In this review I deep dive Venn from The Op. This is a party game that can be played cooperatively or competitively with groups of two or more players.
In Venn one player is trying to get their team to guess three words by placing strange, odd, funky, art cards onto a Venn Diagram. Read on to see how this all works and if Venn may be the right game for your group!
Disclosure: Thank you The Op for sending us a review copy of Venn. Links in this post may be affiliate links. As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Using these links doesn’t cost you anything extra and helps support this blog and our podcast.
What do you get with Venn the party game?
Venn was designed in-house by The Op and just published earlier this year, in 2022. It plays two or more players with games taking under half an hour, except for maybe your first game when you are just figuring things out. Venn was originally released as a Target and Barnes & Noble exclusive but as of just a couple of weeks ago you can find it everywhere. The game has an MSRP of $24.99.
Venn can be played either as a competitive team game or as a cooperative game. In Venn, players try to get their teammates to guess three words by placing some wonky, fun, abstract, art cards onto a Venn Diagram. This is either done against a timer, when playing cooperatively, or against the other team who is incentivized to guess first by the possibility of a bonus point (but only if they guess all three of their words correctly).
For a look at what you get with this game check out our Unboxing Video on YouTube.
The most unique components here are the six thin plastic circles, in three colours, that you use to make a Venn Diagram for each team playing (only using one set when playing co-op). These circles are super thin, transparent, and one of the oddest components I’ve ever seen in a board game.
Alright, maybe not the oddest thing I’ve seen as they aren’t even the oddest thing in the box. The cards you get with Venn are truly wonky. These art cards feature a mash up of emojis, clip art and stock photos that appear to be copy pasted onto each other in what looks to be a rather random fashion.
In addition to the “boards” and cards, you get a score track, scoring markers and two smaller decks of cards. One of these decks is double sided and features single word clues. The other deck is single sided and features sets of three numbers which are used to further randomize which words will be used in a given round.
The game comes with plastic stands for these number cards, allowing you to prop up a card so just the clue giver can see it. The game also includes a decent box insert which has a place for everything but definitely no room for any expansion content.
One thing that was noted during our unboxing video, by the awesome people who joined us in the chatroom during recording, was that there is a lot of air in this box. The box seems to be designed specifically to hold the thin round plastic discs that make up the Venn Diagrams. The way these discs are designed you wouldn’t want them to get folded or creased and the box seems to be designed to prevent this. Which does make sense, but there is a lot of empty space in that box.
While I do have other games with a lot of air in the box, Venn does stick out as having more than most.
How do you play Venn from The Op?
There are two ways to play Venn, cooperatively and competitively. I’m going to start off bu describing the team based competitive mode of play.
When playing Venn competitively you divide your gaming group up into two teams. You will need at least four players, with at least two per side, but after that really any player count should work as long as everyone can see the cards being placed. Your teams don’t even have to include an equal number of players on each side.
Note that while the cards in Venn are pretty large, some of the details are quite small and are only really going to be seen by people sitting up close. Being able to see the cards is going to be the biggest limit to player count.
Now that you have your teams, you set up a Venn Diagram for each of them. These are made by grabbing three different coloured discs and putting them somewhere everyone on the team can see that is within easy reach of that round’s clue giver. The game comes with enough circles to form two diagrams, which will limit you to two teams. That said I don’t really see any reason why you couldn’t pick up two sets of Venn, mash them together, and then play with three or four teams.
The next step is to shuffle up all of the art cards and split them into three somewhat even decks. Exact counts aren’t required.
Pass one of those decks to each of the clue givers for that round and then place the third deck over by the scoring track within reach of both clue givers.
The score track goes from one to twelve and should be placed somewhere everyone can see it. Four random word cards are placed next to it. Each word card features three words. Once they are all laid out, you end up with a total of twelve words for the round, with each word matched to a number on the score track.
This system is pretty brilliant and adds a ton of replayability as different words will end up assigned to different numbers each game. Added to this, the word cards are double sided and there are a lot of them in the box.
Finally, the last step for setting up each round is that each clue giver draws a number card which they keep private. The clue givers can use the included plastic stands to stand this card up, Codenames-style, or they can just place it face down after memorising the numbers on it.
