How Mao? Try Quao.
Fourteen summers ago, I came home from a teen tour obsessed with a card game I had learned — Mao. If you aren’t familiar with this diabolically fun game, Mao has no rules. Or at least, none that can be explained. But in this day and age, you can find everything on the internet, including a detailed explanation of Mao and all common rules of play. Which could sort of spoil the fun, except that each game is governed by a Chairperson who determines and enforces the rules at will. Players learn these rules from the penalties they (and others) receive.
Now, there’s a new game inspired by Mao called Quao (pronounced “cow”) by Wiggity Bang Games. It’s been a while since I spent that summer ruthlessly inaugurating my unsuspecting family members into the world of Mao, so I was eager to try out this variation.
Quao is easy to learn and fairly straightforward to play. Each game consists of five rounds. In each round, the first person to get rid of all his/her cards becomes the Quao (or Chairperson). Beginning in the second round (there is no Quao in the first round), the Quao takes a “secret rule” card and looks at it, but does not tell the rest of the players what it says. Then, the Quao uses penalty cards to enforce the rule. In each successive round, the “secret rule” cards continue to accumulate, so that by the last round, there are four secret rules in play. The other players are trying to figure out the secret rules in order to receive fewer penalty cards and get rid of their cards faster. The winner of the fifth round wins the game.
The game is made a bit sillier by incorporating truth-telling and action into the cards, so one card might have a player tell something they are afraid of, while another makes one snort like a pig before every turn. We laughed a lot, but several of our older testers felt like the game was geared more towards uninhibited younger players. The only other complaint was that the game included too few playing cards. With seven players, by the end of the first three rounds, we had seen all the cards at least once, so there were no more surprises. Though there are a good supply of “secret rule” cards and it would take a few games to get through all of those.
In spite of that, Quao is worth checking out. It’s a very unique concept and it’s lots of fun to play. Especially when you’re the Quao (so my husband tells me – I wouldn’t know). Quao is rated for ages 12 and up, but I think it could work with slightly younger kids, too. Our youngest player was 14, and she gave it two thumbs up.