“Everyone has an artist in them; they just need to find the right tools” – some famous artist, probably.
It’s time to unleash your inner artist. Think you don’t have one? Maybe it’s time to give Pictures a try.
How it Plays
Pictures is a game about recreating photos with creativity and limited resources. The goal is to win points by using the odds and ends included in the box to clue in other players to a specific photo on the table. You also earn points by guessing correctly what other players are trying to represent.
Included in the box are five unique mediums with which to create art; pixels, strings, blocks, icons, and literal sticks and stones. Each round you are tasked with using one of these mediums to represent one of the 16 photos on the table, assigned to you by a random draw.
All players work on their art at the same time; when complete, they attempt to guess which photos the other players are recreating. You get a point for each guess you get correct, and additional points for each person who gets yours correct.
The game lasts 5 rounds, at which point each player will have utilized each of the five mediums once; tally up the points, and the player who has the most is the winner.
Every artist was first an amateur
Restrictions are the birthplace of creativity, and Pictures seems out to prove that claim with its simple and delightful gameplay. As this game shows, anyone can make art.
I wasn’t so sure, when I first put the game on the table for my family. I wondered if there would be frustration, or if some players would turn away or feel discouraged at their own limitations. What I found instead was a fairly brilliant pile of doodads with just enough freedom to keep things interesting and just enough structure to keep the game moving along.
The tools available strike a near-perfect balance between too much and too little. There’s just enough to work with, no matter which medium you’re on for this round, to be able to come up with something. But there isn’t so much to work with that someone would get overwhelmed with the options available, or to allow a skilled artist to exceed everyone dramatically.
What you are given forces you to look at your photo and break it down mentally into its basic elements, and your medium gives you a solid clue for where to start. Sticks and stones? Look for lines, circles, and spheres to highlight. Cubes? Look at the picture in terms of a 3×3 grid and figure out which color fills each spot. Boom! You’ve created pixel art.
The sticks and stones, string, and blocks have no restrictions whatsoever on how you use them; arrange them any way, any how. Use all of them or don’t. Each one includes a token to place to ensure the viewer orients themselves correctly.
The cubes have one limitation beyond the number of physical components; a frame is included that allows space for a 3×3 grid of cubes, and you have to fill the grid, no more, no less. Fortunately, as I mentioned above, this works really well and makes it easier for anyone to break down their photo and choose cubes.
The most challenging of the mediums is the icon cards. You’re required to use 2-5 cards, but the icons are the least abstract of all your tools. The other mediums are purely abstract, but each icon conveys a more specific meaning. In a way it feels like some basic concepts are missing; you get a bird, a shark, and a snail, which may make it extra difficult to represent a land animal like a dog or horse. You get fire, but not water. No indicators of size or direction. Yet, for some reason they included a poop icon.
Maybe others won’t have the same complaints, but I have noticed that players typically struggle more with the icon cards, and it is the most common medium that players guess wrongly about.
Other than that, this game has a lot of clever elements that keep it running smoothly. The same 16 cards are kept out the whole game, allowing players to get used to their options rather than getting hit with a brand new set of photos each round.
I like that everyone gets points for doing their best. Games like Dixit, where you’re trying to give clues that only work for some players but not all, lend themselves to inside jokes. Pictures wants you to make your best art that everyone can guess; it’s a more positive experience, encourages players to cheer each other on, and remains challenging thanks to the limitations of each medium. It’s also great that you have to use each medium during the game, so you can’t just lean on a favorite. And you can’t just steal an idea from a player who previously represented the same photo with the same medium; you have to come up with something new.
Over all, Pictures is a lighthearted game for some casual family fun. It sparks creativity in just about anyone, and simultaneous play keeps everyone engaged. While a competitive game, it fosters a spirit of camaraderie and positivity, and I think will generally leave all players involved feeling like they had a good time by the end.
Now, see if you can figure out which photos in the picture above go with each of my clues!
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Rio Grande Games for providing a review copy of Pictures.