Master Dater review

In the world of board/card games, Master Dater from Cyanide & Happiness is a great change of pace and a solid choice for an evening of fun with (adult) friends this holiday season. Here’s a closer look.

Master Dater is our first experience with Cyanide & Happiness, though we had heard good things about Joking Hazard and Trial by Trolley before. Consider the way in which we play titles like the Jackbox games (often with immature and sometimes edgy humor), it seemed like it would be right up our alley. In Master Dater, players try to impress each other with different combinations of heads, bodies and interests – crafting interesting dating choices as you play.

As a card-based game, Master Dater features three card categories: there’s a selection of heads and a selection of bodies, and with a whopping 230 cards between those two there’s a massive number of combinations you can make. The same is true for the interests cards, as there as 300 of them – this is a game box that’s richly filled with small glossy cards to play with. There’s a lot of potential replay value because of it, because as long as you shuffle properly you’ll never play the same game twice.

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In a game, each player (Master Dater is designed for three to six players) grabs three head and three body cards, and one player acts as a the “sexy single” for that round. That player also draws three of the interest cards, which tell you more about the round’s eligible bachelor(ette) – dating preferences, personality traits and general interests. Based on that combination, the other players then assemble a highly desirable date with body and head cards they’ve drawn, and try to win over that round’s “sexy single”.

To do that, you have to really sell your suitor, using improvisation to come up with a pitch as to why your candidate should be chosen based on one or more of the interest cards. Anything goes here – you can talk about things you visually see on the head and body cards, or you can make up an elaborate connection between your candidate and the single even when there’s isn’t an apparent one. This is a game that not only encourages creativity and humor, it relies on it – heavily.

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Do well in a round with your pitch, and one judging the efforts might give you one or more of the interest cards associated with their character. You’ll need at least five of these cards to win the game, and you’ll have to have at least one of each category, so a game will always last at least three rounds but potentially a lot more – depending on how many are playing.

And although the cartoon-esque cards (and descriptions) can tell part of the story for you, Master Dater relies on improvisation and your ability to get creative and joke around – even if you mix some of the more 18+ cards into the deck that sometimes write their own jokes. You need a good group of people who can be completely nonsensical – and ideally not hold back either, as that will probably cost you the game.

Our biggest issue with the game is probably the subjective nature of the judging process – it’s too easy to just disregard the player in the lead in order to keep things interesting, taking some of the edge of the delivery at times. Depending on the players, this might frustrate, so an amount of good sportsmanship is needed there. There’s a competitive element here, but Master Dater works best if you’re just playing it to have fun. With the right group of immature adults, there’s lots of that to be found.

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