Players: 3 to 10
Game Length: 30 minutes
Best enjoyed: With 4 to 6 players who want to make up ridiculous inventions to sell to each other
Snake Oil bills itself as ‘The Best Party Game in the World’ on the box, which should tell you a little about what this game’s really about – trying to sell stuff with brazen claims! In Snake Oil, players take turn being an unsuspecting mark for the unscrupulous salespeople, who will each try to sell them some improbable device that will solve all their problems.
The customer will draw a Customer card, of which there are a wide variety, such as cheerleaders, dictators, judges and miners. Then, the players will combine together two cards from their hand, each of which contains a basic word such as ‘Beard’, ‘Rock’, ‘Oil’, ‘Machine’ or so on, to make a device that will presumably be of some use to the customer. Does a Cheerleader want a Rock Machine? Or does a miner want Beard Oil? What do these dubious products even do? That’s where the real game of Snake Oil starts.
Players will each spend up to a minute describing their product and why it’ll be useful or desirable for the customer. Back-and-forth questions are encouraged, and the other players can try to undermine the current salesperson’s pitch by pointing out flaws in the product if they want. After each player has had a chance to describe their product, the customer will decide which is the best and award the winning salesperson with his Customer card, at which point another Customer card is drawn by the next player and the game begins anew.
Snake Oil makes a great game for those who love a bit of improvisation. It encourages abstract thinking and running with ridiculous concepts to see where you go. It works well with almost any group, from children to adults, and makes a great game to bring out at a dinner party or other such occasion. It can slow down a lot with too many players, and the sweet spot tends to be 4 to 6 players. Otherwise, everyone will be spending so much time listening to others talk that they’ll start to disengage from the game.
Snake Oil is an excellent party game well worth a purchase. You’ll be remembering the bizarre products you come up with long after playing, and the game has enough interaction and variety that it stays interesting, even after playing it many times. If you’re looking for something light-hearted that lets the players practice a bit of improvisation, Snake Oil comes highly recommended.