be completely dumbfounded at what they are supposed to draw. Of course it is also funny to see the vast differences in drawings.
I also think that in the odd player variant, with the judge, the scoring is truly well done. Even if you are not necessarily winning with the “best” sketch you are still able to keep in the game if you can judge the other sketches well.
I think the rules could use a few more passes for clarity. Luckily the rules I read were still a prototype, but there was an issue with hoe betting on other sketches worked that I simply could not figure out, and we used a workaround, though it was explained to me later by the designer.
I will also add the 4 player variant here. I think it is fine, but the idea of having a single describer who also acts as the judge opens up the door for kingmaking, in how corrections are offered to the sketchers. Otherwise it is a fun way to play I think.
My only real issue with the game is that I think it is not nearly as fun when you have an even number of players. The collaborative judging of the sketches opens the door for arguing, and also removes one of my favorite parts of the game, the voting on other sketches. This makes it a little more difficult to get it to the table.
Bringing it all together
Facing Off is a fun sketching game, that has actually managed to utilize a scoring mechanic that works. The game is full of laughs and ridiculous attempts to communication. The rules still need another revision for clarity, and the game shines with an odd number of players, as the even player variant removes one aspect from the game.
Like Nic Cage if you make me read all that I will take your “Face Off”
* A fast, fun, laugh filled sketching game
* It makes basic communication hilarious, and fun
* Manages to add a scoring mechanic that does not feel tacked on to a sketching game
* Though there are variants for multiple player counts, a high, and odd, player count is where the game really shines.
* Quality components
* Definitely a fun party game.