Review: Stay Cool

STAY COOL is easy… You just have to do everything at once! Quickly answer the first player’s questions, while answering the second player’s questions with dice, and keep an eye on the sand timer to flip it at the right time.

The Good

Learn Project Management Skills (+7)

The best way I could describe this game is that it’s almost like project managing your brain. The three tasks you need to manage are different ways to understand information and the associated output. From observing some of the higher scoring players, we’ve found that it may be best to just blast through the verbal answers and then partially work on the “written” answer cubes. This could all come down to the person as well, which is an important aspect of understanding effective project management since most of it is about managing people, not processes.

Learn About Yourself and Others (+6)

The cards have questions and/or requests for things you don’t really encounter in your day-to-day life. Having to provide the output for this almost instantaneously can surprise you and the folks you’re playing with. Perhaps under pressure, you’ll find that everyone is just a little more honest than they usually are! I have to admit that it has been hard pitching this game to strangers. The prompts are generally inspiring and fun, so theoretically you could homebrew something quite easily. For example, sometimes the prompts as you to pronounce things backwards or find the differences between similar words.

Earn Six-Pack Abs from Laughing (+8)

My abs hurt so much from laughing in this game. We as reviewers often talk about the need for balancing in games, and while this game is very lighthearted it is also incredibly balanced. Even the most “on top of it” person in your group will have a hard time fulfilling the tasks required of them and laugh the entire time. Each round becomes progressively harder and more humbling. This is also the first game I have encountered where timer management is not only necessary but can be a lose condition if you’re not diligent. In fact, I straight up lost after a minute into the last round, because of totally spacing out on the timer task.

The Bad

Not for the Faint of Heart (-3)

I have general anxiety and this game, if I were not playing with people I trusted, could ruin my day. Since you’re having to do multiple things at once, and you have multiple people kinda yelling at you, it can be overwhelming. Well, they do not need to yell at you to play the game but it feels like they are! I felt myself on the verge of shutting down during some rounds. So if you have difficulty managing your reaction to external stimuli, you may not be able to play this game. Ever.

Sometimes Too Personal (-2)

Yikes, some of these prompts were absolutely too personal and actually made a friend uncomfortable! Since some of the other prompts have been ridiculous requests, I’m wondering if maybe that the idea of the meta game was to throw them off. Regardless, it’s already a stressful game, there shouldn’t really be too many deep questions in here. I couldn’t possibly imagine what it would be like to want to win this game, blurt out answers and then just regret them later or be embarrassed for life. One way to solve for this is just vetoing and never playing with specific cards, but you shouldn’t need to.

The Ugly

Depends on the Company You Keep (-2)

I’m always for games that can be played with people you know and people you don’t know, but this game just doesn’t do that for me. The experience is entirely different when playing with friends versus with strangers in a public setting. I’m fairly confident that they did take the time to playtest the game since they included that people should not be talking over each other. The prospect of civility is comforting, but in practice the issue wasn’t really with players talking over each other. You see the person in the hot seat suffering and you just can’t bring yourself to keep pressing them.

Common Knowledge is a Stretch (-1)

I wish you could skip more questions on some of these (note: the game only lets you skip one) because I didn’t really know some answers to some questions. I already felt self-conscious and being stuck on what should be a “common knowledge” question made it worse. Maybe we could just have a little mercy on our friends that play and not be too technical about how many skips are requested of us? Just a thought.

Lack of Opportunity for Growth (-0.5)

The score gaps were so wide, so I’d like to do some experiments on whether it could heavily depend on the combination of cards and people. Since you’re likely already emotionally and mentally exhausted from the tasks, it appears there is no way to actually get better at this game. I’m used to being able to learn best practices or areas of improvement through games but I doubt that you’d want to immediately say “Let me try again!” right away.

Difficulty: 3/5 for Expert
Satisfaction Grade: B (83.3%) for Great
Worth Your Money? Yes!

Stay Cool releases on March 26th. Check your FLGS that carries Le Scorpion Masqué or IELLO games.