The latest contender in the blossoming ‘games a bit like Mysterium/Codenames/Dixit’ genre, One Key ticks all the boxes for another hit. It’s got a stack of visually surreal image cards and co-op gameplay about deducing the correct abstract picture from a group, but with the compulsory slight twist on what’s come before – this time, in the form of a traffic light system of strong/medium/weak visual hints offered each round by the group’s clue-giving leader.
The players must whittle down the scattering of images on the table over multiple rounds, trying to end up with the single card secretly selected by the leader – if the rest of the group accidentally discard the ‘Key’, they lose. The guessers get to pick one of three clue cards – drawn from the rest of the deck and given a clue token by the leader – each turn, but don’t know whether it will have a strong, medium or weak link to the correct answer until they’ve picked it.
The players and leader each get three minutes to do their respective tasks simultaneously, timed using a free companion app – though, aside from some generic background muzak, it doesn’t do much else, so a standard timer will work just fine. With four rounds and a fast setup, that effectively makes the game as short as 12 minutes. It’s still too long.
One Key is billed as a light game for families. In reality, it’s just boring. Nothing really changes from round to round, except a slight increase in the difficulty of taking into account all the clues played to that point and applying them to a shrinking line-up left on the table.
The images from Tokaido illustrator Naïade are as quirky and inventive as you’d expect them to be in a game of this ilk, but the whole thing – down to the bland ‘search for the Key’ theme – lacks the energy and excitement of what’s come before. The app feels like an unnecessary effort to inject character and atmosphere into a game that otherwise utterly lacks both.
Dull, derivative and one-note, One Key isn’t zero fun – but it’s not far off.
PLAY IT? – NO
Artist: Xavier Gueniffey Durin (‘Naïade’)
Time: 20 minutes
This review originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.