Punderdome Game Review (Jo and Fred Firestone)

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"This game is not in any way the game that it appears to be," said one friend, sadly. Made by a father daughter team (that's right, it's a box full of dad jokes), Punderdome pretends to be a competitive pun-spinning game. What it is, though, is so much darker, and so much less exciting. Glossed up in the veneer of brightly-colored cards, the secret behind Punderdome is that there isn't actually a game there. It's just random sets of words, which don't mean anything. Half of the game, my group lamented, is extraneous to the actual game. Ultimately, it wasn't an enjoyable experience to those who loved or hated puns.

Game Details

Players: 3+

Game Time: Don't

Age: None

Genre: Bad

How is Punderdome Played?

Punderdome box
The entirety of this box is a lie.

In Punderdome, cards have a front side and a back side. There are also two stacks of cards, green and white. A judge will take a card out and will first read the back of the card. The back of the card has a simple Q-and-A style pun, like Laffy Taffy:

Question: Why did the old lady have to get rid of her duck statue?

Answer: It quacked. 

Only the question is read. Everyone needs to try to guess the correct answer as soon as possible; the person who answers first gets bonus time on the next section of the round. By the way, we just came up with that pun and it's better then nearly all of the puns in this game.

Moving into the second round, players are given two words. They need to connect these words into a pun. The best (or worst, depending on perspective) pun wins, as decided by the judge. This can be done individually or in teams. 

And it's horrible. It's horrible because the words are simply two disparate elements. The example the box itself gives is:

"injuries" and "colors."

What's the winning response to this miraculous mix? "When I hurt myself, I yell 'ow'."

That's the best they could do.

How Does Punderdome Look?

With its cleverly built, brightly-colored box, and attractive cards, Punderdome has all the trappings of a substantially better game. And that's not fair. It's not fair to us, the players. It's not fair to the designer, who is better than this. It's definitely not fair to anyone who actually purchased the game thinking that it was a game.

Let me take a moment to read some Amazon reviews of this game, to assert that this isn't just hysteria:

"This is one of the worst games I have ever played."

"I had higher hopes for this game. Wasn't what I expected..."

"Too complicated to understand!"

"It's too hard - not fun."

"My partner and I tried to play it with dozens of people and nobody really enjoyed it."

We aren't the only ones who have been tricked by this. I feel that this may actually be a crime against the community. (Some complained about the box and the cards, which confused me, until I looked at Amazon and discovered they had actually redesigned the box into the current one at some point. Not the game, mind you -- just the box.)

What's in the Box?
200 double-sided cards * 2 mystery envelopes *2 80 page pads * 1 instruction card * 1 pun example card * 30 minutes of your life you can't get back

How Does Punderdome Feel?

Punderdome's cards are inscrutable.
OK, well that's just a praying mantis. Where do we go from there?

Here's the problem. Punderdome promises an experience that's completely different from the one that it offers. The best part of Punderdome is reading off the Q&A sections and making people groan, because that's the best part of puns, everywhere. Actually crafting a pun isn't the fun part of writing a pun, it's the hard part. Writing a pun for "cheese" and "sasquatch" isn't fun, it's insanely difficult, especially with time pressure.

And because of that, you don't get any good puns, you just get a bunch of really bad puns that are stretching for a goal. No one likes bad puns. They may say they like "bad puns," but what they really mean is they like "well-executed puns, because the essence of being a pun is, in itself,  terrible." A bad pun is just words, strung together, with hope and twine. 

Punderdome is the experience of delivering mediocre comedy to an audience that can't, themselves, do any better. It's depressing.

Punderdome Game Review
  • CON: I don't know how much I can express that you shouldn't play this game.
  • CON: By all means, read the cards if you're in a game shop, or give it a whirl if you're at a cafe or event.
  • CON: But don't buy this game, you'll just encourage them.
  • CON: They've already gotten enough money to re-release the box.
  • CON: They have a positive review on Mashable that was probably paid for with cash.
  • CON: Don't let them do this to us.