Telestrations is a fun drawing game, perfect for a party or family gathering and suitable for 4 to 8 players. The game concept is very simple and anyone should be able to pick it up in a few minutes. Whilst there are rules for allocating points, these are not really needed since the fun of the game comes from seeing how the drawings evolve rather than the competition.
How it Works
To start the game everyone takes a sketch book and a card with a number of secret words and phrases for everyone to draw. These can range from simple objects like 'Football', to things that are a little more tricky like 'Love Birds'. Sometimes the word is just a category (when it is underlined), so if you get 'TV Show', you can come up with any words associated with TV shows - there is also the possibility that no word is shown at all, in which case the player has full freedom to come up with their own suggestion.
Once everyone has their word, they write it in the back of their sketch pad and then turn to the front page so that they can draw it before the 60 second timer runs out. Once the time's up, everyone passes their pad to the left - everyone then has a further 60 seconds to guess what it is on the next page. Everyone then passes the pad again, at which point you must attempt to draw the guess that the previous player provided. This process continues until the 4 "Draw it!" pages and the 4 "Guess it!" pages are complete - when complete, you should get your own sketch book back. Now that all the sketch books are complete, everyone takes turns to show how their original word evolved over the course of the game. Some words may remain relatively intact, but others may have evolved from paintball to the D-day beach landings.
Scoring is very much optional and two different methods are described in the rules - friendly or competitive. With friendly scoring, scores are given out based on how much you liked the drawings or guesses, and with competitive scoring, points are awarded depending on each correct guess and drawing that led to a correct guess. In both sets of rules, a point is awarded if the last guess matches your secret word.
An electronic timer is provided with the game and the wipable pads are a nice feature that mean that you don't have to worry about running out of paper, and you can even wipe out mistakes.
We really like Telestrations - by taking away the competitive element and providing a set period of drawing time, everyone is able to put the full extent of their creativity on show. This is very much a different game to Pictionary - although the timer keeps the game fast-paced, Grandma won't be upset when no one can guess what the 3 squiggly lines she drew are meant to be because bad drawings can actually make the game better.
The game can fit all sorts of groups as the guesses and drawings change depending on the context of the group you're in. All the prompts are clean, so the game is great for families - my young nieces and nephews really enjoyed joining in a family game, with their wildly creative drawings helping to take the guessing on some peculiar tangents. When played in a more adult party situation, you can decide to use your own words and in-jokes for a more edgy game. Alternatively, you could play the extremely similar Big Potato Scrawl which is aimed more at an adult market.
The variety of secret words is pretty good, with the harder questions usually providing the most hilarity. On the other hand, simple words are a more relaxing challenge for the less talented artists, but tend not to change much over the sequence of guesses.
The only problem we've found is when playing the game with fewer than 8 people. In this case, each player might have seen the same sketch pad twice - as you would imagine, this can make the guessing a lot easier. The rules suggest shuffling the pads once they have done one lap of the players, but it can still be quite easy to recognise when you have had that pad before. One of the best way to get around this is to forget the competitive element and apply a little creative interpretation - so if you see a fried egg come around for the second time, perhaps fill in your new guess 'amoeba' or 'UFO'. The more people you play with, the less of a problem this becomes, but it has to be said that the game really is best when the full 8 are playing.
Telestrations is one of the best drawing games around and the chinese whispers element sets it apart from the standard draw and guess games like Pictionary. Whilst there is a minor issue when playing with fewer than 8 players, the game can be adapted to suit both party and family groups. The game is not particularly competitive and we believe that's for the better - whether you're producing photo-realistic scenes, or something that looks more like the web of a drunk spider, the game is just as enjoyable.