Cheers, the bar where everybody knows your name, according to the theme song of the iconic TV show. It lasted 11 seasons, between 1982 and 1993, spun off into two different TV shows, and is known all over North America, with references in every show from The Simpsons to Adventure Time. It’s no surprise, then, that the series had not one, but two forays into the world of tabletop gaming, and while I’d love to tell you that at least one of them involves Sam Malone going up against a Norm Dragon using a +1 broken bottle, I cannot. Instead, they are trivia games where everyone may know your name, but you are unlikely to know the answers to any of the questions. I will be covering the second game, just titled “Cheers”, as that’s the only one I have actually played.
“Cheers” the board game came out in 1992, just a year before the final season of the show aired. It was published by Classic Games, a company also known for games like “Chess 3″, “Gone With The Wind” and “The Elvis Trivia Game”. Unfortunately, there is very little to go on as far as the history of the company, but they seemed to love their logic games.
“Cheers” consists of a game board designed to look like the famous bar of the same title, a spinner because it’s a “spin-and-move” game, 8 coloured pawns, each one representing a character from the show (this is actually important, as you will soon see), 500 trivia cards made up to look like someone scribbled the questions on napkins, 50 each of “Normism” and “Cliffism” cards, made to look like beer coasters, 32 “Wooden Nickels” (not actually made of wood), and 8 “Free Turn” tokens. Upon unfolding the board, you will notice that the artwork is actually pretty good. It contains all of the recognizable elements from the show, including the bar in the middle and other little touches like the Wooden Indian by the door, the pool table, and even Sam’s Office.
You start by picking your character. Remember how I said that this was important? Well, certain parts of the bar (specifically the bathrooms) are, according to the rules, off limits to certain characters. The goal of the game is to collect four different coloured Wooden Nickels by landing on “Normism” and “Cliffism” spaces. There is a “Cliffism” space in the woman’s bathroom, and a “Normism” space in the men’s bathroom. This means that, depending on what you’re good at, you’ll want to choose if you play as a male or female character.
The rest of the game is simple. You spin the spinner, move the number of spaces, then get a trivia question. The game rules invoke “International Mothers Rules” for movement, which is “No jumping on or over the furniture or through walls”. You don’t do it at your house, what makes you think you can do it here? As stated before, if you land on a “Cliffism” or “Normism” space, you answer one of those questions to get a Wooden Nickel. You must hit those spaces on exact count, which makes it rather difficult. There are other spaces on the board that allow you to fast travel to certain parts of the bar, or even complete a “Carla’s Dare” challenge, but to be honest they’re all pointless.
From a narrative standpoint, the game makes no sense. It’s like they wanted to make a Cheers RPG, but after finding out that the board used up most of their budget, the designers said, “Whatever, we’ll make it a trivia game instead”. If you think about it, what are these characters, like Frasier and Woody, doing just wandering about the bar? Playing peek-a-boo in the bathroom or walking back and forth in front of the piano in a vain attempt to land on a space they want?
The gameplay itself is dreadful, brought to a screeching halt by questions that even the most hardened Cheers fan would be stymied by. Questions like “How much did Frasier’s friend Simon Finch-Royce charge Frasier to give wedding advice to Diane and Sam?”. If you actually have the answer to that question, then you have watched far too much Cheers.
In all, the Cheers board game is like a crappy beer with a fancy name. You hear about it a lot, the logo kind of takes you in, but it’s really hard to swallow and even harder to recommend to even die hard beer drinkers.