Communication Breakdown: A Lost in Translation Review

by Corey Whelen
26 June 2019

4-44 Players, 20 Minutes, Low Complexity, Low Strategy, Ages 12+

When people think of board games, they usually imagine something pretty similar: a battle of luck and wits played out with things like cards, dice, and a whole bunch of rules. Sometimes, your games table is in the mood for something lighter and friendlier, a “party” game, good for a large group of casual players, something where having fun is the primary objective, and winning becomes less important the harder you laugh at your friends and their ridiculous antics. Sometimes, you need something like Lost in Translation.

Contents: A whole bunch of fun. No Bill Murray, though.

Party games, like the impossibly popular Cards Against Humanity, have seen a huge uptick in popularity in the last few years, mostly due to how easy they are to play and how quickly you go from learning the rules to laughing your butt off. Lost in Translation is no exception, with barely a page worth of rules to review before you’re ready to start the hilarity.

The premise of the game is simple. Language can be an incredibly tricky beast, and common sayings in English won’t make any sense in a different language. Did you know that in France, The Matrix was called The Young People Who Traverse Dimensions While Wearing Sunglasses? Did you know that in India, “I am excreting Embers” is a metaphor for being motivated? Every card in Lost in Translation presents a funny language puzzle; a poorly translated sign, a foreign idiom, or a movie title from a different country. Your job is to come up with a phony translation that will fool your friends, and then try to guess the real answer out of all the fake ones. If the total breakdown of the English language is an idea that sounds funny to you, then you’ll absolutely love this game.

To add to the puzzle (and the hilarity), every round has an “Editor” who draws the card and knows the real answer. Other players will write down their best translation, then hand them over to the editor who will read everyone’s answers out loud. Points are awarded not only for the accuracy of your answer, but also on how many people you can fool into picking your answer. It’s a clever little system that adds even more reasons to laugh as you slowly realize your friend’s brains can be just as twisted and hilarious as the twice-translated clues on the card!

The answer is "The Boy who Drowned in Chocolate Sauce". Catchy, right?

I’ve played Lost in Translation a handful of times, and I’m sure it will be less hilarious as I become more familiar with the cards, but as it stands, this might be the hardest my gaming group has ever laughed at a game. More than the gut-busting Cards Against Humanity, more than the always-clever Apples to Apples, maybe even more than Snake Oil, a personal favourite of mine that usually, I can’t recommend enough.

Overall, Lost in Translation is a fantastic choice for a casual, fun-filled evening with friends. Rounds only last twenty minutes, so it’s the perfect light pick to bridge into a night of serious board-gaming, but it’s also a fantastic accompaniment to a night of cold beverages and hot appetizers, and it’s easy to pull out the deck of cards for a road trip, a vacation, or even a day at the beach. Lost in Translation is everything a silly party game should be, but more than anything, it’s versatile enough to be a great fit and a huge hit at your next get-together.