Critical Play: Telestrations

Telestrations is a creative, low-stakes, and exciting party-game that is built upon the concepts of Pictionary that allows for increasing levels of convolution that create for a more entertaining and enjoyably suspenseful sequence of events. Briefly, the game’s resources include each player receiving their own booklet as well as a card that has a list of 6 things to draw, numbered 1 through 6. One player roles a dice to see which object from the card each person must draw. Players write this on the first page of the booklet, and then flip the page and take 1 minute to draw their object. One of the main mechanics of the game is that each person, after drawing, passes his or her booklet to the left, and the next individual must guess what was drawn and write their guess on the next page. Then, that individual writes their guess, flips the page, and then passes their booklet to the next person on the left, who must look at the previous person’s guess and attempt to draw it. The process repeats until each player has their original book back. Thus, a main dynamic that these mechanics create is that as the booklet gets more detached from the original drawer, the new drawings may get further and further away from the original object, similar to how messages become less accurate as the chain gets longer in the game “telephone”. This makes it harder for players to guess the original object, but it also incentivizes players to try their best to portray the most recent guess as accurately as possible. In other words, the most recent guess that the current player sees is the best available information to go off of, and so it is in their best interest for them to draw based off of that. Similarly, in “telephone”, it is in everybody’s best interest to repeat the phrase they just heard. Here are some of the incentives and points systems that the game entails:

Once players get their original books back, they take turns revealing what was drawn and also what other people guessed in their books. Points are awarded as follows:

  • One point to the player who drew their favorite sketch in the book (excluding themselves)
  • One point to the player who made their favorite guess.
  • One point to them-self if the final guess was the same as the secret word.

(each player awards points according to these rules).

The player with the most points after 3 rounds wins the game. It is important to note that the various ways in which one can earn points incentivizes an individual to 1) draw as best as they can and not sabotage a booklet, 2) make creative and insightful guesses even if they do not know exactly what the previous drawing is, and 3) try their best to guess correctly. Ultimately, the aesthetic that these rules and points systems create allow for people to not think too much about strategy and focus on simply writing down their best guesses to the previous drawing, as well as draw the previous guess to the best of their ability. The points system makes it so that people who draw and try to guess to their best of their ability would ultimately win, and so in a sense the game mechanics make it so that it is relatively strategyproof. This ensures that the fun is in the guessing and uncertainty aspect of what it is one is drawing and guessing, rather than the particular optimal strategy of how to get as many points as possible by either sabotaging the guess or drawing. The fact that the booklets are whiteboard-based and reusable also adds a clean and smooth aesthetic, whose easier erasing ability and smoother type of drawing may enhance the drawing experience. Furthermore, the increasing chain of guesses and drawings also adds to the fun because naturally the guess and images would veer off the original drawing, and so people would find excitement in trying to retain the original secret word as much as possible.


Unlike Pictionary, players only have one guess at an image in Telestrations, and do not know if that guess is correct or incorrect until the end of the round. Instead of shouting out whatever comes to their mind until the drawer tells them when they are correct, they only have one guess before they pass the booklet on. Another key difference between Telestrations and Pictionary is that the guessing and drawing do not occur simultaneously. This makes it so players can be more methodical and deliberate with their drawings and guesses, which may not be the case in Pictionary where teams are often pitted against each other and drawers are trying to draw as much as they can rapidly while guessers try to rapidly guess whatever comes to their mind.


To make this game better, I feel there should be some twists in which there would be random roadblocks that would prevent players from seeing the entire drawing or the entire previous guess. This might cause some chaos and randomness that makes the game more exciting and might level the playing field between really good drawers/guessers.

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