Verba: Review

Fairway took French in High School and College. Bonjour, mon petits choux! But this week, he tries to learn Spanish with language-learning game, Verba, from The Pericles Group. The Verba Spanish Core set was a Kickstarter delivery, but is now available from their website.

Verba is a language-learning card game that puts the Cards Against Humanity or Apples to Apples game mechanic to good use. I picked up the Verba Spanish Core Set during its Kickstarter. The core Spanish game comes with 50 sentence cards and more than 140 noun cards and plays between four and nine players. I have also received a few of the expansions since, including “Novice Sentences” and the “Additional Nouns.”

Initial Impressions ^

  1. If you’ve played Cards Against Humanity or Apples to Apples or games in that genre, you’ll know how to play this game.
  2. The numerous illustrations on the white cards are incredibly helpful and nicely done.
  3. If you have trouble with the Spanish sentences, there’s always the Google Translate app which does a good job, and in real time.

Game Play ^

Verba can plays up to nine, but ideally somewhere between four and six players. To play, decks of purple sentence cards are shuffled and placed face down in a draw pile. The white cards are shuffled and then each player is dealt a hand of cards. The white cards all contain a noun, in Spanish, and an illustration.

Play begins with a first player as a judge.  The judge turns over a purple sentence card and reads it aloud. The sentence cards contain most of a sentence in Spanish and a blank.  The object, then, for the other players is to take one of their white cards and complete the sentence.

Every player, other than the first player, picks a card from their hand and places it face down in the middle. Once all the players have made their selection, the first player shuffles them.  He or she then reads the complete sentence substituting the blank for each of the choices.  The first player picks the best white card and that player is the winner of that round.  The role of judge then passes to another player and a new round begins.

On the Green ^

One might ask: in a world of Cards Against Humanity and Apples to Apples clones, do we really need another one? I think that Verba demonstrates that the answer is most certainly, “yes.”

The illustrations.  All of the illustrations on the white cards are fantastic. They’re easily recognizable for what they are. They have a clean, low-distraction aesthetic which serves the game very well. There’s also so many of them!

The variety of sentences.  The game includes a good number of sentence cards. We’ve played many times and rarely get repeats unless we’re playing the smaller pack of “simple sentences.”

Replayable.  The game is highly replayable. The combination of large numbers of sentences and nouns means that there’s a ton of variation over time. The addition of new sentences and nouns via expansions increases this. Especially for a classroom or home school situation, this game offers a lot of value.

Teachable.  The game is easily teachable. For players of similar games, there’s very little new here to learn.

Not just a translated game.  I remember playing games in my French classes which were just French translations of games I was playing. This is not that. This is a game structured around getting players to use the language. To that end, the game is very successful and far more appropriate than playing the Spanish-language version of a board game.

Play variations.  While it’s not officially in the rules, the cards lend themselves to a lot of alternative games that you might consider for a Spanish class.  For example, you could play a version of Dixit or Codenames with the cards.

For a Dixit variation, the “judge” draws four sentences and places one down that he or she believes best fits one of the white cards in their hand. All the players, including the judge, plays a white card from their hand and places it facedown in the middle.  The judge shuffles the white cards together and arranges them. Players then try to guess the judge’s card. The game is then scored like Dixit.

Missing a row of cards, oops.

For Codenames, use the Codenames grid card, but use white noun cards to form the grid. Clues must then be in Spanish and players attempt to match the noun cards that correspond to the clue.

Special note:  This review focused on just the Spanish set. But The Pericles offers Verba in a host of other languages like Latin, French, English, and Chinese. Given my difficulty with English, I might pick that one up too.

Where it comes up short ^

It’s not really an issue and it’s probably entirely unfair to judge a game this way, but I doubt I’d learn much Spanish by playing this game. It seems unlikely by itself. There’s no guidance on pronunciation and there’s little guidance about what certain of the sentences actually mean. I found myself relying on Google’s Translate app frequently on some sentences. But that’s because I’m playing it as a game. However, Verba seems like an excellent way to augment an Spanish language course with a fun game that kids find particularly funny.

Unlike me, my kids were different and took to the game in a way I didn’t. With my wife’s guidance (she speaks Spanish), they actually fared far better on the language acquisition than I did.

In the hole ^

Verba is a perfect addition to a school Spanish class or a homeschooling parent’s classroom. The game includes family- and education-friendly sentences and nouns.  Moreover, if you’re a parent thinking about buying a game like Apples to Apples, you’d probably find that this game more rewarding and more appropriate.

Anyone looking to add an educational or language acquisition game to their library would do well to pick up Verba.

Verba’s in the hole for a par. ^

Fairway was provided copies of the two Verba expansions but was not otherwise compensated for his opinion.

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