Squint is a party game in the manner of Charades or Pictionary, namely getting a group to guess an object. Whereas in Pictionary you must draw an object, in Squint you use 72 tiles that have generic shapes on them in order to form a semblance of your item.
As with all these types of games, play is very simple although there's a very interesting twist here. On your turn (you do not play in teams) you draw a card and roll a die to determine which of the three listed objects (which range in difficulty from easy to hard) you must try to form. You then turn over the sand timer and arrange any of the tiles hoping to form a picture resembling your item. You're not allowed to make sounds but you can point to certain parts of your arrangement or "animate" the tiles so long as they remain on the table. The twist that I haven't seen in other games of this genre is that all other players are trying to guess your object. If anyone guesses correctly then both you and the guesser receive points (1 to 3 depending on the difficulty of the item). I found this little twist to very innovative as it meant that you were involved on every turn, not only when your team was "up". Involvement is a good thing and this simple change greatly increases it for everyone. The timer seems to be about 45 seconds which I initially thought too short but in practice it worked fairly well. It's long enough to form fairly complex items but short enough that there's a pressure to get something down. Play continues around the table for a set number of rounds and the player with the most points wins.
The components are of a nice quality, the tiles are suitably thick and seem as though they'll be able to stand up to a fair amount of use. Included are neon green chips used to keep score and this colour scheme extends even to the timer with its green sand. The only complaint I have about the bits is that the plastic tray used to hold the cards is somewhat flimsy. As there is much passing of cards a sturdier holder would have been appreciated. There are 168 cards in the game, each listing six objects (three per side) which I imagine is a sufficient number that you won't be duplicating items too soon. (Although I guess that depends on how often you're playing.)
I found it very challenging and enjoyable to "draw" complex objects using the tiles. In fact, I often hoped that people would not immediately guess an item so that I could add more details or make it a little more accurate. I believe that this attraction is key to enjoying the game, as it is with all games of this sort. If you don't enjoy trying to piece a picture together then it's unlikely you'll have fun with Squint. Most of the people I played with did enjoy it so I suspect that it will "work" for most people.
The problems I have are relatively minor—the difficulty rating of some of the items seems somewhat skewed. Buttonhole (which strikes me as a rather difficult item) is a "1" whereas Coconut is a "3". Not a huge problem but somewhat strange. (There's also a few odd entries; "Star" is one of the items and there's also a tile that shows a star.)
One of the complaints I've heard about Pictionary is that it's not so enjoyable for those who claim to be unable to draw. This certainly isn't an issue here but there is an artistic element in arranging the tiles that seems to elude some people. Very clearly some are better at it than others but I'm not convinced that this is a big problem. First off, the game is one that I think is better approached as a fun activity rather than as a serious competition. Who cares how well you do! Secondly, since you have the opportunity to score points even when it's not your turn, you can do well even if you're terrible at forming the pictures.
The rules also mention a variant where you simply choose which of the three items you want to draw (scoring points per difficulty as usual). I think this is a good option for some groups, particularly for those who have difficulty forming objects. I think it might be best to award just a single point when playing this way though due to the problem I mentioned above regarding the somewhat odd difficulty ratings of certain items.
A basic description of the concept is probably enough to tell you whether or not you'll like Squint. I don't often play these types of games but I do enjoy them and I'm happy to say that Squint is a worthy addition to the genre. I won't always choose it over other similar games but I do expect I'll still be playing it years from now.
- Greg Aleknevicus