“Cheers to Halloween costumes—may you always be tiny, slightly slutty, and semi-covered in booze,” my friend Megan recited, raising her wine-filled glass to everyone’s appreciation.
After playing a card game called Top That Toast, I feel more prepared than ever to give a toast on topics that would never grace my best friend’s wedding.
Top That Toast is a laid back card game that focuses on lightly competitive speech-making. All players draw five Topic cards from a large stack. Those range from cheesy and heartwarming (like “Your Bestie”, “Favorite Teacher”) to odd and bizarre (“Guilty Pleasure,” “Padded Bras”). One rotating player plays the “Facilitoaster,” who looks at the top card from a different deck of Tones. Those dictate how the toast should be done: in rhyme, sincerely, humorously, or even as a roasta speech intended to make fun or humiliate, although in a gentle manner.
The game reminds me of Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity in format. Once a Tone card is read out loud, everyone else secretly passes their chosen Topic cards to the Facilitoaster. That person then selects the Topic card. Whoever’s topic is chosen gets the privilege of making up a toast on the spot, combining the two cards. At the end, the toastee gets to keep the Tone card, which tracks the points if the table is inclined to care about score.
The origin of the game isn’t particularly surprising. Co-creator Joe Beck III grew up in a large family that numbered close to 50 when adding in the extended family. At a cousin’s wedding, before the real toasts came about, the group decided to practice.
“After a few people did it, everybody wanted to go around,” Beck said. “Later that day, my sister said, ‘top that toast!’ and everyone laughed.”
That was in 2008, and since then the family been giving toasts in a round for numerous occasions. As their friends started to enjoy this tradition as well, the idea to turn it into an actual game soon dawned on Beck and his wife. The duo, along with Beck’s two sisters and Big Joe, Beck’s father, successfully Kickstarted the game and collaborated with a Philadelphia-based graphic design studio to craft the logo and art.
They did so without proper game design experience, and they’re not hardcore gamers either—the Becks enjoy casual classics like Monopoly, Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity. There is a bit of Cards feel, as the toasts sometimes turn deliciously dark. The “Yo Momma” card naturally brings forth racy jokes. Toasting to Halloween costumes conjures up the best and worst we’ve seen or done. The “Old Screenname or E-mail Address” is likely to do that as well.
“To candy—we’re going to make candy great again,” someone in my group toasted, imitating Donald Trump.
WATCH YOUR TONE
There’s a really good bunch of creative topics among the game’s 200 cards, such as “Favorite Cereal,” “First Date,” and “The Song That Reminds You of the Facilitoaster,” though nearly every topic has multiple copies. It got slightly annoying to see the same ones come up—but they usually didn’t get picked, since the Topic of the toast is up to the Facilitoaster. Sure, “Guilty Pleasure” is exciting to talk about and most people probably have more than one, but the draw feels like a fizzle when you find it again.
“The idea is that, if you’re playing with five or six people, that it wouldn’t take away from the game if multiple people gave a toast on that topic,” Beck said. “Everyone has a different perspective on that topic, and some of them we thought of as worthy enough that we wouldn’t mind hearing them multiple times in a game.”
The Tone cards, on the other hand, felt like a hit or miss. Some of them require impressive speechcraft, such as “Ten-word Toast,” “Rhyme Time,” and “Toast Down the Lane,” the last turning the toast into an impromptu game of Telephone. “Accent Toast” ended up being fairly similar to the “Impression Toast.” For my group, the “Humor” Tone card didn’t make a lot of sense, because most of our Toasts were already either intentionally or accidently funny. On the other hand, a “Sincere” Tone card prompted me to hit it closer to heart, especially about my “Favorite Cereal” that I religiously consume on an almost daily basis.
The deck is peppered with a frequent “Top That Toast” card, which changes up the rules by challenging every player to give a toast on the same topic to compete for the Facilitoaster’s approval. It’s a fun event that gives the game a bit more of a competitive edge. Normally, when a single player gives a toast, there’s nothing in the rules preventing them from “winning” the Tone card, no matter how badly they butcher a “Sing It” toast about their “Single Life.” When someone’s toast is particularly bad, anyone can play a “Stop That Toast!” card to cut them off.
Top That Toast intentionally keeps the rules very casual and open. “It’s clearly not a game about seeing who has the most cards at the end, although it can be like that,” Beck said. “The spirit of the game is more about the actual interaction and what people say, what you hear.”
We had the best time when each person gave their toast on the same topic —our group, which included several medical students, had great stories on favorite teachers. A conversation about a guilty pleasure, revealed as Kesha’s “Tik Tok,” turned into a discussion about the recent events surrounding the “Free Kesha” hashtag.
Too bad there weren’t that many “Stop That Toast!” and “Partner Pass” cards, instead of extra topic copies, to make the game a little more explosive. Maybe my Dungeons & Dragons-inclined, nerdy friends preferred something a little more heavy on the rules, but the best thing about the game was how social it made us—we learned a great deal about each other and shared lots of stories, far more than we could from playing any other game or becoming quick Facebook friends.
If you’re the type of person who likes gushing over heartfelt stories, bonding over first date retells, and impromptu toasts to the “Best or Worst Boss,” this is the game.
Luke Siuty is a Chicago-based writer who’s now confident enough to top your toast. You can follow him @LukeShooty.
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