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Tattoo reinvents '80s classic Taboo as an inkcredible party game of drawing and roleplaying

Latest tabletop hack from Fake Chess creator.

A new party game has reinvented ‘80s classic Taboo as a modern successor that’s a blend of drawing game and tabletop RPG in the form of a made-up reality TV show about impressive ink.

Tattoo comes from the mind of Sean Patrick Cain, who previously put an imaginative spin on chess in Fake Chess, an RPG played with a chess set that let players look like grandmasters in the vein of Bobby Fischer and Beth Harmon of The Queen’s Gambit while not actually becoming chess geniuses.

Cain’s latest game is a hack of Taboo, the 1989 mainstay of many a games cupboard that challenges players to describe various answers without using a specific set of words listed on each card.

Tattoo uses Taboo’s answer cards as prompts for players’ would-be tattoo artists, looking to satisfy a client with their designs. Each round, one player - the client - must describe their ideal ink to the rest of the group’s artists in response to their questions, without using the “no-no words” listed on each card.

It’s then up to the artists to draw - literally - something that meets the client’s description, with points awarded for the closest match to each set of words. (Not necessarily the best drawing.) Cain provides a playlist of songs to use as a timer for the drawing round (“The louder the better,” the designer adds), providing around two to three minutes of design time.

The central drawing game is wrapped in a fictional reality TV show called Taboo Ink, which serves as the structure of the real-life game’s competition between artists. One player acts as the producer of the made-up show, running the game as a GM-like figure, introducing extra challenges to each round - such as using specific materials in a design or designing for a corporate sponsor - watching for the client’s use of forbidden words and handing out a bonus token based on their own preference.

Adding to the roleplaying element of the game is a light bit of character creation, with players’ artists and clients created from a selection of adjectives such as “chill”, “pompous” and “stoned” that play into the storytelling during each game’s ‘episodes’. The producer can award bonus points based on interviews with each player’s artist and other interactions outside of the drawing challenge.

Tattoo can be picked up as a digital PDF from Cain’s Itch.io page now, with a limited print run due to follow in May.


About the Author

Matt Jarvis avatar

Matt Jarvis

Editor-in-chief, Dicebreaker

After starting his career writing about music, films and video games for various places, Matt spent many years as a technology, PC and video game journalist before writing about tabletop games as the editor of Tabletop Gaming magazine. He joined Dicebreaker as editor-in-chief in 2019, and has been trying to convince the rest of the team to play Diplomacy since.

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