Bring Your Own Book is a party game for three to eight players that, as you might guess from the title, requires each player to have a book at hand. Simple enough!
The game’s structure couldn’t be simpler — each round, a player draws a card from a massive deck and reads out one of the prompts on it.
It could say ‘title of a self-help book’, for example, or ‘something yelled after a fleeing criminal’ or...you get the picture. Everybody else then frantically flicks through their book trying to find a phrase or sentence that, in their opinion, best fits the original description. Once everybody’s found a suitable passage (or time runs out), each is read out and the player who drew the card chooses the best one. That player gets a point, and then the next player around the table draws another card and off you go again.
Now, there are quite a few games that have a similar premise (including one in particular, but we’ll get to that later). Here’s why I think Bring Your Own Book is the best one. It’s funny. Well, that’s kind of a minimum requirement for this sort of game, isn’t it? But it can be downright hilarious. And the best part is, it doesn’t necessarily depend on what the book is. You might think that a Pratchett or a Wodehouse would be better than an economics textbook and sure, those are great books for this.
But the genius of BYOB lies in the fact that its prompts are just open-ended enough that you can choose the driest phrase in the driest book and still leave everyone around the table in splits. Here’s an example — a couple of games ago, a player chose a cricketer’s biography as his book; partly because he thought it’d be funny, and partly just to mess things up a bit. And yet, even though most of his answers were extremely disconnected from the prompts, it was still so funny that he just kept trying. And when he finally won a point, it was falling-off-chairs hilarious.
Now to the elephant in the room —BYOB shares a chunk of its gameplay structure with Cards Against Humanity. The latter’s USP is that it’s...NSFW doesn’t begin to cover it, but let’s just say it sets out to have an extremely vulgar sense of humour and not much is spared. That can be funny, but it also limits the situations in which the game itself is socially acceptable — whereas you can (and should!) play BYOB with just about anybody who can read. And it’s not just more accessible — while Cards Against Humanity inevitably devolves into ‘pick the most offensive card from your hand every turn’, I think the tools that BYOB provides players with makes for a genuinely better game.
You should play this game, especially if you and your friends love books or even just like them. Because, apart from everything else I’ve said thus far, Bring Your Own Books does something I don’t think any other boardgame does — it lets you share your favourite books with your friends, all while having a great laugh-out-loud time. And that alone would be worth the price of admission, in my opinion.
If you’d like
■ an excellent group game for book-lovers
■ a taste of the absurd, authored by whoever you like
■ a highbrow (and better!) alternative to Cards Against Humanity
■ ...you should play Bring Your Own Book!
(Arjun is a gamer, book lover and an all-round renaissance man)