Full disclosure: A review copy of Show & Tile was provided by Jellybean Games.
Alright, time to start looking at Gen Con releases / Kickstarters. Current one up is Show & Tile, from Jellybean Games (makers of The Lady and the Tiger series that I so thoroughly enjoyed) and the team behind Seikatsu, another fun game that I quite liked. In Show & Tile, they have correctly determined that drawing is … quite challenging, and seek to alleviate your woes. Instead, you’ve been issued a double-set of two-color-sided tangrams and you’ll have to try and make the picture you’re assigned. Do well and others will guess correctly, which will earn you points. It’s abstract, but will you discover that art is your true calling?
Not a ton of setup to do, here. Give everyone a score sheet:
Might be worth laminating these because they’ll go fast, especially at higher player counts.
Now, give everyone a set of tiles (all the tiles should have the same color combination for the two sides: Red / Green, Blue / Yellow, Red / Blue, etc:
You’ll also want to give each player a mat corresponding to their tile set. There are a bunch of tiles, though, so try not to get too confused:
Shuffle up the word cards:
And you’re basically ready to start!
The game itself is pretty straightforward. Over the course of 5 rounds, you’ll be trying to make art pieces from the tangrams you’ve been provided and guess what other players are trying to make from their tangrams, similar to Doodle Rush, but with tiles instead of having to draw it yourself.
The major rules on assembly are:
- You can stack the tiles however you want. They don’t need to be all flush or all on one level! Be creative.
- You can only use your tiles, but you’re welcome to flip them over if you need to. Again, be creative! The color contrast might help you out.
- Try to assemble your tiles on the board such that the game’s logo is at the top. This gives the picture a sense of orientation, which, for abstract art, is important.
Once you’ve noticed that the timer has run out, start audibly counting down from 5. When you hit 0, all players switch to Guessing Mode (and flip the timer over). During guessing mode, keep your paper covered and try and guess what your opponents have made with their tangrams. When you think you’ve got it, write it down. Same rules apply: once you’ve seen the timer run out, start counting down from 5 and when you hit 0, Guessing Mode ends. Now, score:
- If someone guessed your word correctly: They gain +1 point
- If anyone guessed your word correctly: You gain +2 points, total. You cannot gain additional points if additional players correctly guess your word.
- If your word was a Star Word (had a star icon next to it) and it was guessed correctly by someone, gain an additional point. That’s 3 points, total. Should incentivize you to try the more difficult words, if you can get people to guess them.
Tally up your score for the round, and then start a new round. Play continues until you’ve completed 5 rounds (though honestly you can kind of just play until you feel like you’re done) and the player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
Honestly, none. More players mean that it’s more likely that your word will be guessed by someone (just due to sheer probability) and that you will likely get more overall points, but that’s about it. I’d assume slightly wider point spreads with more players, I suppose. No real preference for what number to play at, though I’d probably skew a bit higher because it’s generally a bummer if nobody guesses what your art is supposed to represent. That said, that’s not really a hard preference, just more of a “thing I’m musing on”.
- Just have fun. It’s a party game; try not to overthink it.
- If you would like to overthink it, avoid guessing the points leader’s drawing unless it’s obvious. Since they strictly get more points than you if you guess their word (and there’s no penalty for being wrong / nobody guessing your word), there’s no point in you actually trying to think of what their word is unless you’re sure that someone else will (in which case they’re going to get the points anyways; might as well help yourself to one, too).
- I kind of recommend avoiding the star words unless you really have a good idea for them. They’re typically a bit esoteric and you really want to make sure you get some points, so potentially taking the easy one is often the right call. That said, again, party game; live your truth.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Half the fun of the game is yelling at people for misinterpreting your art. I thought drawing quickly was hard in Doodle Rush, but turns out it’s even harder with tangrams. (Harder still would be drawing when you don’t know what you’re drawing, but that’s A Fake Artist Goes to New York.)
- Quick to learn. I think everyone intuitively knows how tangrams work, or at least I grew up with them and I’m quick to assume that others did, too. Giving players two sets also helps a lot.
- The pictures always end up pretty funny. Half the fun of the game is listening to the artist explanation when you’re wrong! Usually they’re frustrated (see above), but it’s really neat to hear the mindset.
- I like the specific quirk around the timer. Having a hard stop on the timer is normally frustrating (since you have to look at it), but having the audible cues makes it so players can really focus on their art while time is running. I haven’t seen it before, but it’s a nice touch, especially for a generally family-friendly party game.
- Seems like it’s pretty expandable. I’d really be interested in like, theme sets, maybe around like movies or animals or stuff such that you have to try really hard to sell what you’re making art of. Seems like it could be a fun set of potential spin-off titles.
- Some of the cards seem fairly difficult compared to other cards. Some of the cards are far more esoteric concepts than others, but honestly, I’m willing to chalk this up to me having basically no imagination whatsoever, so I’m throwing it into “Mehs”.
- Like I said, I have a general distaste for games where you just play the same game multiple rounds in a row. Ironically, it makes it a bit more challenging to satisfy some players’ review requirements, since 3 games of this is, effectively, ~15 “rounds”, which are all the same core game. You could be ready to review this with 5 “plays” after one game, effectively.
- I feel the need to house rule some of the cards. The game doesn’t mention in its initial rules that some of the words can be compound / multi-word cards, so imagine our surprise when Christmas Tree and maple leaf were options. We didn’t know what to do for players that just guessed “tree”, so we gave them half credit. It’d be nice to just avoid those cards and stick with single-word cards for simplicity’s sake, or to have a better disambiguation protocol for something like “washing machine” vs.’ “machine”.
Overall: 7.25 / 10
Overall, Show & Tile is pretty great! I think that it’s probably targeted a smidge below my preferred range, in terms of how light I feel like it is, but that’s fine! It’s a fun party game for all ages that’s equal parts colorful and challenging (which is super fun, in its own right!). I’m not the biggest fan of party games in the world, mostly because I find that they have a weird balancing point between playing the game and trying to win the game (something I think this game also has), but it’s a solid example of a fun party game, in my opinion. If you’re looking for something cool, colorful, and always exciting, I’d recommend giving Show & Tile a whirl!