Holiday Shakespeare Gift Guide 2017 : Games

Happy Holidays, everyone!  It’s been a long time since I rounded up a Shakespeare gift guide.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised over the years to see just how many Shakespeare games are on the shelves these days.  I’ve also noticed that when they come up, either on Facebook or Twitter, there’s always a slew of people saying, “I had no idea this existed, OMG!”  So why not take the opportunity to get them all together?  Some of these I have played, some I have not.  In full disclosure these are affiliate links, so if you end up purchasing something that looks good, it helps support Shakespeare Geek.

Let’s get started!

The Ones I Have

Munchkin Shakespeare

We have the regular Munchkin game at home, so late last year when I saw a Shakespeare version on Kickstarter I immediately backed it.  The game is a fun take on the “dungeon crawl” where you’re one of a bad of explorers trying to arm yourself with weapons, battle monsters and collect treasure on your way to level 10.  It’s primarily about the cards – draw a monster who comes with a fighting score, arm yourself from the cards in your hand in an attempt to boost your own fighting score to beat the monsters.  The catch is that the rules allow the other players to gang up on you, hurling curses that lower your score, adding more monsters and so on, so it really puts the “melee” into the combat.  The Shakespeare version comes with all themed cards, so you might run into “The Head That Wears The Crown” as your monster, a disembodied head that steals your headgear and uses its powers against you.  Or maybe you get the “Good Deed in a Naughty World” card where you can undo bad stuff that happened to another player, and gain a level for yourself.

Playing Shakespeare

 Ok, it’s only partially accurate to say I “have” this, as I used to have it, back in college.  I think it’s probably even out of print now, but it is still available on Amazon from third-party sellers. This one’s quite easy to explain – it’s charades.  All the clues are Shakespeare quotes.  You get to say a part of the quote, but then if your partner doesn’t know it, you have to act out the rest.  This one’s great fun for a theatre crowd who is at least somewhat knowledgeable about Shakespeare quotes, because some they’ll get, some they’ll have no idea, and some they’ll wrack their brain to remember how the second half goes.  I vividly remember my partner reading, “Even now that old black ram is …” and pretending like I didn’t know the answer because I wanted to see how she acted out “tupping your white ewe.”  🙂  And then there was the kid, I forget his name, who swore that he was the Henry V expert and was waiting for Henry V quotes .. but then when one came around, he got it wrong.

The Ones I Want

 Bards Dispense Profanity

If you think this one sounds familiar, you’re right – it’s a Shakespearean spin on the hugely popular “Cards Against Humanity.”  If you’ve not heard of that one, maybe you’ve heard of the children’s version “Apples to Apples”?  The idea is that you take turns throwing down a saying with some blanks to fill in, then the other players anonymously offer one of their cards to fill in the blank. The referee (whoever put down the initial card) then decides the winner of each round based on … whatever rules they choose, honestly.  Often it descends into the most outrageous combinations available.  For example, a starter card might be, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely ________.”  You know the answer of course, but it’s not about that, it’s about what cards you have in your hand.  Maybe you choose to play, “Cupid’s butt-shaft.”  Getting the idea?  Not your parents’ card game.  Apples to Apples is completely safe, Cards Against Humanity is only to be played by the closest of friends, this one’s probably somewhere in the middle. Doesn’t have to be dirty and offensive…but it can be if you prefer it that way.

Great Shakespearean Deaths

 I admit I’d never heard of this one until I went looking, and I’m still not really sure how to play it, but just from the look of the cards alone, I want it.  Every card appears to be a death, described and quantified. Lady Macbeth’s death, for example, gets a 0 for “Last Words” and a 4 for “Fairness”.  Brutus, meanwhile, gets a 6 for Last Words and a 5 for “Gore and Brutality.”  Not really sure how you score the game or how you win? But I like that it appears to have an opportunity for education since you’re almost certain to see cards for characters you’re not always intimately familiar with.  And it looks like it wouldn’t take much knowledge of Shakespeare to get started.

The One I Still Don’t Understand

When the topic comes up, inevitably somebody suggests, “Shakespeare The Board Game.”  But …

“Shakespeare Board Game”
“Shakespeare – The Board Game”

which one??? Although the one on the right over there is technically called “The Bard Game”, get it? Even Amazon’s got the title listed as “The Board Game”. In both, you play an entrepreneur who is trying to run a theatre by putting on the best plays.  Are these two different versions of the same game?  It seems like it, but I honestly can’t tell. The images are different – the “bard” game works you around a path on a board, while the other one appears more card oriented.  I wonder if there’s some sort of cool backstory here where it started out life as the same game and then two people went in different directions with it?

That’s All For Now

There you have it, the best of the “games” based on Shakespeare.  Did I miss any?  I hope to put out a couple of these guides in time for Christmas, and I’d like to do something for “toys” to encompass all the crazy bobble heads and finger puppets that are out there (many of which currently adorn my desk).  If you’ve like to see a particular category let me know in the comments!

Obligatory Awkward Self-Promotion

Available in long sleeve!
And short sleeves!

I’m sure most of you know that I do have a line of Shakespeare Geek merchandise available on Amazon now, both short sleeves t-shirts and long sleeve.


I will not be doing a specific Shakespeare gift guide just for t-shirts, mostly because there’s over 100 designs available now.

Of course I’d love to sell many of them, those support the site more directly than the occasional affiliate link. Even if you’re not buying for yourself, maybe send a link to Grandma and Aunt Susan next time they ask you what you want?  It’s all about getting more Shakespeare out there into the world.  Thanks for your support!


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