Telestrations is a drawing style party game from The OP (formerly known as USAopoly). Now ten years old, released originally back in 2009, Telestrations is a modern twist on the Telephone or Chinese Whispers games of old. Uncredited to a designer, the game sees 4 – 8 players spend as little or as much time as they wish drawing and guessing. However, does the title allow creativity to flourish or flounder? Let’s find out!
Setup is as simple as removing the components from the box, with a spot of passing and shuffling. Each player takes one of the eight whiteboard style sketchbooks and pens – writing their name through the small cutout window. The word cards are shuffled and placed in the middle of the table, with a die put next to them. Finally, the sand timer is retrieved from the box and the game is ready to be played.
Each round players draw a card, together choosing to use either the “this” or “that” side. These cards have up to 6 words on them, with a dice value next to them. One player rolls the die and whatever value it lands on dictates the word for all players. Some cards have a blank next to specific die values. If this occurs the player can make up their own secret word. Writing the word hidden on the first page each player then draws their word on the second page. Once done everyone passes their sketchbook to the player on their left. This player then looks at only the drawing and on the subsequent page writes what they believe the word is.
The sketchbook is again passed left. The subsequent player then draws the guessed word, before the next player guesses the word and so on. This continues until the sketchpad is back with the original owner. At this point it is officially time to score, though many games of Telestrations just involve laughing instead. The best way to score is via the friendly method, though a competitive “being correct” method is available. Via the friendly method the sketchbook owner gains a point if the last guess matches the original secret word. Other than this being correct matters not. The sketchbook owner then awards 1 point to whomever made their favourite guess and drawing. Note, this is their favourite so it is entirely subjective.
If scoring after three rounds the game is over and the player with the most points wins. At this point the game is only really just getting going – one reason that scoring is often ignored. The major reason though is the game works best if players add some flair into the experience. While being correct can be important for scoring if players’ guesses are exact descriptions of what they see the entertainment skyrockets. All of a sudden the game changes from guessing a dog then drawing a dog to guessing a small happy dog running with someone attempting to put all of the description into a drawing. Comically, this never seems to be conveyed well – so the guesses get further and further away from the original word.
Telestrations is a family friendly game, or at least it is officially. All of the cards provided and the gameplay the game offers is there for clean fun. However, put this game in front of a group of children and a group of adults and there is a significant difference. The topics that surface when given the opportunity to come up with your own words can be enlightening – at least to the extent of how your friends’ minds work. Whether or not your group will scrap the barrels of filth the included words are all clean and provide plenty of comedy on their own.
The word cards have two sides a “this” and a “that” side. This is somewhat off a missed opportunity to split harder and easier words – as there seems no logic to how words appear on each side. The majority of the words are more than possible to draw but some are certainly easier. Chopsticks for example are easier to draw and guess than the phrase bun in the oven. Having a range of difficulty is brilliant at making the game have some challenge, there is just little logic to help less confident or younger players get easier words.
The wipeable sketchbooks are a great solution for a game that would burn through pads of paper. While an ideal solution they aren’t without fault. For a few games they were fine being wiped with the provided small clothes. These clothes do a relatively good job at wiping the sheets clean. Alas, over time the discolouring does build up. Therefore, you need to properly clean them once in a while. Another slight niggle is that occasionally being opened and closed when passed some smudging of words or drawings can occur. It’s never to the state something is unreadable but I fear it could spoil a single round at some point, therefore it is something to note.
Included is a sand timer though it is rarely useful. If players do take an extremely long amount of time guessing or drawing it would be ideal for maintaining the pace. The pacing doesn’t seem to drop regularly, giving little downtime for players to get distracted. This is certainly a benefit to the game, as it keeps the attention of all playing regardless of if you’re quickly writing a guess or drawing an elaborate doodle.
In a similar way to Skull or Charades, Telestrations’ core game is something gamers could use other components for. The package of the game with 1,700 words, the pens, cloths and the white board sketchbooks makes the game worthwhile though. With Christmas quickly approaching Telestrations will 100% be one of those go to games for any family gathering. It has a large player count and can be as family friendly (or not) as it needs to be. If you would struggle to reach around the 5/6 player count then it may not be ideal, otherwise get ready to draw, guess and laugh a lot.
[Editor’s Note: Telestrations was provided to us by Asmodee for review purposes. The game is currently available from local board game stores, find your local store here.]