Based on Northstar Games' board game of the same name, Wits & Wagers is a trivia game that you can win without ever answering a question correctly. That's because betting on answers given by other players is often more lucrative than giving a correct answer yourself, assuming you bet on the right ones. The Xbox Live Arcade version of Wits & Wagers does a reasonable job of bringing the popular party game online, but some odd design choices, a couple of irritating bugs, and a dearth of questions ultimately make it difficult to recommend.
The Wits & Wagers board game is designed to be played by between three and seven players, but the XBLA version supports either four or six with any empty slots being filled by occasionally erratic AI characters. Everyone answers the same question and reveals their answers simultaneously, at which point the always-numerical answers are arranged in order on a board and you're invited to bet any or all of your points (using casino-style chips) on the answer that you feel is closest to the correct one without exceeding it. The payout odds for each answer vary according to how they relate to the other answers given, with higher odds being paid for correct answers at either end of the scale. The highest possible odds of 6:1 are only paid if you're proved right after betting that every player's answer is higher than the correct one, but this doesn't happen very often.
You're given around 30 seconds to answer each question by scrolling through a huge list of possibilities to the find the number you're looking for. You then get around the same amount of time to place your bets, before the correct answer is revealed and the chips are doled out to all who made the right bet and to the player whose answer was the winning one. While 30 seconds might not sound like a long time, it's long enough to make Wits & Wagers feel painfully slow at times and, if you're so inclined, it's plenty of time for you to cheat by looking up the answers online. Some of the questions are obscure enough or structured in such a way that finding the answers in under a minute will be difficult, but those are the exception rather than the rule, and even if you can't find the information in time for your own answer maybe you'll get it in time for the betting round. With that said, not all of the answers in the game agree with what you'll find online, so either the World Wide Web has it wrong or this games does. We'll let you decide which.
Although additional question packs will inevitably be released for Wits & Wagers at some point in the future, the game boasts only 700 questions at launch. That seems like a good number at first, but repeats will almost certainly start appearing in your games after only an hour or two of play. We should also mention that many of the questions have a distinctly American flavor and, where applicable, rarely reference statistics gathered more recently than 2004.
When you're not busy attempting to cheat during a game of Wits & Wagers, you might find yourself inexplicably compelled to make your onscreen avatar "dance" like a marionette using your controller's right analog stick. Avatar options include dozens of faces belonging to real people as well as a bunch of other, more unusual characters that include a skull, a tiger, a smiley face, a dinosaur, and a female robot. Your chosen face is pasted onto a different, themed body for each of the seven question rounds during a game. During a sports round you might find that you're in control of a hockey player or a football referee, while during a nature round your avatar might be replaced with a fish or a large insect, for example. You have far too much time both during and between rounds to play with these oddly animated figures, and you'll almost certainly bore of it shortly after (or even before) unlocking the "dance in every round" achievement. Plugging in an Xbox Live Vision camera gives you the option to make an avatar of whatever it's pointed at instead of using one of the aforementioned options, but the implementation of the camera support is horrible at best since it just replaces the avatar's torso with a television set and then displays whatever you're doing on its screen.
At its best, Wits & Wagers is an accessible trivia game that can be enjoyed by up to four people on a single console or up to six online. At its worst, this is a trivia game that rewards gambling savvy over general knowledge, sometimes declares the wrong player the winner at the end of a session, and occasionally crashes to the extent that the entire console freezes up and even the navigation blades can't be called up to end the game prematurely. Wits & Wagers can be fun if you play it with the right people, if you don't encounter questions that you've memorized from previous games, and if it doesn't crash. Get any one of those three things wrong, though, and you'll be wishing you spent those 800 points on something else instead.