Pictomania is a game from Vlaada Chvatil, and it is completely different from his magnum opus Through the Ages. Pictomania is a real-time party game. It is a family game of speed and quick wits. It is a game about drawing and guessing what the drawings mean. The twist is both drawing and guessing are done at the same time, by everyone.
Everyone gets one set of equipment like this. The board is for drawing. The tiles with stars on them are award tiles. Every round you award them to fellow players who guess your drawing correctly. The first to guess right gets 3VP, the second 2VP, and the rest 1VP each. You want to give them all out, because if any is left, you lose victory points. The cards are for guessing the drawings of other players. They are numbered 1 to 7 and are in your player colour. .
Before a round starts, 6 solution cards are revealed and everyone gets to study them. The cards are placed on stands, and each card is matched to an icon. Every player draws two mission cards, a number card and an icon card. This pair of mission cards determines what you need to draw. Taking this photo as an example, if you get the six-sided star and the number 2, you have to draw a comb.
Once everyone has read all tho solution cards, and knows what he needs to draw, the round starts. Actions are all simultaneous. There are no turns. You need to draw your own drawing and also guess what others are drawing. When guessing a drawing, if you feel confident it is a specific numbered item on a specific solution card, you need to find that number from your hand of cards, and play that card face-down next to the drawing. This is a first-come-first-serve thing. If another player has already played a card to that drawing, you will need to slap your card on top of his. After a round ends, when the drawing owner examines how many people have guessed right, he does it in the order the cards were played. If you guess right, you earn points based on how early you have played your card. If you guess wrong, you may be penalised. At the end of each round, if a single player has made the most mistakes, he loses points.
As a round progresses, once you are happy with your drawing and with the guesses you have made, you can decide to exit the round. You do this by grabbing an exit tile. Exit tiles have different numbers of stars (which mean victory points), so there is a race to grab the most valuable tile. The number of exit tiles is one less than the number of players. Once the last tile is taken, the round ends. No more drawing, no more guessing. The slowest player will not get an exit tile.
Those stacks of multicoloured cards next to the drawings are the guesses made by the players. On my board (green) you see a black tile with 3 stars. That's the exit tile, and it's worth 3VP. I was first to grab an exit tile this round.
The game is played over 5 rounds. After the 5th round, the highest scorer wins. There are many solution cards in the game, and they come in different difficulty levels. New players can start with the easy ones. Veterans would probably enjoy the impossible ones more.
Pictomania is a game of quick thinking and smart thinking. If you are good at drawing, it certainly helps. However what is more important is deciding what to draw to communicate your word or phrase to others. Let's take the word "weekend" as an example. Ivan got this word in our game. He drew two simple pictures, one of a guy working at his laptop, and the next one of the same guy throwing down his laptop and running away while cheering aloud. I would not have thought of this. I would probably just draw a row of seven boxes and shade the last two.
Every player's solution is a different number, and you can use this to your advantage. If you are very sure that one particular opponent's solution is a #4, then you can ignore all the other #4 words. However, one funny thing that often happens is when you are trying to find in your hand a specific number to guess a particular drawing, you realise that you have already played that number. That means you are probably losing out on two drawings - the earlier one which you have guessed wrong, and the current one which you won't be able to play the right card on.
Being the first to guess right is a big advantage, so you do want to pay keen attention to your opponents. At the same time you don't want to waste time by not drawing your own picture. This is what makes the game exciting, and also chaotic. Since this is a real-time game, everyone is very involved all the time. There is no downtime.
A flurry of activity.
The drawing on the left is the story "The Boy Who Cried Wolf", and the drawing on the right is "Lord of the Rings".
These are the higher difficulty cards. I like!
The ThoughtsPictomania is a party game, a family game, a casual game. It is easy to learn and players will immediately feel engaged. It is a good warm-up game, and also works well as an icebreaker game. Some of the drawings will trigger discussions and jokes, not necessarily because they are ugly. It can be because of how the drawing owner decided to present his word. I prefer the tougher solution cards. Some really make your jaw drop and start praying you won't get them.