Radio Reviews #73 – Pictomania



(2014 – Stronghold Games)


“Paint a picture…..using only gray….”


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.





– Dry-erase player boards


– Dry-erase markers


– Sponge erasers


– Clue cards (green, orange, blue, & purple difficulty levels)


– Card trays


– Number & Symbol cards


– Player guess cards


– Player score tokens


– Bonus VP tokens





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.

During the game, players will use their personal boards in order to sketch the clues they receive during the game. As we’ll discuss in a bit, the goal is to quickly and correctly guess your opponents clues, while making sure that they are able to correctly guess your own. Each player has a set of scoring tokens, but these are tokens that are given away to the player’s opponents during each round, for each opponent that correctly guesses the sketched clue. Players want to give these away, as having these tokens left over at the end of each round will count as negative points for the player.
Clue cards are two-sided and come in four different difficulty levels, referenced by the color on each card. Players can choose from round to round, which difficulty level to play. These clue cards are shuffled and placed into four separate decks, a deck for each difficulty. Green represents the easiest of clues, orange represents an intermediate difficulty, blue is advanced, and purple is cow level. Diablo!!
There are a set of six symbol cards and six number cards that are placed in the middle of the play area. Players will receive one card from each of these sets. The symbol/number combination that a player owns will represent the clue in which he is attempting to draw. At the beginning of the game, and at the beginning of each round, each player will randomly receive one symbol card and one number card. These are kept secret from all opposing players.
At the beginning of the game and for each round, six clue cards will be placed amongst the six available slots on the card trays (three on each tray). A unique symbol is located below each of the card slots. By looking at the two cards he was given, a player will find the card slot that matches the symbol on his card, and then find the number on the clue card that matches the number on his card. This is now the clue that he will be attempting to draw.



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.

This will be the clue that they attempt to draw for their opponents to guess. Green clue cards contain the easiest clues, while purple contain ones that are very difficult. Let’s take a look at a couple of these cards to get a feel of the range of difficulty that can be found in the game.
Each card contains a particular theme. It’s important before beginning to draw, that players become familiar with the themes of each of the six cards being used in a Round. The green (easiest) clue card above contains a set of vehicles, while the purple (hardest) card contains a set of financial criminal activity. As you can see, it would be very easy to not only draw the various objects contained on the green clue card, but also to be able to keep them distinctive from one another. Clues found on the purple card however can be pretty difficult to draw on a sketch pad, and even harder to draw them so that player’s can distinguish the difference between say bribery and blackmail. Remember, you need players to successfully guess your clue in order to gain the maximum number of Victory Points from Round to Round.


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.

When a player feels that they have figured out the clue that an opponent has drawn, he will take one of his numbered guess cards that matches the number of the clue he is guessing and place it face-down in front of that player, on top of their symbol/number card set. Any other player that guesses after him, they will place their guess card on top of his. The faster a player successfully guesses a clue, the larger the possibility of him scoring a higher number of Victory Points.
Player A (blue) has attempted to draw a canoe, seen above.


Player B (green) is pretty sure that it is a boat of some kind and narrows in on the clue card containing types of boats.


He decides on guessing that it is a canoe, therefore since “canoe” is the 7th clue on the card, he places his #7 guess card in front of Player A, face-down. Player D (purple) also narrows it down to the clue card containing types of boats. However, he thinks that it resembles a kayak. Therefore, he places his #2 guess card in front of Player A, face-down.


When a player has decided that he is finished during a Round (either he no longer wishes to guess, or he has placed a guess card in front of all other opponents), he has the option of taking a Bonus VP token. The player can take the highest bonus VP token sill available at the time. As we’ll see during the discussion on scoring, it is possible for a player to score negative points from these VP tokens, so taking these is optional. After a player has taken one however, he can no longer participate in the Round. Once all bonus tokens have been removed, or the remaining players decided that they are done with the Round.





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.

At the end of the first Round, Player A reveals that his clue was in fact a “canoe”. Flipping the opponent’s guess cards over, he will resolve Player B’s guess first (since Player B had placed his card down first). Remember in the previous example, that the correct guess card for the canoe was the #7 card. Therefore Player B guessed correctly and receives Player A’s token with 2 Victory Points.


Player D however, guessed incorrectly, believing the drawing to be a kayak and placing his #2 guess card. Since this is incorrect, his card is placed in the center of the table for now. He receives no tokens from Player A.


Finally, Player C was the last player to guess Player A’s drawing. Like Player B, he also correctly guessed that the drawing was a canoe. Player C would then receive a 1 Victory Point token from Player A. After Player A has resolved the scoring for his drawing, he still has one leftover token. This will become important after all players have resolved their drawings, as I’ll discuss next.



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.

Player A ends up with the following tokens at the end of the 1st Round. A blue token (his own) worth 1 Victory Point, a purple token worth 2 Victory Points, a green token worth 1 Victory Point, and a Bonus VP token worth 2 Victory Points which he grabbed when he was finished guessing during the Round. He would score:



+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.



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