In the mid to late 2000s the Pictureka! franchise was a pretty popular board game series that spawned quite a few spinoffs including Disney Pictureka!, Pictureka! Card Game and Pictureka! Flipper. For those of you who are not familiar with the franchise, it is basically the board game version of a scavenger hunt where players race to find certain items on the tiles. After looking at several of the other games in the series, today I am returning to the original Pictureka! and taking a look at the game that started the series. As the first and second editions of Pictureka! are pretty much the same except for a couple small differences, I have chosen to review both versions together. Pictureka! is an interesting idea for a board game that can be fun in short doses but gets repetitive pretty quickly due to some broken rules.
How to Play Pictureka!
While the gameplay between the first and second editions of Pictureka! are similar, there are differences between the two editions so I am going to includes the instructions for both versions of the game.
- Arrange the tiles into a 3 x 3 grid.
- Separate the cards by color. Shuffle each deck separately and set the decks to the side of the gameboard.
- Place the two reference cards where all of the players can quickly reference them.
- Decide who will start the game.
Playing the Game
A player begins their turn by rolling the color die. The color they roll determines which type of round is played. The player will use the top card from the color they rolled.
If a player draws a card with a symbol on the back they will perform a special action before the round is played.
Switch the location of two of the tiles.
Flip over any tile.
Rotate one tile.
Green: If a player rolls green, they will play the round by themselves. They read the card out loud and then roll the number die. The number the player rolled indicates how many of the items described on the green card that they have to find. The timer is flipped over. If the player finds enough items that fit the card in time, they get to keep the card. If they don’t find enough, the card is set aside for the rest of the game.
Red: For the red round players will take turns placing a bid on how many of the items described on the card they can find before time runs out. The player who drew the cards starts and each subsequent player can either raise the bid or pass. The player who bid the highest gets to play the round. The card is read out loud and the timer is flipped. If the player finds the amount of items they bid in time, they get to keep the card. If they fail, the card is set to the side.
Blue: The current player turns the blue card over. The blue card will feature a picture. This picture will appear only once on all of the tiles. The first player to find the item, yell out “Pictureka” and point to the object gets to take the card.
The next player clockwise (left) will then take their turn.
End of Game
The first player to collect six cards wins the game.
- Layout the tiles in a 3 x 3 grid.
- Separate the cards by color and shuffle each deck separately. Place the three decks to the side of the gameboard.
- The players choose whether they are going to use the top, middle or bottom sections for the red and green cards.
- Choose who will start the game.
Playing the Game
Before playing the game the players have to choose whether they want to play using the Round and Round rules or the Mish Mash rules.
Round and Round:You will play a certain number of rounds of each color depending on the number of players. You play all of the blue cards first, followed by green and then red. After all of the cards have been played, the player with the most cards wins.
- 2-3 players: 3 rounds for each color
- 4-5 players: 2 rounds for each color
- 6+ players: 1 round for each color
Mish Mash: Players take turns rolling the die. The type of round that the players will play depends on the number rolled. The first player to acquire six cards wins the game.
- 1 or 6: red
- 2 or 5: green
- 3 or 4: blue
Blue Cards: The card is turned over which will show a picture. The first player to find the picture, yell “Pictureka”, and point at the object gets to keep the card.
Green Cards: The player who draws the card reads out the chosen goal (top/middle/bottom chosen during setup). They then roll a number die. The number rolled determines how many of the items indicated on the card that the current player has to find. If the player finds enough of the item before the timer runs out, the player gets to keep the card. If the player does not find enough in time, the card is set to the side.
Red Cards: Each player chooses two of the tiles and places them in front of themselves. The red card is flipped over and the goal is read aloud. The current player starts a countdown and at the end of the countdown all of the players flip over their tiles. The first player to find the item indicated on the card, gets to keep the card.
Winning the Game
Depending on which game mode was chosen, the player who got the most cards or the first player to get six cards wins the game.
My Thoughts on Pictureka!
