CHENNAI : The Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) is the biggest award in board gaming — winning that award essentially guarantees that that particular game will be bought by a massive number of people, both in Germany and elsewhere. It’s an award that has some commercial heft to it, in other words, but it’s also chosen on the basis of which game can be the best ambassador for the hobby. Today, we’re taking a look at Just One, the game which was announced as this year’s Spiel des Jahres just this week.
Just One is a cooperative party game for 3-7 players in which players will take turns trying to guess a word based on clues that everybody else gives them. This already flips the script for this sort of game, reversing how most other games (Taboo and Codenames, for example) do it.
Each round, the guesser will place a card into their holder so that they can’t see it, pick a number from 1-5, and everybody else has to (in secret) write a one-word clue that will hopefully get them to guess that word. For example, if the word in question was ‘vampire’, I might write ‘garlic’, while you might write ‘bat’. Once everybody’s written their clue, they compare what they’ve written in secret (so that the guesser can’t see them yet); and all matching clues are turned face-down. So, using the example above, if a third player had written ‘bat’, then both of those would be removed; and the poor guesser would then have to try to figure out their word based solely on ‘garlic’.
This is where the genius of Just One becomes apparent, because you have to get in the mind of not only the guesser, but everyone else at the table. You can’t risk giving the obvious clue because someone else might do it; but if you all give vague and obscure clues, the guesser is going to be left high, dry and mighty confused.
It’s a beautiful balancing act that is required of you, and it’s simply wonderful. Another reason this works so well is that it spreads the pressure around equally — in Codenames, there’s a lot on the shoulders of the spymasters and people don’t always like to be put on the spot like that. In Just One, however, everybody’s got to be thinking solely about their own clue.
As far as I’m concerned, Codenames is the reigning king of party games and is one of my personal favourites; which makes it all the more astonishing that I think that Just One might just be sneaking up on Codenames’ throne. If anyone in the group isn’t enjoying Codenames, it becomes much less enjoyable for everyone — which is a problem that Just One doesn’t have, because of the individual nature of its clue-giving. It’s a ton of laughs, a worthy Spiel des Jahres winner, and likely to be one of the hottest games of the year.