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Board Games with OB #2: Snake Oil

Welcome to Board Games With OB, a somewhat profane, possibly semi-regular feature where OregonBeast gets a board game he likes and briefly explains how to play it and hopes you would be interested in playing it, too. Because board games are fucking awesome.

Word association party games have become popular. In particular, there are two games that stand at the top of the pack: Apples to Apples, and the creepy uncle of Apples to Apples, Cards Against Humanity. Both are essentially the same game. You have a hand of cards that you choose from to match up with a community card in order to win a judging of all the cards played.


But what if you could do more than just play your cards and hoping the judge likes them? What if you then got the chance to use any and all bullshit arguments you can come up with to win?

Well, dust off your inner Professor Harold Hill (singing optional) and inner Billy Mays (cocaine optional. Too soon?) because it’s time to talk about Snake Oil.

Illustration for article titled Board Games with OB #2: Snake Oil

Game: Snake Oil
Players: 3-10
Gametime: Pretty much as long as you damn want.
Designer: Jeff Ochs (USA)


Story: If you really can have a story for a party game, here goes: You’re basically a snake-oil salesman with a briefcase of useless crap you’re trying to sell. As you and the other salesman come across various customers, you have to try and sell them your useless crap by throwing out a convincing line of bullshit. And let’s be honest, you’re probably working on fucking commission here, so the more you sell, the better.

Illustration for article titled Board Games with OB #2: Snake Oil

What do you do?: Just like Apples and CAH, there’s two decks of cards involved. The “Noun Deck” are the cards making up the six-card hand of each player, then there’s the “Customer Cards”, which are the cards you’re trying to win.

In each round, one player acts as the Customer. They take a card from the Customer Deck and reveal who the customer is that round. It could be a police officer, or an astronaut, or Bill Fucking Murray, or an insomniac. (NOTE: Only three of the four examples are actual customer cards).


After the customer is reveal, the other players get 30 to 40 seconds to look in their hand of six noun cards and pick two of them that, when combined, will created the useless product your are trying to sell to the customer. Five quick examples I just made by grabbing a bunch of cards: “death pajamas”, “revenge slime”, “storm sticker”, “joke bowl” and “sky club”.

After everybody has come up with the products, it then goes around the table with everybody taking a turn to reveal their product to the customer while pulling out of their ass an explanation of why the fuck the customer would want the product. For example, maybe the death pajamas would be great for an insomniac because, hey if you’re in pajamas and dead, you obviously still aren’t awake anymore, right?


So, after everybody makes their pitch, the customer chooses which product they found to be the best. The successful salesman takes the customer card. The salesman redraw their hands back up to six noun cards, another player takes a turn being the Customer, and you do the whole damned shebang over again.

How to taste sweet, sweet victory: Get more customer cards than anyone else. The game’s official rules suggest that the game should go until every player has been the customer once, but like a lot of things with party games, it really can go however long you want it to. HOUSE RULES BETCHES.


So, what’s awesome about this game?

  • Major replay value by sheer volume. The second printing of this game includes 324 noun cards.
  • Humor. While Apples and CAH relies on humor from the cards alone, Snake Oil allows the players to also add to the laughs as they attempt to explain what the fuck they’re thinking trying to sell a diaper carpet to a grave robber.
  • Flexibility. The game can last as short or as long as you want it to, you can change the size of a player’s hand of noun cards to more or less than six if you want, you can have salesman start their pitches as soon as they pick cards, etc.
  • Like many party games, it’s cheap. Suggested retail price on Snake Oil is $20.

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Questions? Comments? OKCupid profile advice? Write away!

Photos via BoardGameGeek.

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