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Pictures is a 3-5 player party game where players will use varying sets of items to depict one of 16 images in the hopes their companions can figure out what picture they are crafting.

Gameplay

As with any party-style game, the rules of Pictures are simple. The game begins by setting up 16 images in a four-by-four grid, with rows determined by the letters A-D and columns by numbers 1-4. Players will each begin by taking a token from the bag that leads them to the picture in the grid position they must interpret with one of the five sets of items at their disposal (which cannot be mixed and matched): wooden blocks, two shoelaces, sticks and stones, a deck of icon cards, and colored cubes.

Players will use one of these sets to try and recreate the image in their particular grid area at the same time. Once all players have finished their interpretation, they will then look at the creations of the other players and write down what image they believe it is using the grid points (for example, if a Player A believes Player B recreated image C3, they would mark C3 on their scoring sheet under Player B’s name). Players then reveal what they have created, with points being awarded to players who correctly guess other interpretations as well as earning points for every player that guessed their own interpretation correctly. 

After each turn, players will switch item sets, draw another grid token from the bag, and repeat the process. If there are fewer than five players, some item sets will be put aside and new ones will be introduced. After five rounds, players will tally their score and the person with the highest point total is declared the winner. 

Pictures game

Review

Pictures was recently nominated as one of three finalists for the 2020 Spiel des Jahres award, which recognizes excellence in family and casual gaming. Despite its simple rules and light weight, there is a surprising amount of complexity interpreting scenic images into rudimentary art pieces using the given item sets. 

Similar to other party favorites such as Codenames and Mysterium, intent is key. A lot of the images in the grid will have many similarities. It's honing in on traits, backgrounds, or the items at one's disposal to forge something that will get the most players to guess the given images. There’s also the fun conundrum when two players are both working toward interpreting the same picture during a turn using different item sets, since each grid position has three tokens in the bag at any given time. 

The positive atmosphere and fun inclusionary elements natural to the game are also welcome. While it's not cooperative, since each player is working alone to guess what the other players have depicted, the goal of trying to get as many people to correctly guess what you have created means players want to do their best each round. But Pictures is also a party game, and half of the fun happens when interpretations go sideways and people are stumped with how to best use the set of items they have inherited. 

While Pictures won't always be a go-to because it lacks some versatility in its presentation and components, it will always be a welcomed inclusion in the collection of party gamers because of its blend of more modern abstract guessing games (like Codenames) but also due to its traditional party game roots (Pictionary, charades, etc.) that means even beginner gamers can feel included and find success while playing. 

Pros: Easy to learn, Complexity due to intent and interpretation

Cons: Images are sometimes too similar