- Designer: Daniela and Christian Stöhr
- Publisher: Rio Grande Games / pd Verlag
- Players: 3-5
- Age: 8+
- Time: 20-30 minutes
- Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Rio Grande Games
Pictures is a game that I thought I would really not like. And, in fact, in my first go of the game (at SPIEL in Essen in October 2019), I had a mostly negative experience of the game. It could have been that I was tired; or maybe there was a language issue, or who knows what. Maybe it was that the overall noise in Hall 2 was too much for me. In any event, I left the fair without a copy of the game, and I honestly hadn’t thought much else about it since then.
Then, the game showed up on my doorstep… In the intervening months, I also had had a number of very positive reports from people who played it at BGG.con, Lobster Trap and other winter conventions. Given this, I resolved to try it again. It may have also helped that one of my local gamers (James Nathan) was one of the ones who was gung-ho for the game after BGG.con.
The game itself is elegantly simple – I mean, the rules fit on a single sheet of paper. A grid of 16 photo cards (from a deck of 91 total) is laid out on the table. Markers to number the columns (1-4) and to letter the rows (A-D) are set next to this grid. These pictures will stay on the table for the whole game, which will be played over 5 rounds.
In each round, the players will draw a coordinate chip out of a bag – there are 3 instances of each of the 16 coordinate sets at the start. The chip will tell the player which picture he is trying to emulate in this round. He takes his set of materials, and when all players are ready, all try to use their bits to reconstruct their target image (note that players will generally have different targets but it is possible for players to be using the same target).
The five sets are:
Cubes – this player gets a frame that holds 9 cubes and a set of 24 cubes (3 each of 8 colors). This player MUST use 9 cubes to fill the frame completely.
Wooden Blocks – this players gets a set of 6 wooden pieces; he can use any or all of these to try to recreate the image
Sticks and Stones – This player will avoid breaking bones while he takes the 4 sticks and 4 stones and arranges them
Icon cards – this player takes the deck of 19 icon cards and MUST use 2 to 5 of these cards placed side-by-side
Shoelaces – this player takes the two laces (one longer than the other) and can arrange them how he likes
Once all players have finished their work, players now make their guesses on the scoresheet. All players try to guess at the target pictures of each of the other players. When the guesses are done, scoring happens for the round. Players score 1 point for each player that correctly guessed their target photo. Players also score 1 point for each opponent’s target that they correctly identified. Tally this in the rightmost column of the scoresheet. Then, pass the materials one position to the left. If there are fewer that 5 players, some sets will go unused in each round. But, by the end of the game (5th round), each player will have had one chance to work with each of the 5 sets of materials.
The player with the most points at the end of the 5th round wins. There is no tiebreaker.
My thoughts on the game
Pictures is a super simple game that has a lot of appeal for casual gaming. The photos are all vibrant, and it’s fun to try to come up with a way to recreate the pictures using the different material sets. It’s the sort of thing that I can see us pulling out after dinner (or maybe at the end of game night) – and an activity where I will generate more enjoyment out of making my little works of art and guessing at the others than I will about deciding who wins or loses. For me, Pictures is a game about the doing and not about the winning.
The rules are super easy to learn, with the only sticky bit being that sometimes people forget that you must use 2-5 cards and they are supposed to be side-to-side. Otherwise, the rules are so simple that they are almost idiot proof!
I have read online that some people have felt there is a “Replayability issue” as there are only 91 photo cards in the game – but, I think that this is foolish. Sure, if you play this dozens of times, you’ll eventually see all 91 cards be done with each of the five material sets. But… really, is that such a bad thing? By that time, you would have invested hundreds of hours into the game, and maybe you’ve already gotten a decent amount of replayability out of the game… I think there is plenty of variety between the photos and the 5 sets of materials; and if you were really worried, there are plenty of places you could go get new pictures to play the game with.
Is this my sort of game? Well, to be honest, I still think it’s more of an activity than a game. And, I normally have a super low tolerance for activities… But I have enjoyed my plays of it here at home, and given it’s likely wide appeal to general audiences, I think that this may actually end up earning a place in my game collection. I can see this being a great thing for family dinners or when non-gaming friends come over and ask the inevitable question about what TGOO are like. Of course, Pictures is not a great example of TGOO, but it’s a great entry point.
Interestingly, I didn’t care for the game when I saw it at SPIEL 2019, but I was playing it in a noisy convention hall with people I didn’t know (and who may not have spoken a language in common with me). It was just… OK. But, with gamers that I know, this game was a hoot. We laughed so loud that we were scolded by the missus of the house to keep it quiet lest we wake up the sleeping baby! That alone is enough to make this game a keeper.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Erik Arneson: I would be very reluctant to play Pictures with a group of gamers I don’t know, but with good friends it really shines. I agree with Dale’s point about it being about the doing, not about the winning. I couldn’t play a game like Pictures and focus on the final scoring — for me, that would rob the game of its fun.
Nathan Beeler: Reading the rules made it seems like my kind of game, and truly it could be. But in practice it just felt like the choice of the titular pictures were so samey and uninteresting, possibly intentionally so (to make it harder), that I don’t feel a need to play anymore.
James Nathan: I love this game. I was nervous that my play at BGGCON was a fluke and had set the bar too high -it was one of the best gaming experiences of the con for me. Luckily, a second play with my weekly group didn’t disappoint, and if those fairly crusty curmudgeons can have that much fun with a party game, I’m even more excited to try it with family and whatnot.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! James Nathan
- I like it. Dale Y, Erik Arneson
- Neutral. Nathan Beeler
- Not for me..
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I had a lot of fun with my one play… but I don’t need to play it again. It’s not “one and done” – but it’s close (for me).
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