(2014 – Stronghold Games)
With Pictomania, designer Vlaada Chvatil (Dungeon Petz, Through the Ages, Galaxy Trucker) takes the best elements of Pictionary to create a drawing game more focused on minor strategy than one’s ability to draw. In Pictomania, each player will be given a clue which they will simultaneously draw while attempting to guess their opponents clues. During a Round, players will secretly place their answers (in the form of guess cards) in front of the opponent’s sketch. Players are awarded points for each of their opponent’s clue they guess correctly, but will lose points for every player that does not guess their own. Let’s take a look at how to play Pictomania.
At the beginning of the game, each player will receive a dry-erase board, a set of guess cards, and a set of score tokens, all matching their player color, along with a dry-erase marker and eraser.
Players will have a chance to grab bonus victory point tokens during each Round. These tokens are placed in the central play area within reach of all players. After setup is complete, the play area should look something like this:
At the beginning of each Round, players will decide which difficulty to use, then randomly draw and place 6 clue cards from the corresponding stack, onto the 6 available card slots. Players will then find the clue that matches their number/symbol combination.
Once players have located their clues and become familiar with each available clue card, the Round begins and players can begin to draw. There are few limitations to what players can and cannot use when drawing. For instance, players can use arrows and icons in their drawing, but may not use letters or numbers, nor may players make comments about their drawings. As players are drawing, they are also simultaneously trying to guess their opponents clues, using their set of guess cards. This means that the longer time spent on your own drawing, the less time you may have to guess your opponent’s clues. There is no time limit to a Round, but players can score more points based on how quickly they can correctly guess another’s clue.
End of Round Scoring:
At the end of each Round, players will score their collected points. One at a time, each player will reveal the symbol/number combination for the clue they had drawn, and flip over the opponent’s guess cards so that they are now stacked in the order in which they were played. The first opponent that correctly guessed the clue will receive that player’s highest valued score token. The second opponent that guessed correctly will receive the next highest token, and so on. If an opponent has incorrectly guessed the clue, his guess card is placed in the central play area to show that his guess was wrong.
After all players have resolved the scoring for their drawings, players will total up their positive Victory Points, while subtracting any negative Victory Points from their total. Players will receive:
– Positive Victory points for each star on a token they own from another player. These were awarded when they correctly guessed their opponent’s clue.
– Positive Victory points for each star on a Bonus VP token, as long as they did not have the most guess cards in the center of the table at the end of the Round. Remember, player’s guess cards are placed in the center of the table for a drawing they have guessed incorrectly. These Bonus tokens are only awarded if at least one opponent guessed your drawing correctly.
– Negative Victory points for each star on a token that matches their player color. These were the leftover tokens that a player was unable to reward an opponent because not all of the opponents guessed his drawing correctly, or simply choose not to guess at all.
– Negative Victory Points for each star on a Bonus VP token if he was the player with the most guess cards in the center of the table at the end of the Round.
+1 for the green token
+2 for the purple token
-1 for the blue token (since he was not able to award it)
+2 for the bonus VP token (he was not the player with the most incorrect guess cards)
He would thus score a total of 4 Victory Points, recording this on the score space of his player board. The game is over after five Rounds have been completed, and the player with the highest total from all Rounds, wins the game.
Pictomania is a unique and innovative take on the classic Pictionary. There are a number of reasons to be excited about what the game has to offer, beginning with the fact that there’s absolutely no drawing skill needed to play. Because of the simultaneous “drawing versus guessing” aspect of the game, players are more rewarded for their ability to simplify a clue, sketching the basics needed for others to correctly guess, rather than spending time working on a piece of art. The faster a player can get done with their drawing, the more time they’ll have to observe their opponent’s drawings and look over the 42 available clues amongst the 6 clue cards.
There’s no timer in the game, but players are racing against themselves. Grabbing a Bonus VP token can be a great way to net a player some extra points, but you’ll have to be careful not to be the one with the most guess cards in the center at the end of the Round, if you’ve guessed poorly. If you don’t feel confident about a particular guess you’ve made, it may be best not to even take a Bonus VP token this Round for fear of scoring negatively. Points are scored not only for guessing opponent’s clues correctly, but also for opponents guessing your clue correctly. You can do an excellent job at guessing all the other clues correctly, but fouling up the drawing of your own clue can amass you a great deal of negative points if you can’t award your own score tokens.
The four difficulty levels seem well balanced, and there are enough clue cards of each set to have a large variety from session to session. It does seem inevitable that with the success of Pictomania, numerous expansions could be included to provide even more depth to the amount of clue cards available. From level to level, the difficulty seems to increase not only by presenting harder things to draw, but also by closing the gap between the answers on a certain clue card. With the level 1 cards, it would certainly seem easy to differentiate a basketball hoop, from a tennis net, from a gold hold, even though they are on the same level 1 card. But how easy is it to draw the difference between a mortgage, a loan, and a payment when all three words are presented on the same level 4 card? The game awards both creativeness and simplicity, while also allowing players a wide range of difficulty settings. Pictomania is a great find for those looking for a fresh party game, and one that contains a wealth of replayability and longevity.