Could a card game help you unlock genuine relationships? As it turns out, yes.
“How would I describe my relationship with myself in one word?” This was the question that first pulled me into the world of We’re Not Really Strangers, early last year.
I was at a bar with a group of people I didn’t know very well, when someone pulled out a little red deck of cards.
I had heard about the game on social media, but had never played it. We’re Not Really Strangers (WNRS) was created following the success of its founder’s Instagram account that exists under the same name.
The account gained its 5.1 million-person following for posting honest, yet relatable, prompts about mental health and human experiences.
We were a large group that night, so the rules of the game were a bit of an afterthought. Instead, a friend of mine reached for the deck and pulled a card at random.
I’ve always considered myself an emotionally open person, but this question threw me for a loop.
How would I describe my relationship with myself? Did I know? Even if I did, was this something I was ready to share with a group of strangers?
I opted to sit back and listen as the question traveled around the group, and was more preoccupied by trying to decipher my own answer than I was with listening to their responses. Then, one of my new acquaintances simply said, “bad.”
What shocked me more than her response was the way the group listened to her without judgment, thanked her for sharing, and continued on.
The question eventually made its way to me and I surprised myself when, “evolving,” slipped from my lips. I stumbled through some monologue about therapy and then made a joke at my own expense to avoid sounding too profound.
But I walked away from the bar feeling energized, a stark contrast from the exhaustion I usually take away from socializing with new people. And I found myself looking for another opportunity to spend time with the very people I had been dreading seeing just hours earlier.
Maybe deep chats are your sixth love language, or maybe the idea of vulnerability makes your skin crawl. Either way, this game might do a lot for you.
science behind deep conversations
It turns out that WNRS uses some research-backed principles to bring people closer.
One study on the amount of hours it takes to make a friend found that time spent together was the central factor in creating closeness. But, you may get closer faster if you use certain methods of communication, especially:
- willingness to have meaningful conversation
Another study found that participants had higher scores of well-being when they had less small-talk and more deep conversations with others.
WNRS zeros in on just these intimate types of communication.
What is We’re Not Really Strangers?
WNRS is a question-based card game created to help people develop meaningful connections.
The original card deck costs $25 USD.
Since the original game debuted in 2018, WNRS has released a friendship edition, a couples edition, and a multitude of themed expansion packs. All versions are available in English, Spanish, and French.
How does the game work?
In lieu of typical instructions, a small note is included in the box. It states simply, “There are two ways to play this game: play safe or play to grow. The second is how you win.”
In the box you’ll find 150 question cards, two pencils, and a small notepad. While there is no required game structure, the makers recommend you play WRNS with two to six players.
WNRS is broken up into three intentionally crafted “levels” that encourage increasingly meaningful conversations as the game progresses.
Level 1 (perception)
Prompts you to question your assumptions about your fellow players. Questions include, “What was your first impression of me?”, “What does my phone background say about me?”, or “What is the worst assumption someone has made about you?”
Level 2 (connection)
Begins to dig a bit deeper and prompts questions like, “What’s the most pain you have ever been in that wasn’t physical?”, “What’s your father’s name and one thing about him?”, or “Is there a feeling you miss?”
Level 3 (reflection)
The final level serves to culminate what you have learned about your fellow players and solidify the connections you have made over the past two rounds. Questions range in intensity from, “Based on what you’ve learned about me, do you have any Netflix recommendations?”, to “How does one earn your vulnerability?”, or simply, “Admit something.”
The game concludes with one final card. The ask? “Each player write a message to the other. Fold and exchange. Open only once you two have parted.”
Who is it for?
The recommended age range is 15 and up, but this game can be modified for anyone.
And it’s great for any kind of relationship, whether you are trying to break the ice on a first date, or you’ve been looking for an opportunity to have an authentic discussion with your grandmother.
What you’ll get out of playing it
In my opinion, what you will get out of this game depends largely on what you are willing to put into it.
For me, WNRS provided the opportunity to infuse authenticity into relationships. If you are looking to dive a little deeper into your social, family, or romantic relationships, this game is a great way of doing so.
The gradually increasing intimacy of the game infuses levity and allows complex emotions to surface over time, instead of all at once. For me, it has served as a casual pastime while I waited for the chips and guac, but has also prompted some of my most eye-opening conversations.
That being said, deep conversation comes with drawbacks. While everyone has the potential to benefit from this game, that does not mean it is meant for everyone.
WARNING: feelings may arise. And that’s the point. But for some people, that might not be so welcome.
The nature of this game is to give and receive support and understanding, not to overshare to an unsuspecting group. Before playing this game, be sure all parties have a sense of what it will entail, and leave space for those who may find sharing difficult.
Remember, WNRS is not a replacement for therapy or an excuse to drop your whole life’s story.
2 other relationship card games you might want to try
Here are a couple other card games that are similar to WNRS that you might also want to consider.
1. Where Should We Begin
Unlike WNRS, Where Should We Begin is a game centered around storytelling. These prompts are a bit more open-ended and a little lighter in nature. With over 250 cards, tokens, and multiple avenues for gameplay, this game is a bit more elaborate than WNRS.
Created by author and psychotherapist Esther Perel, this game serves to inspire stories you haven’t yet thought to share, while getting to know more about your fellow players as you do so.
I’m not saying the folks over at unCURATED knocked off WNRS, but I’m not not saying that. This game is nearly identical to WNRS in both structure and price point.
The key differential between the two is the approach. If WNRS seems a little heavy for how your social circles tend to operate, unCURATED may be a good place to start.
The questions are certainly lighter, but the crux of the game is the same: Let’s talk about our feelings.
Is We’re Not Really Strangers worth buying?
Yes! The magic of the game seriously lies in the interpersonal connection that you get from face to face gameplay — so having the actual card deck matters.
And, as someone who has played it many times, I don’t believe the conversations would have been nearly as meaningful if one player was looking down at their phone, picking and choosing what to ask next from a list they found online.
And it has over 3,000 5-star reviews on Amazon, so I am not alone in saying this game is worth the initial investment. Though their return policy is great, I highly doubt you’ll be sending this one back.
That said, if you’re looking to save money, but still want to check out what the game has to offer, you can find many WNRS questions online for free.
The final word
We all have that person in our lives who we wish we could really, I mean really, talk to. Breaking out of your comfort zone is hard and sometimes prompting meaningful discussion seems impossible.
If I told you that for $25 you could finally find common ground with that person in your life, would you buy in? Thought so.
While WNRS may not eliminate every challenged relationship you’ve ever had, at the very least, this game can cut down on that dreaded small talk and create potential for more meaningful conversation.
And, if you’re open, this game will challenge your perceptions — of strangers, of loved ones, and most importantly, of yourself.
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