Just One review

During the holiday season we’re always on the lookout for fun games to play together – ideally prying us away from TVs, monitors and phone screens for a few hours. Just One is one such game, and is going to be played a lot over here in the weeks to come.

For a party game, Just One – published by Repos and designed by Ludovic Roudy and Bruno Sautter – is super accessible in that you only need three players to play, even though it can be played by up to eight players at once. And, much like many of the digitally-fueled Jackbox games, the concept for the game is word-based and as simple as it’s potentially hilarious.

In Just One, you’re cooperating rather than competing, and the goal is to guess as many one-word answers as possible with the one-word clues that other players provide. The structure of the game is brilliantly simple as well, and consists of 13 rounds – represented by 13 cards you draw from a deck of over 100 cards before you start.

When the game starts, the first guesser grabs the top card and shows it to the other players by placing it on an easel in front of him. As each card has five potential words, he also has to pick a number between 1 and 5, and that’ll be his word to guess. The other players then write down one word clues to help him guess what it might be, but there’s a catch. If hint words are written down more than once, they get thrown out and won’t be shown. This happens in the intermediary phase, where the guesser can’t look and the other players compare their hints to see which ones qualify.

Obviously, if you’re only playing with three there’s a big chance that you end up with no hints at all, so in a three player game the non-guessers get to write down two words instead of one. It’s an interesting dynamic, because having more players means potentially more clues, but there’s also more of a chance that people will cancel each other out that way – or that clues will be so contradictory that the guesser will have no idea.

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If the latter is the case, the guesser can choose to pass. This might be a smart move, because guessing the wrong word causes you to lose this card as well as the next one whereas a “pass” only means you’re giving up the current one. You switch turns after a guessing round, and together you’ll want to score as many points as possible – anything 10 and over is a really good score.

One of the tricks is to come up with clues that aren’t so obvious that they’ll get canceled out, yet not too obscure either – or the guesser will never score that point for your team. The players who are coming up with clues can’t strategize during a round, but we figured that a smart tactic was to appoint one player to do the “obvious” clues while the rest came up with more creative nudges in the (hopefully) right direction. This is also where the most hilarious moments come from, and perhaps playing without any kind of strategy is the best way to play even if it costs you a round or two.

Just One’s weakest point is its dry erase markers, which simply don’t work as good after a while. Luckily, this is easily fixed with a couple of new pens, or some creative use of a tablet or one of those magnetic drawing boards. Or just using pen and paper, but that’s a little more wasteful.

We got a very similar energy from Just One to the one we get in some of the best games in the Jackbox franchise, and found it delightful to be able to do that while completely offline. It’s very affordable to, so this is a brilliant choice for a family game for the holidays as long as the 8+ age rating works for your group.

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