Better Anomia

January 8th, 2024
In Anomia you take turns revealing cards and putting them on your pile. Each card has one of eight symbols (ex: a circle) and a unique category (ex: 'frozen food'). If your top card has the same symbol as someone else's, whoever first gives an example word from the other's category takes their card. In the official rules any cards you take this way go into a separate face-down "winning pile", but the game is much more exciting if instead you put them face-up on your own pile.

What makes this fun is you often end up with a stack of same-symbol cards on your pile, and so when someone takes your top card you're still displaying matching symbols. Then either they name something from your now-revealed card's category, or you name something for the card they just took and steal it back. You continue until you no longer match. I've played games where we ended up with a stack of 10+ matching cards, which several people tried to steal, some successfully and some not.

To prevent cycles where we both keep saying "ice cream" as quickly as possible to steal and re-steal 'frozen food', this requires the usually-optional 'no-repeats' rule. [1] But that rule is a good enough one that I'd always prefer to play with it anyway.

Here's a walked example. Initially no one matches:

Drawing "Musical Instrument" causes a match:

"Bridge" is stolen with "Danyang-Kunshan", revealing "Bagel Flavor":

"Bagel Flavor" is stolen with "poppyseed", revealing "Cowboy Accessory":

In a shocking reversal, "Bagel Flavor" is stolen back with "egg":

And "Bridge" is stolen back with "Bay":

Finally, "Musical Instrument" is stolen with "drum":

They no longer match, and the face-off is over.

[1] The specific formulation we use is that any example that moves a card has been used up and can't be used again. And if we play multiple times with the same deck in one sitting repeats from the previous time are still not allowed, though new players joining can still use them. Note that we do allow words that have come up in conversation or failed to move cards; this seems to be more fun than the official formulation which prohibits using anything previously spoken.

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