COMMENTARY: Snake Oil Will Cause Laughter

snakeoilAs an avid board game enthusiast and intern here at the Toy Book, I jumped at the chance to test out a new board game Snake Oil, from Out of the Box Publishing. Do not let this unusual name throw you off, as I did at first. The name Snake Oil derives from tales of the old west, where Chinese laborers on the Transcontinental Railroad utilized water snake oil, claiming that rubbing the oil onto their skin could “ail” their sore, aching muscles. The Chinese shared this ancient remedy with their American coworkers, and from there, snake oil salesmen were born.

As the popularity of water snake oil increased, so did the fabrication of potential usage (although recent studies have revealed that it contained more omega-3 fatty acids than the highest form of fish oil). In 1917, however, a sample of Clark Stanley’s Snake Oil Liniment was tested by the U.S. government and was found to contain no actual snake oil. Therefore, snake oil salesman used both charm and imagination to persuade even the most skeptical of customers into buying their typically faulty product. This same idea applies when playing Snake Oil the board game.

The concept of the game is simple. All you need is at least 3 players ages 10 and up, each of whom is given six playing cards containing one word. One player must draw a customer card, assigning them the title as customer for the round. This player assumes the role that is written on the customer card and announces it to the rest of the players, setting the tone for the round of play. For example, the customer could be anyone from a beach bum, a teacher, or a caveman, just to name a few. The other players must now use their imagination to create something inspired by two cards from their hand that they will “pitch” or “sell” to the player with the customer card, being sure to cater their pitch to whatever identity the customer has taken on.  [Read more...]