Cranium Party Playoff

by Tom Warin

(Salem, MA)

Click to buy Cranium Party Playoff from Amazon!Click to buy Cranium Party Playoff from Amazon!Game:
Cranium Party Playoff
Board game manufacturer:
Number of Players:

Quick verdict

Don’t fear the brackets! This is a fun party game for four or more players that’s less about strategy and play mechanics than it is about interacting with your fellow players. It certainly doesn’t require as much thought as the “Cranium” brand might suggest.

Editor’s note: This game was for sale only at StarBucks at Christmas 2008. Readers have reported it available from Costco, but still, it’s a hard game to come by. Amazon usually has a few listed, but they seldom appear even on eBay. We recommend looking on Amazon, or advertising locally to find a copy.

The game

The board is divided into four bracket categories (Arenas, aka “Places”, Contenders, aka “People”, Moves aka “Actions” and Gear, aka “Things”) and a playoff zone. To set up the board, contender tiles are selected at random and placed in the first round of each bracket category until the first round matchups are all specified.

Submit your OWN Footprint Rating and leave comments for this game!To begin, the Knockout deck is shuffled and one card is drawn. The question on this card is the question that will determine the ultimate champion of the Cranium PartyPlayoff tournament.

On our first play through, the knockout question was: “Which is most likely to turn up in a personal ad?”

Each player takes a score sheet and makes predictions on: (i) Which contender will win each of the four bracket categories, (ii) Which two contenders will make it to the final and (iii) Which contender will win the final.

This is where much of the strategy comes in. Obviously, you need to consider which contender would do best on the final, but you also have to try to predict which contenders are strong enough to make it through the early rounds. Without knowing what the challenges will be for each matchup, there is also a lot of luck involved.

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Each player makes one final prediction, where you name another player and predict who that player will choose as the ultimate champion of Cranium Party Playoff. The winner of our first game correctly predicted that I would choose David Hasselhoff as the ultimate champion; a pick that seemed like a good idea at the time.

The score sheets are folded up and placed in the envelope until the end of the game.

The tournament then begins. The decider is spun to decide which player will begin and that player selects one of the four categories to start. A Challenge card is drawn, which contains a question, and that challenge is applied to the first matchup in the chosen category.

For example, one of the first matchups we had was “The penalty box” vs. “The Twilight Zone” and the challenge question was “Which would be a better place to propose?”

Players debate the question and then vote on the winner. If there is a tied vote, then the Cranium Party Playoff decider is spun to select one player to break the tie. The winning contender moves to the next round.

Move around the players and around the categories until the first round match of each category has been completed, drawing a new challenge card for each match-up. Repeat for the second round and then the third round matches which will determine the winner for each category.

Special questions on the challenge cards are used for the semi-final round and the previously drawn Knockout question determines the winner of the final. Players debate and vote at every point.

Click to search eBay for Cranium Party Playoff!Click to buy Cranium Party Playoff from Amazon!When the Party Playoff tournament is over, the score sheets are taken out of the envelope and each player’s score is calculated: four points for picking the final winner, two points for picking title contenders and one point for picking category champions.

The bonus prediction of the contender that a player will pick is worth four points.

Cranium Party Playoff is light on traditional strategy, but heavy on reading people and attempting to manipulate them. During the discussion and voting on each challenge, there will be a mixture of genuine arguments/votes, arguments/votes designed to promote your own picks and arguments/votes to block picks that you suspect other players have made.

Depending on the match-up and how disingenuous a player is, this can be more or less obvious. The winner of our first game was the person who had forgotten what her picks were and who was simply arguing from conviction, which made her impossible to read.

When I started arguing for the coolness of “Sliced Bread” over “Backstage Passes”, or that “Sesame Street” would be a great place for a romantic date, it became clear which contenders I had picked.

On the other hand, I managed to sneak “Breakdancing” and “David Hasselhoff” through quite a few match-ups before raising any suspicions.

