Ranking Review

A game that was sent to me before I had even heard of it was Ranking!

In Ranking, you and your opponents will... rank various items. Each round there will be a question posed - something like, "Which is found more often in the forest?" From here, each player selects one of the tiles they have in their hand that they believe most accurately answers the question. You add in a few random tiles, mix them up, and reveal them. Now, players take turns ranking items. The active player will select two items on the same row and explain why one fits the question better than the other - moving one up and the other down. After any ranking, the other players may guess what the active player's tile was by placing a "guess marker" on the guessed tile. Play continues until at least one tile is in the top (6) spot, and at least one tile is in the bottom (0) spot. At this point, each player gets a number of points equal to their tile's current place on the tower (from 0-6), but loses a point for each person that correctly guessed their tile (to a minimum of 0 points for the round). Play continues like this until one person scores 15 points.

The first pro about Ranking has to be the replayability. People that enjoy this game will be able to play it forever without ever playing the same game twice. Between the 46 two-sided questions, and the 120 pictures, you are given significantly more components than you will ever need in any single game. Even if you did eventually play the exact same game where you used the same questions and had the same tiles appear (I'd estimate this to be approximately a 1 in a million chance), the reasoning that the players use for moving tiles would still be different, so the game would truly change.

Ranking has hordes of components
Before the next pro, I must make a confession. After receiving Ranking, I did not expect much from it - I read through the rules, but missed the part where the game was supposed to be "good" or "fun." However, this is why I actually play the game before reviewing it. Ranking features a storytelling aspect similar to Dixit. Therefore, I think that this game would truly appeal to creative people that enjoy making up stories. After all, you could take any two pictures and justifiably move either one up or down. For example, we had a question of "What is more likely to be lost or left behind?" One of the tiles was a treasure chest. Two of us immediately thought, "The treasure chest is least likely to be lost, because it's huge!" One of the other players thought, "You bury a treasure chest, so of course you leave it behind!" Therefore, when played with the right people, this storytelling aspect of the game can be quite enjoyable.

The final pro that I will mention about Ranking is that it has a bluffing element to it. If you are very obvious about which piece you are moving each round, people will quickly realize that it is your tile - and if they guess your tile correctly, you can lose a lot of points (both from losing points on the guessing and from them moving your tile down). Therefore, you have to strike a careful balance between moving several pieces around, and still trying to make yours move to the top (which can be easy if other people happen to be moving your tile for you).

With the pros I mentioned, there are still some cons for Ranking. First, the last player to rank a piece normally has a pretty major disadvantage. Once they do the final ranking, there is no reason that all of the other players shouldn't guess which tile is theirs. And, most likely, they are going to guess one of the tiles at the top (especially if you just moved a tile into the 6 position). But, players will quickly realize this, and so the con starts to mitigate itself as a wise player will learn to bluff better about which piece is his - possibly including moving someone else's tile to the top rank and attempting to get his to the second highest.  This also isn't a major issue if the players start guessing earlier in the round.

I would say that the biggest con with Ranking is that if it isn't played with the right people, or in the right mindset, it can be very dull. When we first started playing, we even caught ourselves falling into this trap. We explained why we were moving the first few pieces, but then we started just moving pieces without saying anything. We were cutting out the creative and interactive part of the game! I can see far too many groups of people (read "strategy gamers") looking at the game from a strictly strategic nature and trying to play (and judge) it accordingly. This means that a lot of people will not enjoy Ranking. Essentially, I see Ranking as a party game to play when you have a very small party. If you were wanting to just spend time socially with friends, and only 2-4 people showed up (the game is 3-5, but I counted you as already there), you could pull out Ranking. So, it seems to be a party game for a very small audience.

The final con that I will mention is related to one of my pros. I enjoy the storytelling aspect of Ranking, and I compared it to Dixit. However, Dixit does a very good job of giving you something incredibly ambiguous to tell stories about, whereas Ranking gives you pictures of fairly concrete objects. This makes the storytelling more constrained - especially since if you are very creative with your explanations, people will assume that you're just trying to make up reasons to move your own tile higher.

Overall, I give Ranking a 6.5/10. I rarely reference my scoring chart (mainly because it might change), but I currently have 6-7 as "Game can be played sometimes, probably has niche groups which may enjoy it." I think that perfectly summarizes my feelings on Ranking. There are some people that will get a copy of it and love it as a small party game. However, I see many people (who read this site) preferring something more strategic.

If you like party games, you might also want to check out Say Anything, Wits and Wagers, and Train of Thought.

I would like to thank Rio Grande Games for providing me with a review copy of Ranking.

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