Dale Yu: Review of Picassimo

 

Picassimo

  • Designer: Carlo A. Rossi
  • Publisher: HABA
  • Players: 3-6
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: ~30 minutes
  • Times played: 5, with review copy provided by HABA

Picassimo is one FOUR games that I’ve played recently that were designed by Mr. Rossi.  Interestingly, all four games in that span are in different genres (the other games being Divinity Derby, Dungeon Time and Mino&Tauri).  In this game, players try to draw recognizable pictures while also being able to best guess the pictures of their opponents.

In the game, each player gets a drawing board that has 6 detachable segments on it.  This is placed behind a huge privacy screen so that no one can see your drawing until it is complete.  In each of seven  rounds, a player is given a term card which has two words each in three levels of difficulty.  Prior to starting the game, the players should agree upon which level of difficulty they will use in the game – thus, on any given round, you should really have two choices of what to draw.

 

As you’re drawing, you must follow a few rules.  First, you can choose to draw either portrait or landscape on your board, but the HABA logo must remain upright and legible.  Second, your drawing must go onto all six sections of the board.  Finally, you may not use numbers, letters or arrows on your drawing.  All players start at the same time, and when all but the last person has finished, there is a short countdown in which the last player must stop drawing at the end of.

When the drawing is done, the top transformation card is flipped over and all players read aloud which sections need to be moved to which position.  The cards generally will have you simply exchange the position of two of the tiles while the other move will have you invert the pieces being moved in order to keep the frame intact.

 

 

Now, starting with the player who finished drawing first – that player’s screen is lifted and all other players see the “art”.  You should try to reconstruct the picture by undoing the transformation moves in your head.   Players are allowed to freely make guesses aloud until someone is able to say the correct answer.  If this happens, both the artist and the correct guesser score three points.  The guess does not have to be exact – the rules allow for synonyms to also score.  Of course, the rules here are a bit dodgy.  First, it uses the word “Synoniums”.  Also, the example is a bit obscure: “ie “vesta” instead of “match”.

If no one is able to guess the right term and all players give up, then the player starts to rearrange his board back into the correct alignment.  While this is happening, the other players can continue to guess the term.  If someone is able to guess correctly seeing the original picture, then both the correct guesser and the artist score one point.

If no one is even able to guess the right answer at this point and everyone gives up, the artist scores no points and the game moves onto the next artist.  Each player takes his turn having his artwork guessed by the other players.  When all have been judged, players start the next round by erasing their boards and getting new term cards for the next round.

At the end of seven rounds (when you’re out of transformation cards), the game ends.  The player with the most points wins the game.  There is no tiebreaker.

My thoughts on the game

First, before I go any further, I must say that I am duly impressed with the variety and general quality of the varied designs of Mr. Rossi.  It seems like most game designers find one style of game that they do well, and most of their designs are variations on that theme – but this is unlike any of the other recent Rossi games that I’ve played, and I’ve been impressed with my initial plays of all of them.

This drawing game is a light hearted game that generally generate plenty of laughs – both directed at some awful art skills as well as at some ludicrous guesses at what that jumbled artwork is supposed to be. The obvious twist here is that the drawing get transformed along the way – and this is what the title alludes to – into some sort of twisted thing that Picasso became famous for.  I don’t remember any other drawing game using this particular gambit, and it does at least bring that sense of inventiveness to the party game.

Like many drawing games, a player’s enjoyment/success can be limited if they lack drawing skills.  If you cannot draw well, it will be difficult enough for people to guess your word, even more so when scrambled up.  I’ve found that in many of our games, the biggest laughs come from rounds where we can’t guess the right word… And then we get to listen to the explanation from the (awful) artist about how their drawing was supposed to convey the term listed on their card…

The game also quickly stratifies your game group into those that have great spatial relationship abilities and those that don’t.  As you’re able to see the transformation card, someone with higher mental faculties than myself will be able to reconstruct/reassemble the picture in their head, and this gives them a strong advantage in trying to guess the term correctly.  I happen to lack this skill, so I just make wild-a** guesses a lot of the time and hope to get lucky.

The word list here is a bit hit-or-miss.  Some of the terms are simple, some seem difficult to get even if you were allowed to use a photograph, and a couple suffer from just weird translations.  We have had to add a simple house rule that if a player is able to take an occasional mulligan and draw a new term card if they don’t know or cannot understand their two word choices.  However, I think that this is a fine workaround for a word deck that is supposed to be playable in six different languages.  Some terms, say “Currywurst” would make a lot of sense to a German or to an American who has actually traveled to Germany – but this would be an impossible term for a local teenager to get or even have heard of.

The segmented boards work well, and they fit back together nicely.  There are notches at the side of each panel segment to make removal and replacement easy.  The tiles have erased nicely, though I guess I should make mention of the fact that the erasable pen quality was not great.  When I opened my shrinkwrapped game, two of the pens were completely dry, and two did not survive the first three games.  They have since been replaced with dry erase pens from other games, but since you can’t share the pens here – it would have been nice to have a full set of working pens right from the start.  At least I had a decent game library to get replacement pens from… but if I didn’t, this game would have been much harder to play with a full complement on that first night.

The scoring system works just fine, but like most other party drawing games (such as Really Bad Art), the fun here is in the playing and less in the competition for points.  I suppose for some folks, this would not be considered a “game” without the point aspect, but I find this an entirely enjoyable way to pass an hour with friends laughing at our completely ridiculous drawings and the guesses at them.

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers

Dan Blum (1 play): It’s decent but I would have liked it a lot more had it appeared several years ago. There have been so many similar games recently – Pix, Pictomania, and Really Bad Art among others – that it just doesn’t stand out.That being said, if you like this kind of thing and those other games don’t appeal for some reason (Pix doesn’t involve actual drawing, Pictomania is more difficult, etc.) this isn’t a bad choice, as long as you bear Dale’s caveats in mind.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y
  • Neutral. Dan Blum
  • Not for me…

 

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About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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