Few squares in Encore! are more dreaded by our play group than the "Vs. Player" squares — "Team vs. Player" and "Player Vs. Player." It's not just that they're harder; they're palpably less fun, and kill the momentum that's generated by the game. They remove the collaborative element that's a big part of the game's appeal, and have the potential to cause tension. (Instances where the chosen player gets a word that they blank on, or when the rest of the team has to sit in silence as the "best" player seizes the spotlight for a while or a stymied teammate struggles with a word that his or her friends can think of half a dozen songs for.)
Here are some steps we've taken to try and fix the problem:
- On XvP squares, the "player" is not necessarily chosen in advance; rather, it's the person on the singing team who begins the first song after the timer starts running. This means you'll never be completely without a song unless no one on your team had one.
- At our last Encore! party, I served as timekeeper and as the "player" — XvP became "challenge the host." This worked well for the team challenge, but Player vs. Me had many of the same difficulties as Player vs. Player.
We like Encore! and play it regularly, but it seems that this one element is more likely to cause awkwardness in the game than any other. How can this be reduced or eliminated?