Reviewed by Chris Wray
JUST ONE (Repos Production, 3 to 7 players, ages 8 and up, 20 minutes; about $20)
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Just One is a cooperative party game by Ludovic Roudy and Bruno Sautter for 3-7 players. Released at Essen 2018, the game seemed to immediately catch fire among word game enthusiasts. The game is decidedly lightweight — one of those games that you could truly play with anybody — but it has earned acclaim from gamers and non-gamers alike in recent months due to its engaging gameplay.
Each player receives a whiteboard (which is triangle shaped and thus stands up) and a dry erase marker. The lead player rotates around the table, and on their turn, they pick #1-5 from a card that everybody else (but not the lead player) can see. For example, the clue might be (and this is a real example) “Rocky”
All of the other players then write down a one-word clue (just one word!) to try to get the lead player to guess the word “Rocky.” So players might write “Mountains” or “Road” or “Bullwinkle” or “Balboa.”
The catch is that these players write their word secretly, and they compare them before showing the lead player. If two or more of the words match, those clues are removed from the game. For example, when a group I played with had the clue “Rocky,” several of us wrote the word “Adrian,” and none of those clues were shown to the lead player.
Based on what is left, the lead player makes a guess. It could be just a word or two, or it could be a full complement of clues. The lead player may also pass.
The goal is to score as many correct answers as possible. The maximum possible score is 13, since you create a stack of that many cards at the beginning of the game. If a player passes, they’ll forfeit one of those points. If a player is wrong, they not only miss that point, but they take away another unused card from the stack, further inhibiting their ability to get to a perfect 13. The game comes with a sliding scale for rating your performance.
Just One was the most popular game of my post-Essen event. Of the 19 attendees that played and rated the game, 10 of them said it was their favorite of the weekend. (My friends do tend to veer towards lighter games: past favorites have included Azul and Fabled Fruit.) I wouldn’t give it that high of a status, but I do think it is an outstanding word game, and easily one of the best party-style games of the year.
It’s one of the easiest party games out there, and my favorite part is that you never have downtime here, because you’re either giving a clue or guessing. It is a game that requires subtlety that is surprisingly hard to achieve. The cooperative nature of it adds something fun, and among the several groups I’ve played with, it inspires that “we must play this again” mentality I love seeing in my fellow players.
The production has a couple of minor flaws — the cards can be see-through in certain lights, and after about a dozen games, I started to see cards over and over again (meaning they should have given us a bigger stack than the 110 cards provided) — but the gameplay itself is remarkably engaging.
We’ve had laugh-out-loud fun with Just One, and I enthusiastically recommend it. I wouldn’t be surprised if this received some recognition during game award season next year. – – – – – – – – – – – – – Chris Wray
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