Trivia games have been around for ages (the most popular being the 1980s phenomenon Trivial Pursuit) -- but what happens when you add betting and odds to the mix of knowing random facts?  Wits & Wagers from North Star Games puts a nice wrinkle on the "who knows the most?" type of game by adding betting and the ability to use another person's answers.

Each player (or team of players) gets two chips in their team color, an answer card, and a dry-erase marker to write on the answer card.  At the start of a round, a question with a numerical answer is asked.  (Some questions include: How many provinces make up Canada?  In dollars, how much was Mike Myers paid to voice Shrek in the movie Shrek 2?  In what year was the electric razor invented?)  Each player/team then guesses what the answer is without going over, writing their guess on their answer card.
Next it's off to the Betting Mat!  Each person's guess goes on the mat.  If there are an odd number of different guesses, the middle guess goes in the "Pays 2 to 1" slot, with each higher and lower guess going on either side of the guess (and paying 3 to 1, 4 to 1, etc.).  If there are an even number of different guesses, the "Pays 2 to 1" slot is skipped.  After the guesses are placed, each player can put their two chips on two answers on the board: the same answer, two different answers, or the "All Answers Too High" slot at the end that pays 6 to 1.  A player can also put any chips they've won under their team chip, risking those chips but possibly winning much more.  After all players have bet, winning guesses get paid, losing guesses lose all their chips except the two team chips, and each player with an answer in the winning slot gets three bonus chips.  Then the answer cards are erased and the next round begins.  After seven questions, whoever has the most chips wins.
Wits & Wagers is a good party game: easy to explain and quick to play.  While knowing the answers certainly helps, it's just as important to know how much to risk and whose to bet on.  (I won one game because I'd risk 2-3 chips on each guess while my opponents only used their starting chips.)  As with any trivia game, there's the possibility that if you play enough times the players will know the answers just from repetition (though expansions and trivia books can take care of that problem).  Apart from that, though, Wits & Wagers is a lot of fun for casual gamers to hang out and see who can win the most chips.
(There's also a Party Edition of the game that has no Betting Mat.  I prefer the standard edition.)
Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch

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