Pros and cons

Click to order Cranium Party Playoff!It’s fairly easy to explain the Cranium Party Playoff concept to NCAA fans: “It’s like March Madness, but with random stuff.”

Some of the matchups and questions lead to very funny discussions, especially when people’s agendas start to influence their arguments. It’s fun trying to figure out which contenders have been picked by the other players.

Explaining the rules at the beginning makes the game seem more complicated than it actually is. After a couple of minutes of actually playing the game, everybody knew exactly what was going on.

The Cranium Party Playoff board initially seems intimidating.

If your contenders get knocked out early, then the rest of the game can become a little frustrating, although you can still get pleasure from making it difficult for other players.

The verdict

Along with most of my play group, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Cranium Party Playoff as much as I did. From the outside it seems a little weird and analytical, but once you start playing it turns out to be a great party game. I played with a mixed group of keen gamers and not-so-keen-gamers and everybody enjoyed themselves.

Boardgame Beast gives Cranium Party Playoff four footprints out of five. Click here to leave comments and submit your OWN score for this game!

Comments for Cranium Party Playoff

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Apr 06, 2013

Cranium Party Playoff is a Great Concept

by: Red Dice

The concept is sound, but the rotation of questions is a bit repetitive after a few rounds.

May 13, 2010

Check out my game on Ebay!

by: Beespost

I just posted a Cranium Party Playoff game on Ebay. It’s brand new. Everything is in the box and ready to be played. Check it out!

Apr 21, 2010


by: Anonymous

Called and getting mine tomorrow played at a friend’s house…OMG SUPER FUN!!!

Dec 14, 2009

Barnes and noble has it!

by: Anonymous

Barnes and noble has it

Oct 23, 2009


by: Anonymous

It is so fun to play this. The concept may seem a bit complicated at first, but once you start playing, you’ll understand the game within seconds. A must have!

Sep 06, 2009

Buy it a Costco!

by: Anonymous

Heads up-

Costco sells this game. Hope that helps!

Sep 06, 2009

Buy it a Costco!

by: Anonymous

Heads up-

Costco sells this game. Hope that helps!

Jul 25, 2009

Game is amazing !!!

by: Anonymous

Lots of fun for family and friends !!!!!!

Jun 21, 2009


by: Anonymous

Confused at first, lots of fun after you learn the rules. Great game !

May 20, 2009

Cranium party playoff

by: Anonymous

Stupid game, very confusing!

Apr 22, 2009

For sale

by: Anonymous

I have just posted a new cranium party playoff game set on amazon.

Apr 12, 2009


by: The Beast!

There are lots of links to eBay on this page. Simply click through to buy a copy from somebody on there.

Apr 12, 2009

Looking to buy one

by: Chantelle

Played it once, now want to buy it….does anyone have one for sale?

Dec 31, 2008

i have the game and would sell it

by: Katherine

I have the game and got it as a gift for Christmas, haven’t used it….Does anyone want to buy it from me? if so

[email protected]

Dec 09, 2008

Where to get it?

by: Anonymous

It is sooo annoying that you can only get this at select Starbucks. I had to call my sister a state away to find it, because I didn’t buy it when I was visiting her thinking I could just order it on Cranium’s website. Then I spent hours calling and driving to every Starbucks I could find in Seattle, to no avail. Here is hoping my sister makes it to her Starbucks because they only have two left and I want it for Christmas!

Dec 07, 2008

Fun around the table

by: Anonymous

WE all had a blast playing – some of us with very different opinions. I think it works better with a group of people who know each other well, however, I can definitely see it making a great icebreaker for those of us who are not as familiar with each other too!

Dec 07, 2008


by: The Beast!

Apparently only from US StarBucks stores. Don’t ask me why!

Dec 07, 2008

Where to buy Cranium Party Playoff?

by: Anonymous

Has this game been released? I would lie to buy it, where can I buy it?

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