Review - Pictomania

3-6 players, Aged 9+  with a playing time of 25+ mins 
Pictomania - The box artwork
A review copy of Pictomania (designed by Vlaada Chvátil whose other games include Galaxy Trucker, Dungeon Petz and Dungeon Lords) was kindly provided by Czech Games Edition.

Played first when it was still at the prototype stage last summer, I thought then that it would be a fun game, ideally suited to parties and family gatherings. In its finished form its components are functional rather than inspiring, albeit of a high quality. However the game itself is every bit as much fun as I expected.

It is a game of art, communication and interpretation where players have to draw an image to represent one of the 42 possible images whilst simultaneously guessing which image each of the other players is drawing – frenetic.

As a game with an age of 9 to 99 it is not surprising that Pictomania has 4 levels of difficulty and rules that will definitely allow it to be played at the younger end, indeed we had a game where we had four adults and two 7 year old's who both scored well and enjoyed it every bit as much as the adults.

What follows is an overview of the game broken down into 5 sections: The Game ComponentsSetting Up The GameHow To Play The GameWhat Did We Think? and finally Who Do We Think Will Like It?. So if you don't want to read the whole review scan down to the heading that interests you.

The Game Components
99 double-sided Word Cards with 4 levels of complexity represented by the colours of the cards from Green through Orange, to Blue and finally Purple. Each card is double sided and has 7 words or phrases on each side.
Pictomania - 3 Word Cards
2 Cardboard Holders, each with three different symbols (6 in total), these are used during the game to hold the 6 Word Cards being used for each round.
Pictomania - 3 Word Cards
6 Drawing Tablets (with boxes down one side to record the players score in each round), 7 Guessing Cards (numbered 1 to 7) and 5 Scoring Tokens (three with a value of 1, one of 2 and one of 3) in the 6 player colours, red, yellow, green, blue, purple and orange.

6 whiteboard style marker pens and 6 eraser / wiper cloths.

13 Black Cards, six with the symbols mentioned earlier and seven numbered 1 to 7.

5 Bonus Tokens with stars on them - one token with 1 star, two with 2 and two with 3 stars.

Setting Up The Game
Depending on the number of players set out a number of Bonus Tokens in the middle of the table. Once players have finished drawing and guessing players can grab one of these tokens.

Each player takes a Drawing Tablet, 7 Guessing Cards and a number of Scoring Tokens depending on the number of players.
Pictomania - Drawing Tablet (with boxes down one side to record the players score in each round), 7 Guessing Cards and 5 Scoring Tokens
Shuffle the Black Number cards and deal one to each player, face down. Then shuffle the Black Symbol cards and deal one of these to each player again face down. The remaining unused cards are placed to one side, face down; players do not look at these cards.

Decide what level of complexity is suitable/desirable and place 6 Word Cards of that colour in the Cardboard Holders so that all players can read them.

Give players a few moments to read all of them and if there are any words or phrases that a player is not familiar with they may reject one card.

How To Play The Game
Once all players have had a few moments to look at the cards the dealer (or whoever you wish) says ‘go’.
Pictomania - 2 Cardboard Holders, with six different symbols and their corresponding cards
Players can then look at their two Black Cards identify which word or phrase they need to draw by looking at the 6 Word Cards in the Card Holders. They then place their Black Cards face down in front of them.
Pictomania - The numbered Black Cards

The aim is two-fold:
  • To draw the word of phrase indicated on your cards. This may be done slowly or quickly and in detail or poorly, but must conform to a number of rules e.g. you cannot use words, numbers, Morse code, the Greek alphabet or in some way indicate which card /word it is you are drawing. You are also, not surprisingly, not allowed to comment, murmur or in any way indicate what you are drawing through any sounds.
  • Guess what other players are drawing. When you believe you have identified what word or phrase, from the displayed Word Cards, another player is drawing then you place your Guessing Card corresponding to the number of the word or phrase face down on top of the players Black Cards.
When a player believes they have completed their drawing and guessed (or attempted to guess) everyone else’s images they can grab one of the Black Bonus tokens in the centre of the table, the more stars the better.
Pictomania - The Bonus Tokens
There will always be one less Bonus Token then there are players. When a player grabs the last token they shout ‘Stop’ and no more drawing or guessing is allowed.

It is conceivable that all players may finish drawing and guessing without grabbing the Bonus Token/s if they have struggled to identify the images drawn by the other players and therefore believe that they may be the ‘Black Sheep’, see the next section on scoring.

The Scoring
Resolved in turn each player:

Pictomania - A pile of the players Scoring Tokens
  • Turns over the stack of cards in front of them and reveals the two Black Cards. This will indicate which word or phrase they were trying to depict and from which of the six Word Cards.
  • Identifies if the first players Guessing Card is correct. If it is they return the Guessing Card to the player along with the highest of their Scoring Tokens, if it is not the Guessing Card is placed in the middle of the table.
  • Work through each of the Guessing Cards in their pile either awarding Scoring Tokens or placing the Guessing Card in the middle of the table.
Players may be left with a number of Scoring Tokens roughly equal to the number of players who did not identify their drawing correctly.

The player with the most Guessing Cards in the centre of the table is designated the ‘Black Sheep’
Pictomania - The players Guessing Cards

Players now score points equal to the net of positive points on Scoring Tokens received less their Scoring Tokens not given out plus the value of the Bonus Token if they were not the ‘Black Sheep’ and minus if they were. The net total is written in the first of the five boxes on the players Drawing Tablet.

Next Turn
Guessing Cards and Scoring Tokens are returned to their players, Bonus Tokens are placed back in the centre of the table, the Black Cards are taken back and the deck of Symbol Cards is shuffled as is the deck of Number Cards. New Word Cards are placed in the cardboard holders, Black Number and Symbol cards are dealt to each player and the game turn proceeds as described earlier.

The game is played over 5 turns.

What Did We Think?
I am not a great fan of Pictionary, the most well known drawing game, or generally any game that calls on you to be artistic. However this game is like Identik (available in Waterstones Christmas 2011) in that it is as much about interpretation as it is art and I feel thus creates a much more interesting and balanced game that should appeal to a wider audience.
Pictomania - 6 Word Cards
As already mentioned one of our games was with a mixed group of adults and children and everybody had a lot of fun, even though the children were only 7. It is maybe a more tense experience than Pictionary in that players are competing on their own whereas Pictionary is a team game. In Pictomania you have the pressure of trying to draw something whilst simultaneously guess what everybody else is doing and being conscious that game mechanism will penalise the player who completes their combination of drawing and guessing last.

Tense for sure but definitely thought it was fun, with a lot of laughter at our various efforts.

With the number of Word Cards it offers lots of replayability and an interesting option for those looking for something different for their families at Christmas.

Who Do We Think Will Like It?
Families and in particular those who enjoy games like Pictionary.

Gamers looking for a game that tests their artistic / interpretation skills, rather than their tactical nous.

If you liked this review then other games I have reviewed can be seen here

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