When I first heard of Pictureka! I was intrigued because it actually has a pretty interesting premise for its main mechanic. As a child I loved the Where’s Waldo? series of books. Basically Pictureka! is the board game version of Where’s Waldo? Players play a couple different types of games which pretty much boil down to finding certain items in a picture filled with a bunch of random images. While you can tell that the game is meant more for children and families than adults, the premise behind the game is still fun. If you like hidden object games you can have some fun with Pictureka!.
Being designed as a game for families, Pictureka! is not surprisingly easy to pick up and play. The game has a recommended age of 6+ which seems fitting. While younger children may need some help reading the text on the cards, the rest of the game involves finding the objects on the cards which is pretty straightforward. Due to the game’s simplicity, I could see Pictureka! working well with people that don’t play a lot of board games. The fact that the game only takes around 15-20 minutes should help as well.
The problem is that Pictureka! gets repetitive pretty quickly. While I will specifically address the different types of cards later, when you get down to it they basically play the same. You draw a card and then have to find one or a couple items that match the picture/description on the card. As the game doesn’t include a lot of cards, you will play through them pretty quickly and then have to repeat the same cards. People with good memories will also likely be able to remember where certain items are on the tiles which will give them a huge advantage in the game.
Another problem with Pictureka! is that some of the missions on the green and red cards can be kind of subjective. For example one of the cards is for “stinky things”. One player may think that something is stinky while other players will argue that it shouldn’t count. With really competitive groups I could see this becoming a big issue as players get into arguments trying to fight for why a picture should/shouldn’t count. If you play with ultra competitive players you will either need some house rules or the game may not be for you. If it doesn’t really matter who wins though, this isn’t a huge problem since you can just count most of the borderline items.
When I said earlier that the first and second editions of Pictureka! were similar, I meant it. Basically the differences between the two versions can be boiled down into a couple things. The most drastic change between the two versions is that the red cards are different in each version of the game (more on this soon). Otherwise the two versions have different pictures and cards. The second edition condenses the red and green cards into three missions on each card while the first edition has one mission for each card. Outside of these small changes, the first and second editions of Pictureka! play exactly the same.
So let’s quickly talk about the three different types of cards in Pictureka!.
While I have played quite a few board games with broken mechanics, I have to say that the first edition of Pictureka! has one of the most broken mechanics that I have ever seen in a board game. I don’t know if the designers just underestimated players desire to win but it feels like the idea of the red cards was never even play tested. The idea behind the red cards is that players take turns betting on how many objects they can find within the time limit. This actually sounds like a good idea as players have to debate how much to bid as they need to bid high enough to get the right to play the card but also want to keep their bid as low as possible.
I think this could have been the best type of card in the game except for the fact that there is no punishment for bidding too high. To further explain let me give you a quick example. The first player begins the bidding at five or six which is reasonable but is challenging to complete in time. The next player might raise the bid to ten. Then the bid is raised to twenty. This continues until one player bids so high that it is literally impossible to win the card. You might think it is stupid to bid so high that there is no chance that you could ever actually win the card. The point isn’t to win the card though, it is to deny the other players the opportunity to win the card. It doesn’t matter that you don’t win the card if no one else can win it either. Since the game offers no punishment for bidding too high, it gets worse and worse throughout the game. With competitive players no one will ever be able to complete a red card successfully.
I actually think this mechanic could have been salvaged if there was some sort of punishment for bidding too high. If players were punished for failing to meet their bid, the bids would immediately drop to reasonable amounts. I am kind of curious which punishment would work best though. First you could force a player to lose a card they already earned if they fail to succeed in finding the amount of objects they bid. The problem with this is that if a player has no cards they can still bid like crazy as if there were no punishment. The other possibility is to make a player lose a turn or two. For example if you fail to meet your bid, you are unable to bid when the next red card(s) comes up. If players want to bid too high they will have to sit out the next auction(s).
