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[Review] VisualEyes

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Joined: 03/23/2011

My first thought when reading about VisualEyes (Buffalo Games, 2003 - Steve Pickering and Dugald Keith) in the GAMES magazine was how corny the title was. Frankly, though, titles of so many games are silly that it didn’t really deter me from getting the game, especially as GAMES is one of the few places that promotes good party games. I love a good “German” game as much as the next person, but there is a time and a place for party games, and I like to keep a good stack of them on hand for such occasions. Therefore, VisualEyes made the list and was played almost as soon as I purchased it.

My initial impression (as well as all those who played) was that the game was simply too difficult to really have fun. Then the game started to progress; and pretty soon, everyone was having a blast. Another group I played the game with argued the entire time, which was fun for that group, but probably not in line with what most people want. Still, I enjoyed the game, and found it to be a sort of “thinking man’s” party game. Replayability is not quite so high as other party games, and I don’t think I’d pull it out more than four or five times a year; but if that would justify your buying the game, VisualEyes is a unique, fun experience.

After a careful assembly, nineteen rather large six-sided dice are placed in the middle of the table, with pads of paper given to all players involved. (Which in all essence is however many players can comfortably sit around the table.) Eighteen of the dice have pictures on their six sides, such as a shoe, a light switch, a top, a four, a match, etc. The last die has the words “Slow Play” on three sides and “Fast Play” on the others. The youngest player goes first, starting the first round.

The player in charge of that round places all the dice in the box and shakes it up, then reveals the dice to all players. Everyone first checks the last die, to determine how the round will be run. If the die says “Fast Play”, the players quickly hurry to find words that come from a pair of dice. There are a few rules regarding this:
1. The pictures can form a compound word: closed, open, and hyphenated. For example, the pictures of a stop sign and a light bulb could form “stoplight”.
2. A single word can also be formed, such as “four” and “bear” forming “forbear”.
3. A well known phrase can be used, as long as the connecting words are small, such as “and”, “of”, etc. (“rock and roll”, etc.)
4. Pictures can be interpreted in a variety of ways - such as a picture of a plane could be a “jet”, a “plane”, “sky”, “fly”, etc.
5. Phrases have to be accepted by the group. The group determines how much liberty players have when “interpreting” a picture.
After players grab a pair of dice and tell everyone their word(s) or phrase and after everyone has agreed, those dice are placed in front of the player; and the round continues. The round ends when either all the dice have been taken, or players agree that there are no matches left.

Slow play is very similar to Fast play, except no dice are removed. Rather, a three minute and fifteen seconds timer is flipped over, and players secretly write down their words/phrases on a piece of paper. Dice can be used in more than one word a player writes down. After the timer runs out, the first player starts the round by reading their list out loud. Any words that another player has also written, or words not accepted by the other players are crossed out. After the round is ended, each player scores one point for each word they wrote in Slow play and each pair of dice they have in Fast play. Another round begins, unless one player has reached at least twenty points; in which case the player with the most points wins!

Some comments on the game...

1.) Components: As I stated, the dice are big (huge) with about one inch per side. This is to help one see the pictures easily, which are nicely drawn on stickers applied to the sides of the rounded, light, white dice. The pictures have a coloring book quality to them and are simple designs to help avoid confusion. The pads of paper (with included pencils) are nice; because only about one sheet is used for each game, thus they will last a long time, as opposed to other party games. The box is very high quality and is great to shake the dice in. We found that leaving the dice in the box restricted some folk’s view of them, so we poured them on the table; but had to be careful not to get them all over the floor. The game is very bright and cheerful looking, including the bright pink box.

2.) Rules: The rules are printed on one large piece of bright pink paper in a white font. I didn’t find it hard to read, but some folks might find that the combination is glaring and annoying. Still, the rules were clear, giving many examples of possible word combinations, even though they were vague as to how far players could go - leaving that option to each group playing the game. The game is easy to teach and learn, although at first some groups (like my first game) just will sit there, desperately searching for pairs. But it’s kind of a learned process; once you start finding matches, they become easier to find.

3.) Variations: There are technically 111,559,956,668,416 combinations of dice that can be rolled. That sounds like the game has near-infinite replayability, but in reality the actual variety is much smaller than that. If the same two dice show up in the same game - and the chance for that is great - people are going to write down the same words used for them before, which makes sense but isn’t really that fun. However, in a single game this doesn’t happen too often; but if you insisted on playing two or three games of this in one night, you might start getting bored. I think that the game could be pulled out once every month or so, without people getting tired of it; but more play than that would make the game obscenely difficult.

4.) Cleverness: The game encourages one to be clever; there are some things that are easy, such as dog + house = doghouse, but other combinations that people come up with can be downright interesting, such as a slice of pie + a picture of a square = pi squared. There were times in the games I played where all the players paused to congratulate a person on their clever word/phrase, and this positive affirmation is always good to have in a game.

5.) Arguing: On the other hand, however, there was quite a bit of character attacking during the game. During one of my games, almost every word/phrase came down to a vote with some players basing their “yeas” or “nays” on previous votes. Players can and will argue over whether a picture of a hand can mean “handle”, whether you can say “Jack” where there is just a picture of a boy, and whether a girl is “sad”, “upset”, or “angry”. As long as everyone remains good-natured (as my group did), this arguing can be a healthy outlet. But some groups I would never introduce this too, because the arguing and voting could take all night and leave some embittered souls.

6.) Time and Fun Factor: With a timer that long and players taking a long time to score, it’s quite possible that a game could stretch from an hour to much longer than that. This could possibly be too long for a party game; but everyone stayed involved, and no one complained. No one asked to play it again immediately, but enough fun was had that people asked to play it again at a later date. It’s fun, and the thinking is brain bending; but it’s not necessarily “casual”.

If you’re looking for a party game that has everyone rolling on the floor, laughing - then VisualEyes is probably not your best bet. It doesn’t have great replayability, but it has enough to last for a decent amount of plays. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and even enjoyed the arguing and laughing at other’s stupid word/phrases, and “oohing” at smart ones. Some folks may not like groupthink where a mob mentality can rule and throw out what they might think as a “legal” play, but I liked it quite a bit. VisualEyes won’t be in my “bring-to-every-party” bag like several other games I have, but it will be one that hits the table several times a year. Taken in small doses and played with a clever crowd, this game can be a huge hit. (And those are such nice dice!)

Tom Vasel
“Real men play board games.”

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