Cardboard Addiction: Snake Oil


By Sam Desatoff

If you’re like me, and I’m so sorry if you are, you’re tired of that little naked monkey darting about your house. It wouldn’t be so bad, except she’s not wearing any clothes. The late night screeching you can handle, and the inordinate amount of airborne feces is tolerable, but damned if that little naked monkey body doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable. To ease your troubled home life, might I suggest a new product? Might I suggest…a MONKEY SHIRT?!?!

You’re welcome.

This is the essence of Snake Oil, a game in which you must pitch some kind of made-up product to your friends. One person plays a “customer” that is randomly drawn from a stack of double-sided customer cards. Then other players will choose two cards from their six-card hand, mash them together to form what will no doubt be an affront to nature, and give their best Shark Tank-esque sales pitch. The customer then chooses his or her favorite pitch, that person earns a point, and the game moves on. That’s it. That’s it, and it’s wonderful.

An example hand. Yes, "monkey shirt" was the best I could come up with.
An example hand. Yes, “monkey shirt” was the best I could come up with.

Snake Oil invites a number of comparisons to other “choose the funniest card” games like Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity. I have spent a lot of time with, and enjoyed, these other games, but after just a couple plays of Snake Oil, I have zero desire to return to them. The biggest reason for this is that, unlike the other games, Snake Oil doesn’t do your thinking for you. Where Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity requires players to simply choose a card from their hand (something that can be done absently should you wish), Snake Oil really sinks its hooks into you and forces you out of your shell. The result is often hilarious as you watch someone desperately try to pitch you a “meat hood” or “laser umbrella.” Snake Oil serves as a great ice-breaker, too. It’s fun to invite new people over and get them talking; you’ll be surprised when the most soft-spoken of the group is suddenly pitching a “pleasure bicycle.”

Another great thing about Snake Oil is that the game is as clean or filthy as you want it to be. Unlike Cards Against Humanity, whose shock-value wears off fairly quickly, Snake Oil is heavily dependent on the imagination of those playing. Our group has made a sort of meta-game out of seeing who can pitch the most mundane, normal objects. There have been pitches for “beach balls,” “bicycle pump,” “suit jackets,” and more. It’s a dumb way to play such a great game, but the beauty is really in the flexibility.

An example of some of the customer cards included in the game.
An example of some of the customer cards included in the game.

At this point, I guess I should give you my conclusion. Do I plan on keeping the game? If you haven’t figured it out yet, then you’re a “toilet head.” Also, I’m just realizing that, so far, I have not reviewed a board game that I plan on trading out of my collection. I’m sure I’ll find one soon, but in the meantime, enjoy the optimism!

But wait, there’s more!


Now, my hobbies extend beyond board games, video games, movies, sandwiches, and inhaling oxygen; I am also an avid beer drinker. So, starting with this review, I plan on including a suggestion on a beer to pair with the board games I discuss. The goal here is find a brew that compliments the gameplay in terms of weight and complexity.

For the first pairing, I’m going with a new favorite of mine: the Mosaic Session Ale by Karl Strauss Brewing Company out of San Diego, California. It’s a great lighter, hoppy beer that’s not overly bitter. The “sessionability” (what a dumb word) of this beer makes it perfect for when games of Snake Oil run into the wee hours. The Mosaic is not something you should be afraid of having more than one of, much like your games of Snake Oil.

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