With how broken the red cards were in the first edition of the game, the designers decided to entirely change the red cards in the second edition. Instead of implementing some punishment for failing to meet your bid, the second edition gives each player two tiles and the players race to see who is the first to find the object described on the card. Overall I found the red round in the second edition to be decent but it just felt like more of the same. I honestly think the game would have been better if it just fixed the problems with the red round from the first edition.
While better than the red cards, the green cards have some issues as well. I actually like the idea of players having to find a certain number of items that match a criteria within a certain time period. I have two problems with the green cards though. First of all I don’t like that this is the only round where the current player gets to play by themself. When a player rolls the die they want to always roll green since they either will score a point or nothing happens. I don’t like the idea that some rounds have one player play while others let everyone play. The other problem with the green cards is that it relies pretty heavily on luck. Roll a one or two and you are basically guaranteed to win the card. Roll a high number though and it becomes much harder. It is not impossible to find six items within the time limit but it is much harder than only finding one. I really don’t understand why the game randomly decides to add the luck of rolling a die to a game that otherwise relies mostly on skill.
Of the three types of cards I would say that the blue cards are probably the best. What I like about the blue cards is that all of the players are competing against one another to be the first player to find a specific image on the tiles. I think Pictureka! works best like this since all of the players are involved and it is kind of exciting competing against the other players. The only small issue I have with the blue cards is that the player who has the object near them has an advantage. Generally players are going to check the cards that are closest to them (since they are the easiest to see) so if the object is right in front of you, you are more likely to find it.
Component wise Pictureka! is solid but unspectacular. I personally like the game’s art style as it brings character to the game. I kind of wish the game came with more tiles so you could swap them out from time to time. I like that the tiles are double sided though since it adds a little variety to the game. As far as the cards, I think the game could have included some more. The game has a decent amount of cards but you will be forced to repeat them after a couple games. I can see repeating cards a couple times but after a while it is going to get kind of repetitive. I don’t know how hard it could have been to come up with some more missions and included them with the game.
While I like the scavenger hunt mechanic behind Pictureka!, the issues with the game prevent it from being anything more than another average game. While not a hugely popular genre, there have actually been several games that have used a similar premise. One of those games is Scrutineyes which I think is a superior game to Pictureka!. I could see Pictureka! working better with younger children but for older children and adults I think Scrutineyes is a more enjoyable game.
Should You Buy Pictureka!?
Pictureka! is interesting because there are things that I like about the game but the game also has quite a few issues. The whole premise of trying to find objects hidden among a bunch of other items is a good idea for a board game. It is fun trying to find an object(s) within a time limit. The problem is that the game gets repetitive kind of quickly. The game includes three different types of games and yet they all play very similar to one another. The game could have used some more cards/tiles as you have to repeat things more often than you should. Some of the individual games are kind of broken as well. The red cards in the first edition are totally broken as there is no punishment for bidding really high and then failing. In the second edition they avoid this problem by replacing it with a less enjoyable mechanic. Basically Pictureka! is a decent find the object game but there have been better games with the same premise created in the past.
If the premise for Pictureka! doesn’t really excite you, I don’t think the game is going to be for you. If you like the idea of a Where’s Waldo? style board game, I think you can have some fun with Pictureka!. If your group only consists of older kids and/or adults I would probably recommend Scrutineyes over Pictureka!. If you have younger children I think they could like Pictureka! quite a bit. If you are planning on purchasing Pictureka!, which version should you purchase? Generally there isn’t much difference between the first and second edition outside of the red cards and you can play either version with whichever red card mechanic that you prefer. If you prefer Disney characters though I might suggest picking up Disney Pictureka! since outside of the artwork it is exactly the same game as the second edition of Pictureka!
If you would like to purchase Pictureka! you can find it online: Amazon (First Edition), Amazon (Second Edition), eBay
Sunday 13th of September 2020
What are the reference cards in pictureka?
Monday 14th of September 2020
I don't have the game in front of me to verify for sure. Usually reference cards in board games are just cards that have a brief outline of the rules or tell you what specific symbols stand for. They are basically used if you need to quickly reference the basic rules without having to refer to the instructions. Rarely if ever are they needed to actually play the game.