Trivial Pursuit started the trivia game genre and popularized the party game. Many people know how to play, but for those of you who don’t: Players test their knowledge of little known facts, traveling a spoke and wheel board in order to earn pie pieces, representing the various slices of factual tidbits. Mmm…trivia pie.
We’ll get to the game’s review in a bit, but first, here’s a word from our game specifications overlords.
The Fiddly Bits
Designer: Scott Abbot and Chris Haney
Date Released: 1981
Number of Players: 2-24
Age Range: 12 and up
Setup Time: nominal
Play Time: up to 90 minutes
Players pick a circular playing piece with six pie-shaped holes. You roll a single six-sided die and travel the wheel and spoke board, hoping to land on “pie spaces.” Each space – including the pie spaces – is color-coded to denote the kind of question you’ll be asked by your opponents. You must collect all pie pieces by answering a trivia question correctly while on a “pie space” and then travel to the board’s center (the same space in which you started) and answer a final question chosen by your opponents.
I liked Trivial Pursuit as a kid. I grew up with it, and it introduced me to both the trivia and party game genres, but it hasn’t aged well.
It suffers from the roll/spin and move mechanism and best illustrates why this mechanism frustrates gamers. You can correctly answer fifty questions in a row, but none of them count unless you get the pie space question right. Why? This places too much emphasis on dumb luck and less on actual knowledge, skill, or strategy. That’s not a good thing for a trivia game.
Then there’s the problem that plagues most trivia games, the one when you play with the guy or gal that has too much meaningless knowledge for their own good. You never want to play against that person. It tips the balance of play to much in their favor.
Despite these shortcomings, Trivial Pursuit has inspired countless games. Cranium sidestepped the randomness of a pie space question by having a separate deck for more important scenarios. Wits and Wagers – the game that inspired Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader – evens the playing field against those know-it-alls by having a player answering a question and the others betting whether or not they got it right.
But even though there are a lot of better options, I still enjoy the occasional game of Trivial Pursuit. We have to play with house rules (like so many correct answers on non-pie-spaces equals a pie piece), so the game doesn’t drag for hours.
Verdict: Another roll/spin and move game that hasn’t aged well. It also falls victim to the pitfalls of a trivia game, but remains a classic none-the-less.