Each of these cards shows three numbers, which the clue giver will match to the word cards next to the scoring track to determine which three words they are trying to get their team to guess.
Venn includes a huge deck of number cards. Unlike the word cards, these are single-sided, making it easier to hide the information from your team. This is important, you really need to make sure your teammates cannot see the numbers on these cards. Even knowing one number will totally ruin the game.
That’s it for set up, you are ready to play!
Each clue giver now takes their third of the art deck and starts looking through it and placing cards onto their team’s Venn Diagram.
Each of the three circles in the Venn Diagram represents one of the three words your team is trying to guess. Where two circles overlap that section represents two of the words you are trying to get your team to guess. Finally, there’s the centre where all three circles overlap and this is the space reserved for a card that represents all three words. You can place at most one card per region of the diagram, though you can cover over a previously placed card if you find a better one later in a round.
One thing you really need to watch out for when playing Venn is communication, both in the form of verbal and non-verbal clues. There should be no communication between the clue giver and their team other than the placement of cards. The clue giver should be silent, just placing cards, even avoiding grunts and groans. On the other hand, the guessers should be watching the Venn Diagram and the cards placed there and not the motions or body language of the clue giver.
Venn is meant to be all about the abstract art cards and where they are placed and nothing more.
Once there is at least one card in your team’s Venn Diagram, the players on that team can start discussing what words they think the circles represent.
What’s worth noting here is that there are only twelve possible words in play each round. This isn’t an open guessing game where the team is trying to figure out any word. The guessers have the possible words right in front of them. This is an important part of the game that wasn’t evident to me until I started to actually play.
Once the clue giver has placed at least three cards into your team’s Venn Diagram your team can decide to make an official guess at their three words. When doing so someone on the team yells out “Venn!” and the game stops for all players.
Each team, starting with the team that said “Venn!” announces their guesses. The clue giver then reveals their clue card and the team gets one point for every word they get right. The team that called “Venn!” will get a bonus point if they get all three words right. This works as an incentive to try to say “Venn!” before your opponents do.
There can be some interesting strategies here. If a team gets three cards down quickly, they can technically call out “Venn!” while the other team doesn’t even have three cards up yet, which should impact their ability to guess all three words. But then rushing and getting your own words wrong may not pay off either.
Remember that each clue giver only has one third of the art card deck. At any point during the round, a clue giver can swap their deck for the one by the scoreboard. There’s no penalty for this other than time and if people swap more than once it’s actually possible to see every card in the game while trying to find the perfect match.
Each round, after scoring points, you put out new word cards, select a new clue giver and the game moves on to the next round. Play continues like this until one team scores at least twelve points. At the end of that round, whichever team has the most points wins. If there’s a tie the team that scored the most points in that final round wins.
That’s it for playing Venn competitively.
Now here’s how the game changes when playing cooperatively:
Playing Venn cooperatively is almost identical to playing competitively. When playing with only one team you use only one venn diagram and have only one clue giver, which should rotate each round. You also don’t bother splitting the cards up, the clue giver gets the entire deck. You start by drawing five number cards and stacking them. You then generate words as described above for competitive play, using four random word cards per round.
Each round the clue giver draws the top number card which they keep secret. They then have two minutes to get their team to guess three words, with the same communication rules as above. At the end of two minutes, the team makes their guesses and the clue giver reveals the number card. The group gets one point per correct guess.
The group has a total of five rounds to get up to twelve points. If they manage to do that, they win. If the teams run out of number cards before twelve points they lose.
Note Venn does not include a timer in the box, so you are going to require a mobile device, stopwatch or some other timing device to track that two-minute time limit.
In addition to these two methods of play, there are two competitive game variants. The first is for a longer game, in which you just play best of three with the first team to get to 12 twice winning game. The second is the expert variant which forces the clue giver to place their first clues in the inner or centre zones of their Venn Diagram.
Who will enjoy playing Venn?
When I first heard the concept behind Venn I just had to try it out. I think part of that is my background in Computer Science and my love of logic puzzles that came along with that.
