What: A flexible engine for discussion, debate and nostalgia.
Players: 2-30+
Time: 5-30 minutes
People: Dinner party guests who like to talk and aren’t afraid to disagree.
Available: For $25 on Amazon. (Support Best Play by buying with this link)

The Gist

Why we recommend it

Arguments aren’t everyone’s idea of fun night with friends.

For some, debating and verbally sparring with your guests seems like a fun challenge. Often you’ll start up these conversation when someone suggest Taylor Swift’s new track wasn’t that bad really, or someone admits to voting the other way ‘just to shake things up’.

Metagame is a re-configurable deck of cards that lets you have these kind of engaging discussions in the safety of a game.

The box contains a stack of colours opinion cards and about three times as many culture cards. Cards feature everything from Citizen Kane to the New York City Subway System to the Higgs Boson Particle. Opinions range from “Which should be preserved in a 100-year time capsule?” to “Which expresses the inexpressible?”

At it’s simplest, Metagame tasks you with matching up these culture cards with the most fitting opinion cards. Everyone plays an opinion card face up, then everyone places a culture card face down. Players then choose their favourite – a la Cards Against Humanity – which wins.

That’s not why Metagame is brilliant, though.

Metagame is reconfigurable in lots of different ways. The best ways involve actually defending the matches you’ve made, while desconstructing your opponent’s argument.

One of the modes is a race against your opponent to match up five pairs. Another mode, and one of my favourites, is Metaquilt. Cards are played in a grid, rather than in twos, so that one opinion card will be surrounded by four opinion cards – and you’ve got to make sure they all make sense.

All the cards have an illustration, quick description and a date. It avoids the terrible moment in Charades (or Monikers) when you have to mime an obscure late 1980s celebrity you’ve never heard. (The dates also facilitate a history-quiz game mode – but that’s not really my cup of tea.)

As with all talk-y games like this, many of the win-and-lose states depend on a judge. But because the cards are specific and interesting (not just ‘two midgets shitting into a bucket‘), that’s not really a problem.

There’s even more game modes to explore on Metagame’s website. If you play a lot of games, you might recognise familiar mechanics from Mysterium or Codenames. That’s not a knock to Metagame – it means that you can emulate almost any strategy, hidden role, asymmetric knowledge or role-play game mechanic with one oblong box.

After bringing out meta game a few times, I think I had finally found something as universally fun and engaging as a stack of old trivia cards. My most frequent way to play isn’t even an official game mode – someone just pulls out two cards at random, then my friends (who love to argue) start a discussion on it. Rinse and repeat.

Metagame is about as flexible and repayable as a deck of playing cards. There’s tons of different ways to use a cultural icons and divisive opinions. If you’re more of a discussion-monger than a strategist, this $25 box is for you.