Master Dater: A Glimpse of the Messed Up Dating Game

If you’ve been on the internet long enough, you’ve seen the works of Cyanide and Happiness. Created by Explosm Entertainment, the web series is known for its absurd and anarchic humor packaged in easy-to-digest sketches. This is the kind of format that has served Explosm well. They turned that crazy energy into quick and easy board games like Risk of joke and Trolley test with simple rules and short execution times. Now with their third board game, Main date stampit seems that they have further refined this energy.

It begins!!

How do you play Master Dater?

We were sent a prototype of Main date stamp by Explosm Entertainment to try on our gaming table. As the name suggests, the game is billed as a dating show. There are three decks of cards, one Heads, one Bodies, the other Interests. All players start with a hand consisting of three body cards and three head cards. A player takes the role of the Sexy Single and reveals the top three cards of the Interest deck. These interest cards can range from “I need someone to marry me now” or “I like people with a tragic history”. The other players then create an ideal date for the Sexy Single using a Head and Body card from their hand. One by one they reveal their creation and are given some time to explain why they would be the perfect match.

After all players have made their case, the Sexy Single then deals the interest cards as points to whoever made the strongest (or most disturbed) case. The role of Sexy Single rotates clockwise around the table and a new round begins. The first player to score five Interest cards, including one of the three card types, is declared the winner.

A collection of cards, including a chicken with a gun and a jesus spider, on the table.
Honestly, I lost my laughing voice after that trick. Blame the spider Jesus.

What’s it like to play Master Dater?

First impressions of Main date stamp were stellar. The rules are simple. Installation is quick and easy. The central premise is basically a riff on old dating shows like The Dating Game or The Bachelor. The variety of Head and Body cards is versatile, capable of many different combinations. Some of them can be as simple as a secret agent with the head of a Goth or as bizarre as a taco on a unicycle juggling chainsaws with the head of a toilet.

In other words, Master Dater is one of those “terrible people board games” made popular by Cards Against Humanity. The kind of rowdy pub games where you and a few good friends grab some intoxicating drinks and have fun. Granted, it’s the kind of fun where you feel like going to church the next day or taking a long, hot shower afterwards, but fun nonetheless.

Which makes Main dater the changing criteria of interest cards stand out. A Goth Secret Agent might be ideal for those who want to travel to exotic locations, not so much for someone who “knows for a fact that the Earth is flat”. This helps keep every round interesting and keeps players engaged. No fault for the same shocking and transgressive responses that lose their bite every time. There’s even a bit of strategy involved in what contestants will focus on for points, which adds some structure to the improvisational stretches they’re expected to do.

A handful of Master Dater Body and Head cards
Our post-game hands. Good decisions were made, but they could have been better.

Additionally, a game of Main dater it’s short. The demo box stated that a single game takes about 25 minutes. The game my group played, four players in total, lasted about 30 minutes, although that was because we had to pause for laughing too hard. Much like a sketch of Cyanide and Happiness, the game was full of bizarre setups and fast-paced punchlines, all kept at a brisk pace.

If there’s one complaint I have with the game in its current form, it would be that there’s no time limit for contestants to talk to the Sexy Single. In the games we had, we decided that each player had about 30 seconds to speak with a brief rebuttal between them and the Sexy Single. It was a fair house rule given the structure of the dating game show of Main daterbut making this clearer in the rules can help keep the pace going.

Globally, Main dater makes a great first impression. It shows that Explosm’s knack for juvenile absurdity has only grown stronger. This led to the most fun I’ve had with good friends and a stiff drink in a while. Finally, it actually requires a bit more thought from their players, other than a brief shock. If you are even slightly interested in this game, the Gamefound campaign for Main date stamp ends May 5 and includes additional expansions. You can support the campaign and secure your copy here.

About Jimmie P. Ricks

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