Game review: Ransom Notes

New game! New game! Over Thanksgiving weekend, we tried out Ransom Notes: The Ridiculous Word Magnet Party Game. 

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Very simple concept. Someone reads a prompt from a card, and everyone (including the reader) has to pick words from their collection of word magnets to express what is on the card. Then everyone reads their entry aloud.

I dearly wish I had taken more pictures, but here are two entries for the prompt “Summarize the Star Wars movies:”


I mean . . . yup, that’s Star Wars!

Once everyone has read their entry, a judge for the round is randomly chosen, and he decides whose entry is funniest and best, and that person wins the round. Everyone replenishes their word magnets and they play another round. Whoever wins five rounds wins the game.

What I liked about the game:

It’s simple and flexible. Very much designed to be played by a bunch of people who are laughing and shouting and possibly drinking, and who aren’t going to get hung up on counting or nitpicking or other minutiae; but it could also easily be played by a more sober, thoughtful crowd. The play moves along quickly, and there are lots of ways to adapt it. It’s a game that’s designed to be flexible.

The magnets seem reasonably sturdy, and the little metal boards on which you arrange your thoughts are pleasing. They are like miniature baking sheets and I just liked them. You can also add in your own collection of word magnets, if you happen to have some. The whole game comes compactly stored in a small, deep box.

Every round was amusing, and some were hilarious. Some of the answers were downright brilliant, and it was so entertaining to see different players’ personalities expressed in their answers as they read out them out. Delivery also played an important part in how the responses were received. 

The game is structured so there’s not one person who’s “it” and has to sit out the fun. They also stipulated that whoever is judge of the round may chose his own answer as the winner, but it had better be awfully good; and the other players can unanimously overrule him, if necessary. Some of the funniest answers were just a word or two.

Overall, it’s very obvious that they tested this game thoroughly with lots of players, and crafted it well for real people to play. They even thought of details like reminding you to stick your word magnets to the side of the tray without a lip, so it will be easier to scrape them off into the pot when the round is over. 

What I didn’t like:

The suggested time limit of 90 seconds per round is too dang short! We ended up just giving everyone as much time as they needed to come up with an answer. And by “everyone” I mean “me,” because I am old and have lost my brain sparkle. Although I think I wasn’t giving myself enough magnets. Here is what the recommended number of magnets for a round looks like (“three pinches,” or about 75 magnets):

There are also some prefixes and suffixes in the mix, that didn’t happen to make it into this collection. 

The major quibble I had was that they were trying a little too hard to steer you toward a naughty game experience (and yes, it does say it’s for ages 17+.) We didn’t come across any really R-rated words (I think we found “boob,” “genital,” “panties,” and “bitchy” and a few others at that level), but there were a lot of words like “secrete” and “bedroom” and “flesh” which are not inherently sexy, but it felt like the word selection overall was weighted in that direction.

Regular readers will know I don’t have a problem with racy humor! There was just a slightly forced, smirky feel to it, and I wish they had just chosen more neutral words, and let the double entendres arise more naturally, because they’re funnier that way. I like deciding when I want to make a dirty joke, rather than getting buffaloed into it because we’re at a party and that’s how you have to act. Possibly I am overstating this issue, because I am a mom who was playing a game with several teenage daughters, and I may have been on high alert. 

A few of the cards pretty explicit (“Walk us through the masturbation process,” for instance, and “Ask your boss for a promotion in exchange for sexual favors”). It’s easy enough to just toss any cards and magnets you don’t want in your game (the FAQs say about 15-30% of the cards are not PG), but it’s something to know about ahead of time, depending on who’s going to play. 

Here’s a selection of cards I drew randomly, to give you an idea of what kind of prompts you might encounter:

So you can see it’s kind of edgy, but by no means always sexy. 

In general: 

We played with kids ages 12 and up (younger than the suggested age). In theory, you could play with younger kids, but even though the play is simple, it can be surprisingly mentally taxing (unless some inspiration jumps out at you), and I don’t think younger kids would have understood the point, or had fun with it. 

It comes with six little trays for words, and says it’s for 3-6 players. I suppose you could play with more people, and just find something else to stick the magnets to, but it might get cumbersome if you add too many players. 

Overall, a clever, funny, successfully-conceived game, and we laughed a lot, and we played a full game in under an hour. We’ll definitely be playing again. It has lots and lots of cards, so you won’t be repeating phrases anytime soon; and there are enough magnets that you should keep coming up with fresh combinations. I anticipate expansion packs. 

If you come up with an especially clever answer, you can hashtag it #RansomNotesGame on social media, and they may add it to their Hall of Fame on their site. You can order directly from their site or from Amazon (affiliate link) It is currently listed at $39.99.

I love family games, but I’m horrible at learning new rules. Here are a few other games I’ve reviewed:


Snake Oil 

And of course there’s The Catholic Card Game for which Damien and I contributed some brain cells to the NFP Expansion Pack

and then there’s Ten ridiculous family games that need no equipment


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3 thoughts on “Game review: Ransom Notes”

  1. I was so hoping when I saw the picture that this was a re-release of “Word Blur” which is also played with word magnets and is incredibly fun. You can’t buy the game any more except at exorbitant “collectible” prices, but it’s actually worth it. In Word Blur, one person on each team knows the secret word for the round. Simultaneously, they all dig through the collective mound of words in the center to try to get their team to say the word. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but the word choices extremely well done. Each card also has six different words ranked by difficulty, so you can play with younger kids just by sticking to the easy words. It’s crazy and hilarious and, despite the complete lack of sexy innuendoes, the most fun you can have with word magnets.

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