At first glance Just One doesn’t really amount to much: a stack of quite standard cards with a few words on them; a functional yet rather uninspiring insert; seven rudimentary plastic stands that double as writing boards; and seven erasable felt markers of varying colours all in a fairly plain box. The complete package is far more functional than inspiring, which may suggest a lacklustre overall playing experience, but, thankfully, Just One is very much more than the sum of its parts.
Game Play Overview
Just One is a guessing game for three to seven players (at least that’s what it says on the box: in reality you could probably play with as many people as you like). A randomly selected active player picks a card from the stack without looking at it and chooses a number from one to five to indicate which of the five mystery words on the card they will be trying to guess. The job of the other players is to come up with one-word clues that will help the active player guess the mystery word. The clue givers aren’t allowed to communicate with each other, however, and any duplicated clues will cancel each other out. The active player then has one chance to guess the mystery word with the remaining clues. Players then laugh, groan, chunter or cry as appropriate, the player to the left of the active player becomes the new active player and you do it all over again and again until everyone agrees it’s time to stop. (There is a suggested play length and scoring system in the rulebook but, to be honest, it’s not really necessary.)
Pros and Cons
It may not have come across in my first impressions and overview but Just One really is a whole lot of fun to play. It is so simple that pretty much anyone can join in and you can play for as long, or as short, as you wish. As mentioned, the components are nothing to write home about but, to be honest, it doesn’t detract from the playing experience and the coloured markers are actually pretty cool – who doesn’t like coloured drywipe markers with built in erasers!
When it comes to gameplay, as the active player your experience can often be tense and befuddling, as you desperately try to tease out the common thread between a number of disparate clues, but the feeling of triumph when you realise you have stuttered out the correct mystery word is a moment of true euphoria. As a clue giver, realising you’ve given the same clue as someone else can be frustrating but you can comfort yourself with the fact that you’re on the same wavelength as at least one other person on the planet. There is also a great deal of solidarity involved in affably cheering on the active player when they are seeking to piece the clues together and a sense of shared accomplishment when you have been instrumental in helping them guess correctly.
Just One won the Spiel des Jahres Critics’ Award in 2019 and for good reason. It is a joyfully accessible game perfect for family gatherings. It is easy to play with only a brief review of the rules and is a great pick for happily whiling away an evening or filling a gap between other, perhaps more serious, pursuits. All in all, Just One is an extremely fun, memorable and worthwhile experience. The premise may be simple and the components uninspired but the overall package is a triumph and comes highly recommended.
In conclusion, I would rate this game an 8.5/10