Game Buzz: Pictomania

Generally, I’m not a fan of party games.  But attach Vlaada Chvátil’s name, and I am there.

image by BGG user Gonzaga

Pictomania is coming out at Speil 2011 from Czech Games Edition and designer Vlaada Chvátil.  When I did my post on Mage Knight, I noted that he had four products coming out this year at the fair, but one (Galaxy Trucker’s second expansion) won’t be there.  It’s too bad, but this is the second of his now three original games that’s due in Essen.  The third will hopefully have rules up in time for my 100th post – fingers crossed!

Pictomania is a drawing game for 3-6 players.  It’s suitable for people ages 9 and up, and takes around 45 minutes to play.  It has been described as Pictionary for gamers, so I’m looking forward to seeing how that works.

The game comes with six white board tablets, six erasable markers, and six erasing cloths (good call).  You get 30 scoring tokens valued 1-3 (five per player), as well as seven guessing cards valued 1-7 (five per player).  You’ll only be using a certain number of the tokens, based on the number of players.  In addition, there are 13 black cards (6 marked with symbols and 7 numbered 1-7) and 5 bonus tokens valued 1-3.  There are 99 double sided word cards – each with 7 words per side and in one of four colors according to difficulty: green for easy, yellow for moderate, blue for difficult, purple for the most difficult.  There are also two card stands, set to the side of the table so they are visible to all players.

You get five rounds in a game of Pictomania.  In a round, there are four phases – setup, draw/guess, score, and cleanup.

SETUP: Deal each player two black cards – one with a symbol, one with a number.  No one can look at their card just yet.  You’ll then choose a difficulty level and draw six of them, placing them on the the stands, one next to each symbol.  You’ll only be using the words on the front side, and the side up front is randomly determined.

DRAW/GUESS: The dealer says go, and all players can look at their black cards.  The symbol refers to the card you’ll be looking at, and the number refers to the word you’ll be using.  Once you know the word, you place the cards face down in front of you and start drawing.  No talking allowed.

While drawing, you also need to look around and try to figure out what your fellow players are drawing.  If you think you know, figure out the symbol and number, then take the corresponding number card from your guessing stack and place it face down on the black cards of that player.  If other players have already guessed, your card goes on top of theirs.  You only get one guess per player.

When you’re done drawing and guessing (you don’t have to guess everything), put down your marker and cards and take the black token with the most stars that is left.  You may not guess or alter your drawing in any way, but other players may keep guessing.

SCORING: One by one, you’ll score.  Take the stack of guessing cards in front of you and flip them over.  Reveal your symbol and number, then check to make sure you drew the right thing.  The next card in the stack is the first guesser.  If correct, they get the highest valued token in your color.  If incorrect, the card goes to the center of the table with no token.

After everyone has evaluated cards, you check the pile of incorrect guesses.  Whoever made the most incorrect guesses is designated as The Black Sheep, and that’s not good.  You’ll then score.  You get points based on the correct answer tokens you received, and lose points based on the value of tokens you did NOT give away.  Your black token will be worth positive points if at least one player guessed your word correctly and you are not The Black Sheep.  If you’re not The Black Sheep, but no one guessed your word, the black token is worth nothing.  If you are The Black Sheep, the black token is worth negative points.  Scores are kept on your tablet.

The game ends after round 5.  The player with the most points wins.

Pictomania has a lot of hallmarks of a Vlaada Chvátil game, particularly the simultaneous play and fair amount of chaos involved.  You have to draw well enough that at least someone gets it right, and you really want everyone to get it right, or you’ll be losing points.  You also want to make sure you’re making correct guesses to avoid being The Black Sheep and lose more points.  So it seems like it all balances out to keep people from gaming the system to try and win.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I don’t really like party games.  My problem is generally the “game” part.  If a lot of party games were just activities, they’d be great.  But you throw in scoring and competition, and they become tedious to me because they last too stinking long.  I like games like Wits & Wagers and Say Anything where there’s a set time limit rather than a point goal, so I’m glad Pictomania went that route.  By introducing simultaneous play, it allows everyone to be playing, and to be invested when the scoring happens, which is something I like about GiftTrap.  The scoring in this game seems to give a point to the proceedings, and is not just attached to make it a “game”, so I’m happy with that.  Overall, this seems to be more of a “game” than a “party game”, so I’m excited to give it a try.  I’m glad that it looks as interesting as it does, further increasing my Vlaada love.  Thanks for reading.

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2 comments

  1. I don’t know… It sounds like a more complicated version of Telestrations. And Telestrations doesn’t need to be more complicated or improved upon.

    Maybe it flows better than it sounds though. Guess we won’t know unless we try it!

    • I don’t think it’s really that much like Telestrations. Telestrations has people writing phrases based on the previous person’s picture, and drawing pictures based on the other person’s phrases. This game has people all drawing a word while simultaneous trying to figure out what everyone else is drawing. It does sound like it might be a little chaotic for casual groups, but I’m definitely looking forward to trying it.

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