Just One is not just one of the best party games, it is The best party (word) game ever.
Players: 3 – 7 Best with: 5 – 7
Age: 8+ GN Age: Child
Game Type: Party Time: 20 minutes
Publisher/Year: Repos Productions / 2018
Game Play: Word Guessing, Clue Giving, Co-op
Score: out of 12
Do you have time for Just One story? Once upon a time, last week, I snuck out of my house to serve the monkey on my back; my addiction to Savers!
Savers is a thrift store that sells just about everything used for about $5. But I only care about just one ransacked rack in the back; The Land of Unloved Games. My Instagram feed is filled with the spoils of these excursions and everyone who has ever hit that Like button is an inadvertent enabler. Shame on you!
Buying a game at Savers is like packing a parachute in the dark; you never know what it’s going to look like inside and you just pray that you have all the pieces. Now I’ve discovered some pretty good finds (or as my wife calls them: 30-year-old crap), but I’ve never had a Great Find until today.
Tucked in between a couple dozen copies of Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly was a little non-descript tan box. I didn’t even notice it on my first scan. Imagine my surprise when I took it off the shelf and realized that it was Just One. And still in the shrink wrap!
As a gamer in the know, I knew that Just One is less than a year old and had Just Won (do you see what I did there?) the 2019 Spiel des Jahres, the industry’s most coveted award. And the price? Just $3.99. And I still almost put it back on the shelf!
You see, I had convinced myself that Just One was Just Some sort of Taboo knockoff and I couldn’t believe this game had won the award over all the other great games this year like Wingspan, or Wingspan. But then I remembered Rich’s rules to live by:
Rich’s Rules to Live By
#1. I am an idiot
#2. Do not trust my first impressions
As a gamer who doesn’t know anything, I did not know that there isn’t Just One but three Spiel des Jahres awards. And in fact, Wingspan did just win the Strategy Game of the Year. Just One had just won (okay, I’ll stop) the Game of the Year, which is typically given to the best family-friendly game. You would think that a website called Family Game Night would know this. Again, refer to Rule #1.
So, I bought Just One and it was the best $4 I’ve ever spent. I know, I just got a huge deal, but it is still totally worth the full list price. Everything about this game is just perfect. The setup, the rules, the gameplay, the fun are all perfect. In fact, the game is so perfectly simple I can’t believe that no one had thought of it before now.
The basic premise is this: The players take turns being the Guesser. He picks a number between 1 and 5 which tells the other players the secret word. Those players write a single word on their easel that best represents that word. But here’s the catch: any matching words are eliminated. Using the remaining clues, the Guesser tries to guess the secret word. Stupidly simple yet deviously difficult.
The challenge for the Clue Giver is to think of that perfect word that fully embodies your secret word but won’t also be written down by another player.
Let’s say your secret word is “Bond”. You want to write “007”, the perfect clue, but you are convinced that someone else will write the same thing. So you write “Municipal” instead. And of course, no one writes “007”, but someone else puts down “Municipal”. You both get eliminated, as does the word “Glue” and the Guesser is left with the clue “Covalent”.
The next challenge is for the Guesser. It’s easy to see the connections and convergences of the clues when you know the secret word. But when all you have is three, two, or even Just One (gotcha) obscure and oblique reference the game is devilishly hard.
Give it a try. Here is a round from a recent game. The obvious clue had been eliminated and the Guesser was left with these three random clues. Can you guess the secret word? Answer below, no peeking!
Obviously, Just One has many similarities with other word guessing games, such as Taboo or Password, but there are several differences that make Just One just a little bit better. Here are Just Two.
First, of all the word games we love, and we love a lot of them, Just One is one where we all love being the Guesser and the Clue Giver equally. Usually it’s Just One or the other. For example, we love Codenames, but truth be told, I prefer to be the Guesser. And for the awesome word game, Funglish, my son will only be the Clue Giver, he hates guessing. But Just One is just great while playing either role.
Second, this is a cooperative game. There are no opponents, no winning or losing; there is Just Fun! This is the most relaxing, no stress game we’ve seen in a long while. Technically, there is a score, but who cares; the point is to just have a good time and play a game with your friends.
And Just One is just so much fun to play. It’s challenging, it’s cerebral, it’s quick, and it’s quirky. It is an absolute joy to play. And it is the first game in forever where every single person we’ve played with, from age 10 to 75, has loved this game. It is just the perfect family game.
We rarely give out our top score and we’ve never had a game that went from “I never heard of it” to “I could play this game every day” as quickly as this One Just did. And every game of Just One ends the same way, with the whole group clamoring for Just One more.
As always, there is Just One life for each of us, so Game On!
The most certain way to succeed is always to try Just One more time – Thomas Edison