|Interaction||Components & Design|
It’s often one little twist that makes the difference between yet another word game and a Spiel des Jahres nominee. Just One. Actually, I guess that’s all I have as an introduction to Just One. If I say anything else I’ll have explained the game already.
How to play Just One
Just One is a cooperative word game. You start with a stack of thirteen word cards and collectively try to guess as many of them as you can, one after the other. For each card one player is the active player. He has to guess the word. Technically, he also picks a word from the five on the card, but since he doesn’t know the words and they are not sorted by category, or difficulty, or anything, that doesn’t really impact the game. It just means there are five hundred words on the one hundred cards and you can play for that much longer.
The active player puts the card standing in front of him so everyone else can see the word. All other players write a one word clue on their dry erase easels, following the usual rules for this kind of game: No translating the target word into a different language, no using words that sound the same, no using grammatical forms of the word.
Before the active player sees the clues, there’s one more step, the twist that makes this game more than YAWG (Yet Another Word Game). The clue givers reveal their clues to each other and discard all duplicates, including pairs of related words, like ‘king’ and ‘kingdom’. Only after this elimination step does the active player see the clues and make his one and only guess at the word.
With only one guess there are three possible outcomes. If the guess is right the card goes to the score pile. If the guess is wrong, then this card and the next card are both returned to the box. A wrong guess costs you two points. The third option is for the active player to admit he has no idea and skip his guess. In that case the card itself is still returned to the box, but you don’t lose the next card on top of it.
When your pile of cards is over you count the cards in your score pile to see how well you did, and then you’re ready start over.
I bet you can’t play just once – our Verdict
Like I said at the start, you almost can’t talk about Just One without already having explained the game. That’s great for a party game, of course. You’re ready to play in a minute or less. Also great for a party game, Just One scales very well with different numbers of players. More players means more clues, sure, but more players also means a bigger chance of two players giving the same clue. Even more fun, to avoid giving identical clues larger groups tend to go really far out with their clues and you might end up with six clues that are so far out in different directions that your guesser is left utterly confuse. That doesn’t help you win, but it’s hilarious and incredibly satisfying when you still manage to guess right.
Just don’t play with three players. It’s technically possible, but the special rule that each player writes two clues really defeats the point of the game. Ring the neighbors’ door bell instead and ask if they want to play.
I should also say something about Just One‘s components, since it has something I positively raved about in Railroad Ink last week. Those dry erase pens with the erasers on top? Just One has them, too. They write and erase well on the plastic easels, and they come in really pretty colors. Besides that, the components are solid. And about the design… well, Just One is a word game, it has words on cards. There’s no need for illustrations.
Just One is an extremely fun game. Satisfying when you win, sometimes hilarious when you lose, and interesting to discover what far out sort of clues you come up with to avoid duplicates. Really, really good. Nevertheless, I’m surprised to see it in the Spiel des Jahres nominations. Not that it doesn’t deserve an award, but I don’t see Just One as a family game. It’s a great party game, but I don’t really see myself taking it to Christmas lunch. Anyway, you get tons of fun for a very low price.