What was most interesting to me about Venn was that I had no clue how the game would actually play when learning the rules. Before getting it to the table, I had no idea as to how it would work.
The part I didn’t truly get until playing was that you are trying to get a team to guess three words from a subset of words. This is why I made certain to point out, in the overview of play above, that the words your team is trying to guess are from a subset of twelve words. This really makes a huge difference in how the game plays. You aren’t trying to figure out what each card played means, but rather you are trying to figure out what part of the card ties into up to three of the twelve words in play that particular round.
It’s this limiting of the clue space that really makes Venn work, and it works even better than I personally expected.
Another surprise to me was the amount of replayability in this box. The way the word cards, number cards and that one to twelve number track combine works really well for mixing things up each round. The double-sided word cards are quick to set up and easily just flipped over between rounds, which speeds up play even more. The number of number cards is also impressive.
These number cards lead me to another discovery I didn’t expect. That’s the fact that both teams in a game of Venn could be trying to guess some of the same words. Because of this both teams could be “fighting” over the same cards while trying to find the perfect match for the same words.
The least obvious thing about Venn was actually what we found to be the most fun part, the talking that happens at the end of each game round.
After each round of Venn, you end up with players on both teams talking about the cards that were played, where they were played and why. Here you might have the clue giver trying to defend the cards they used and their placements. This is when you get players having forehead slapping moments as they realize that they totally missed what should have been an easy connection.
Like many party games, the people you play with, how into it they get and what kind of thought process they have, are going to impact how Venn plays with your group. We’ve all seen examples of people playing charades who are sure they’re giving the most obvious clue, but no one else there understands the direction they’re coming at the answer from.
In Venn, this is impacted by the art cards. Everyone is going to interpret them differently.
In regards to these cards, I’m not sure exactly what to say about them other than to say they work and work rather well. I have a feeling that the images on these cards were created just for this game and for the specific words included.
I’ve noticed folks online talking about trying to play Venn with other art cards from other games. While there are plenty of games out there featuring whimsical cards with wonderous art on them that may theoretically work for this, I’m dubious as to how well they would actually function. I think part of what makes Venn shine is the combination of cards that it comes with and how they match up to the words.
The Venn art card deck does lead to my only concern about this game and that’s for groups that end up playing it a lot with the same people. While the card deck is huge, containing one-hundred double-sided cards, (a.k.a. two-hundred pieces of art), I could see a form of group-think potentially forming, where players find perfect cards for certain worlds and develop patterns where certain players use the same cards for the same meaning repetitively.
I do think this will only be a problem with game groups where it’s the exact same group of people playing Venn repetitively. Mix up the group even just a bit and you’ve now got new people with new ideas interpreting the cards in new ways.
Overall, I was really looking forward to checking out Venn and I was not disappointed. While the entire concept of a game using abstract artwork and a Venn Diagram to get people to guess words sounded fascinating, it wasn’t until I sat down to play that I learned just how well it works in practice. This really is a very cool idea that plays even better than it sounds.
If you don’t enjoy real time guessing games or dislike being put on the spot as a clue giver you are probably not going to enjoy Venn. That said, I can’t see any reason why you couldn’t skip over a player that is uncomfortable with giving clues and just let them help with the guessing.
If you don’t like party games, this isn’t the game for you. Venn is very much a party game. There’s no strategy or tactics here, other than realizing that the three words you are trying to find are a subset of 12. Beyond that, it’s all interaction and interpretation.
Personally, I’m so glad we agreed to check Venn out and I’m looking forward to breaking it out at bigger events like birthdays, Extra Life or New Year’s Eve. To me, the game Venn sits right in the middle of a Venn Diagram that includes fun, easy to learn, and unique.
Venn was a surprise to me in many ways. While I loved the concept of the game I wasn’t expecting it to be as much of a hit as it has been with me and the groups I’ve played it with.
This was especially surprising for me, as I’m not a huge party gamer.
What’s a game that was out of your usual genre which surprised you by being even better than you expected? Tell us about it in the comments below!
Looking for more Venn content? Check out our YouTube review of Venn!