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Game Overview: Pictures, or Sticks and Stones Will Depict the Unknowns

W. Eric Martin
United States
Apex
North Carolina
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Board Game: Pictures
Each year at SPIEL, more than a thousand games are introduced to the market, and in all likelihood you will not play 95% of those games. You'll have a list of titles that catch your eye, friends will ask you to play something that caught their eye...then many months will pass and we'll be into the next wave of game announcements. Hello, Spielwarenmesse 2020! See you soon!

At BGG.CON each year, I walk the ballroom to check out what folks are playing, trying to see what I missed and what I might want to play myself. One title that stood out was Pictures, a party game by Christian and Daniela Stöhr from PD-Verlag, which is better known for releasing titles from Mac Gerdts.

In Pictures, sixteen images are laid out in a 4x4 grid, and each of the 3-5 players receives a set of components — two shoelaces, a set of blocks, four sticks and four stones, etc. — and a token that features grid coordinates, e.g., B3. You use those components to recreate the image as best you can, then write down your guess as to what everyone else has created.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Two representations to guess

Each set of coordinates appears in the draw bag three times, so you can't rule out an image that someone else has created previously, and part of the enjoyment of the game comes from seeing how someone has translated an image into a 3x3 pixellated image, then how someone else has interpreted it in 2-5 icon cards. Every so often, two people will recreate the same image in their own components in the same round, and you have this "A ha!" moment of recognition similar to when you first start catching phrases in other languages and understanding them without having to think about them.

Scoring is basic: Earn a point for each image you guess correctly and for each time someone guesses your image correctly. Scoring is also beside the point, so to speak. As with many party games, you're not playing to win as much as playing to play. Let's do this odd, but neat thing together!

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Another structure created to represent an image above

This game is all about the physical components, about you working to make something that resembles something else — yet the images on the table are on tiny cards that sometimes obscure the details of what you're trying to recreate, but you can't pick up the card that you're trying to recreate because then everyone will know what you're trying to do! In some ways, I want a digital layout of the cards so that I can zoom in on each image on my phone in secret to better see what I'm recreating; more practically, I wish the image cards were twice as large.

I've played Pictures three times on a copy borrowed from the BGG Library, with PD-Verlag having donated that copy, and I give more examples of artistic creation — if you want to call it that — on the video below. Rio Grande Games has licensed this design and will release it on the North American market sometime in 2020. An expansion pack will contain a bag of dirt to which you'll add water to sculpt matching images, and a second pack will contain facial tissues that you must crumple artistically, and neither of these expansion packs will actually exist unless you make them on your own, which of course you are free to do.

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