Just One is a brand new party game from publisher Repos Production, released right at the end of 2018. Designed by Ludovic Roudy and Bruno Sautter the game was originally released as We Are The Word before being picked up by Repos. Unusually for a word guessing game it is cooperative in nature, playable by 3 – 7 players in around 20 minutes. Played over up to 13 rounds does this amount make gamers feel lucky to be playing? Let’s find out!
Setup of Just One is lightning fast, with an easel and pen handed out to each players and 13 cards drawn from the deck. The rest of the cards and components are returns to the box and the game is ready. Each round one player will become the guesser who draws the top card, from the draw pile, without looking at it. This is accomplished by placing it facing the rest of the players on their easel. The guesser now states a number from 1 to 5, indicating to the rest of the group what the active word is. The number doesn’t seem to correlate with the difficulty, with words randomly put in 1 – 5 slots.
Each non-guesser player then secretly writes a single word on their easel. Once done, these words are compared without the guesser seeing. Identical words, including same family words like Prince and Princess, cancel each other out and must be rubbed from the easels. The remaining words therefore appear Just One time on the easels. These words are then revealed to the guesser.
As if the group pressure to guess the word wasn’t enough, the guesser now has an important choice to make – whether to guess or not. If the player correctly guesses the team scores a point for the card. However, if the guess is incorrect not only is the current card returned to the box the next card from the draw pile is also discarded. Passing sees the current card discarded but no further cards are discarded. Players don’t have to 100% guess the word for it to be counted with words of the same family, again Prince/Princess, being accepted – unless you want a real challenge.
Regardless of the outcome play continues around the table in a clockwise fashion, with a new player becoming the guesser for the next round, drawing the next card. A maximum of 13 rounds are played, though the game goes until the draw deck runs out. At this point the team as a collective counts the number of words they correctly guessed. Based upon a table on the back of the rules the team can determine if they have been less the average all the way up to perfect. It would have been nice if this meant something or at least came with a lighthearted rank, but there is something more than the number at least.
The speed of the game is something to be commended, as it is ideal for a party game. Setup and teardown take mere seconds and explanation can either be done in a minute pre-game or using the first round to explain how to play. There is a short time of waiting each round for the guessing player but then all of a sudden the tides are turned and the pressure is on them to guess! Some players will hate this pressure while others will love it, just make sure everyone doesn’t take things too seriously and it’ll be fun for all.
From the description it may sound like Just One would falter at 3 players. Handily there is a slight rules tweak that makes it more than just playable. Instead of each player getting one easel each gets two. This alteration doesn’t drastically the core dynamic of the game however. While one player won’t write two identical words it doubles the chance the other player has written one of those words, resulting in approximately the same number of clues filtering through to the guesser regardless of player count.
A total of 110 cards are included in the box, with five words on each. This means a total of 550 words are included. However, even for those whom blitz through the deck are in for a treat. Just One gets around the universal issue of the same words coming up by it actually becoming harder when this occurs. If players can remember when words have previously been brought up, and what got them guessed, players are often eager to re-use the same words. This inevitably results in words matching and being cancelled, thus both replayability and creativity are instilled into the game in one hit.
The one thing that can make Just One falter is something it drives players towards. After a few rounds where other players agonisingly match clues players can start to exclaim “I’m doing an obvious one”. When this occurs, despite the energy of the players you may have to dial it down for the game to remain balanced. In a “The Mind” like way doing clues in silence isn’t advised as it isn’t as entertaining, so just make sure hints towards clues aren’t given.
Scoring collectively is a unique feature that Just One has that is relatively unheard of from similar titles. Even after explaining that players are working together by the end people have attempted to count the points “they” earnt, scoring the cards they correctly guessed. There could have been a scoring system where only players left in, with clues not cancelled, score. Yet, the cooperative feel makes Just One feel more group friendly – as players are always attempting to work together. This builds the importance for no one in the group to match, rather than wanting opponents to match and only you get points.
For some it takes a game to understand what the points mean, with questions about the discarding if wrongly guessing. It would have been an interesting twist to have the words get harder as they are valued 1 – 5, so players could go for more points from harder words. Alas the random distribution of words of the cards gives players no chance to go for an easy or hard word – something new or younger players may have benefited from.
Just One is an interesting twist on the majority of word guessing games, where for once everyone around the table is rooting for the guesser to get the answer. This can be a nice feeling, where support is given, or a stressful ordeal where you don’t want to let others down. Inevitably the clues always make more sense when the word is revealed, whether you guessed it or not. This results in highs of the correct answer being given and the lows of words being cancelled and “easy” words missed out on. The game scales well with more players only increasing the chances that clues will match. Even with only 3 players the game works well, something of a surprise. One thing is for sure, for the next few party gatherings I’m sure Just One will be hitting the table!
[Editor’s Note: Just One was provided to us by Asmodee UK for review purposes. The game is currently available on 365 Games for £15.99. It is also available from local UK board game stores, find your local store here]