There was a time a few years ago when I used the Spiel des Jahres nomination lists to look for games to play. Way back when I discovered hobby games, it was a good source to find the weight of games that I still enjoy playing today.
Now, because of the growth of the internet, convention travel, and our own growing Gumbo Game Nights, monthly meet ups and Southern Board Game Fest, I’ve had the opportunity each year to try many of the nominated games even before they were announced.
This year, in the two major categories, I’ve managed to play four of the six games: Just One & Werewords for the Spiel, and Detective & Wingspan for the Kennerspiel. As we get closer to the announcement of the winners, I will try to highlight my plays of each game even as I try to track down plays of the remaining two (and some of the recommended games on the list.)
If you are a regular viewer of Gumbo Live!, our weekly board game talk show, you know that I like a good, intelligent party game. Wits & Wagers has long been on my list as my favorite in that genre. For most of these games, winning does not even matter — it’s the shared experience and especially the laughter they generate that counts!
Does your game group like party games? Are you looking for something that feels familiar but with a unique twist, one that you can teach to any game group? Well, spice up your game nights with Just One!
Just One is a cooperative clue guessing game for 2-7 players from Repos Production. You will remember them from hits like 7 Wonders and Terror in Meeple City, among many other games.
Seven gamers are sitting around a large wooden table. Tick, tock. You glance at your watch, counting out the cards in front of you. Clearly, the group has a chance, finally after so many tries, to get a perfect score. You count them out again. Tick, tock. More scribbling, more frowns, more guessing, more cheers. A tiny bead of sweat falls from the long crease in your left hand onto your striped shorts, but no one notices. Laughter fills the room as Jacque stares at the clues in front of him. You confirm that you will be the guesser on that last fateful card. Maybe Jacque will miss the obvious clue on his turn and cause the game to end? Tick, tock. Nope. Jacque takes one look at “barber” “rock” and “paper”, and guesses “scissors” right away. The last card is slowly passed to you. You feel your hands drift up in front of your face as your eyes close.
It’s your turn.
Just One’s rules are simple: players have a 13 card “deck” and have to take turns as the “guesser”. The other players each have dry erase stands and markers. Each clue giver looks at the “hidden word” on the current card, and writes down “JUST ONE WORD ” (hence the name of the game) as a clue on their board.
Without showing the boards to the guesser, the clue givers eliminate all duplicate clues. Whatever is left is all the guesser has to guess the hidden word. Get it right? The card is counted toward the goal of “winning”. Get it wrong, and the card is discarded PLUS an additional card is discarded. Pass, and the team only loses that one card.
Just One comes in a small box that is easy to carry. There is almost no art, but it is not needed in the game. What is needed in a game like this is a lot of cards, and thankfully, Just One has 110 cards each with five different words on them. That’s a lot of play time built right in. Plus, let’s face it, you could use any list of words — Codenames, WordSlam, Monikers, Conde’ Nast magazine, your favorite board game blog — any random way to distribute words will breathe new life into this game.
The added bonus are the ingenious dry erase boards. They are built like little stands, with seven in the box and seven unique colored markers. Writing and revealing the clues while the guesser has her eyes closed is part of the shared experience of the game. Each group seems to develop a unique way to present the clues or laugh and joke about “how hard this one will be”. All in all, this is a first class production with well produced components.
BUT IS IT FUN?
Is boudin spicy from T-boy’s in Mamou? Heck, yes! And Just One is the giver of some of the most fun I have had in gaming over the last five years. My first experience was with the Krewe de Gumbo and Alex Goldsmith from the Dukes of Dice at this past BGG.Con, where we ended up playing over and over for hours. By the end, we were mixing real attempts at giving great clues to “just playing for ourselves” by giving out obtuse but funny clues that would cause the other players to groan or howl with laughter.
Since then, I’ve broken it out at family game nights and regular game nights with much success, and even my son has had a good experience playing with some of his non-gaming friends. Just One is that simple type of game that feels like it should have been invented before.
I’ve heard some commentators say it is “derivative” or “unoriginal” and I get the criticism. But, while it shares many of the same mechanics before, the combination of cooperative play, quick game time, ingenious production, and easy teach makes for the perfect party game.
I still prefer Wits & Wages by a tiny hair, but only because there’s just something about those silly questions in the game and the crazy betting that comes from the Vegas edition that sings to me. But, I’ll play Just One anytime someone tees it up and it is a definite keeper in my collection. It’s the perfect nomination for SdJ and is my Party Game Of 2018.
Good luck to Repos Production and the designers of Just One, Ludovic Roudy & Bruno Sautter in their chase for the coveted Spiel des Jahres! I’ll have more looks at the nominees for SdJ and KdJ soon.
Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!
– – BJ @boardgamegumbo