Just One (Brandon Kempf)
Designed by: Ludovic Roudy & Bruno Sautter
Publisher: Repos Productions
Just One, that’s all we have to say any more around here, let’s play Just One game. Say that and the dry erase markers are uncapped and we are ready for some word game fun.
Take Codenames and strip away the competitive, team vs team nature of it and make it a cooperative experience and you may get close to Just One. It’s a dead simple premise, you as a team start with 13 cards, and on those cards are 5 words. You are trying to score 13 points, so along with the 13 cards being what you are playing with, they are also your score pile.
On a player’s turn they take one of the cards without looking at it, and place it on their plastic easel facing the other players so that only they can read the 5 words written on the card. The active player will then give a number between 1 and 5 and that will be the corresponding word that the team will be using this round. After the players know the word, they are going to write, on their personal plastic easels, one word that is going to make the active player guess what the word is on their card. But wait! There’s a catch here before you all go thinking this is too easy. Catch is, no clue giver can give the same clue as someone else. All of the cluegivers compare their clues before presenting them to the active player. So if the word is Croissant, and two players write French on their easels, they cancel each other out and the active player does not get that clue to use.
Hopefully due to your cunning and distinct individual intellectual skills, the active player can look at all of the clues and give back a word that they think is the word on their card. If they are correct, you gain a point, simply keep this card off to the side as a reminder of your victory and fantastic grasp of the English language. If you are incorrect, throw that card back into the box AND take the top card from the deck of cards and throw it back into the box as well, you’ve just cost your team 2 points. I hope you’re proud of yourself.
That last part is the rub, even though the game is dead simple to learn and play, it’s not going to appeal to everyone because of that pressure. That need to always be right, to know exactly what ties together the clues “flaky, French, butter”. If you don’t, you can most definitely feel like an idiot and as if you’ve let your entire team down, and for some folks, that will be too much for a game like this. We’ve had people freeze up and not want to guess. At some point they have thought that our games have to be life or death, when Just One, most definitely should not be played as if lives depend on it, like they do in Pandemic.
But get past that and what you have is probably the best cooperative word play game in existence. It’s dead simple in its premise. Give clues to get your teammate to guess the correct word without them having any idea what the word could even be. You can’t be too obvious in your clues though, because chances are someone else is thinking that same exact word and then you both cancel each other out and you are left with fewer clues for you active player to guess from. It’s not impossible, I’ve seen players get the right answer with only one clue. It’s not normal and you probably shouldn’t count on it, but it can happen, especially if you have a group of close friends or family playing that can play off inside jokes or just knowing each other well. Also, you can’t ignore those obvious clues for some of the words, as that may be the best way to actually get the active player to guess the right word. There is a bit of a balancing act, and knowing your fellow players and how they may or may not think. My daughter and I are very similar, so we sometimes bump heads on words even though we think we are being different, it happens, but having a broad knowledge of the English language and the inner workings of the mind of the active player can definitely help.
Have I mentioned that this is the only game that I own that is dishwasher safe? Well, the cards aren’t and the dry erase markers that you write down your clues with aren’t but the plastic easels on which you write your clues are, just pop ‘em in the dishwasher after a few plays to clean them up. No idea why this isn’t a selling point on the box (also not sure why I am so fascinated with this fact). The plastic easels work wonderfully, one side has a slight lip on it to hold the card for others to see and the opposite side is flat to write out your clues. The only qualm with the components is that the cards are kind of thin, and the easels aren’t tall enough to cover all five words, so in the right lighting conditions, the active player could kind of see through the cards and thus you could in theory see those top 2 words on the card. But if you are worried about being able to do that, you kind of aren’t in the spirit of the game anyway.
Just One is an English re-implementation and worldwide release of the French game We are the Word. The designers may surprise you as they do have another title that more folks will know, 7th Continent. A game that longingly calls from my Shelves of Opportunity but that’s a story for another day. Over the last thirty days, Just One has easily been our most played game, sure a lot of that is that it’s a lighter weight game that can be played up to 7 players, really only limited by components, buy another set and play with 14 if you want, but it’s also been the most “fun” game that we’ve picked up since Essen Spiel 2018, and that’s kind of a big deal. Play it as much as we have and you are bound to start seeing repeat cards, and that may prove to be problematic in the long run, we hosted a gathering of about 30 people a month ago and Just One was probably the most played game, and we did every so often overhear about the same cards coming out with a word that folks had previously seen that weekend. But I’m willing to bet that Repos has another 110 card deck before long, and also you can probably substitute any word game that uses cards and run with those until that point.
During the Holiday Season, I don’t know that there is a better all around family gathering game that is being released at the moment. Just One screams to be played with families dressed in Holiday garb and having a bit too much eggnog. It’ll be good for a lot of laughs, and a lot of fun. Just be aware, that there will be some who feel the pressure of having to guess correctly and may not enjoy that feeling as much as the rest of us.