Document your neighbourhood with your mother's old camera in this card drafting game where hand management and set collection is the way to victory.
Setup And Gameplay
Photograph consists of a deck of Photo cards in 7 different colours. Depending on the number of players (2-4), you may not use all of them. There are 12 cards in each colour. The numbers 1-12 are printed on the front and the colour and number range printed at the back (for example, 5 would be in the 1-6 range).
A grid (the Field) of 12-16 Photo cards are laid out on the table with some face-up, some face down.
Each player draws 5 cards from the Photo deck. For now, the order in which you draw them cannot be rearranged. Your first card drawn is at the back, your last is at the front.
On your turn, you must "Choose the subject" by taking 1-3 cards from the Field. These are added to the front of your hand.
Then you "Wind the film" by moving one card a number of places towards the front.
Finally, you "Snap the shot". This means you have to play as many cards from the back of your hand as you took from the Field.
The first Photo card of any colour can be played without issue.
Subsequent cards of that colour, however, must have a number that is within three of the most recent card. For example, if you have played a 7 your next card must be between a 10 and a 4.
Moreover, once you've played the second card of a colour, the rest of that colour's numbers must follow the same direction. For example, if you've played a 7 and a 9, you have to continue with ascending numbers.
If you have to play a card that does not follow the above rules, your shot is "Out of focus". You flip the card and lose 2 points.
The first to legally play 4 cards in a colour gets the "Good Shot" card, worth 5 points.
The game ends when the Photo deck can no longer refill the Field. Scores are based on how many cards you've played of each colour as well as Good Shots and Out Of Focus shots.
Experience And Replayability
Playing Photograph is quite a quick, very interesting, and somewhat hectic experience.
Every time the Field contains three or fewer cards, the remaining cards are discarded and the Field refilled. As such, you burn through the deck quite quickly. Between this and the players' ability to take up to three cards on their turn, the Field can change a lot between your own turns, and valuable cards can easily get lost to the discard pile or your opponents.
This also means that in your turn, you have a good few decisions to make. Which cards fit with the cards you've played so far? Which of those cards might your opponent want? How many cards are you willing to have to play from the back of your hand? How good are the chances that the face-down cards will be what you need?
About two thirds through the game, you reach a card in the deck called the "Sunset Card". This makes all players immediately Wind the film and play the two cards at the back of their hand. From then on, everyone only has a hand of three cards (before you take cards from the Field).
This makes the decision of which card to move when you Wind the film even more important, as cards get played much quicker after they have been taken. It also adds extra pressure to really consider how many cards you want to take.
You'll need a lot of luck to get through a game without any shots Out Of Focus.
Luck in general plays a significant role in Photograph.
The decisions outlined above do mean that there is a strong strategic side to the game, but ultimately you are at the mercy of not only which cards are drawn to the Field but their order, too.
Once you have played your first cards in each colour, you will spend a lot of time hoping that the Field will be kind to you and give you the next cards in an order that allows you to play as many of them as possible.
The randomness of the card order means that scores can swing widely between players and from game to game, and it also means that no two games will be the same. As a result, Photograph is very replayable. Even playing with different numbers of players will change the speed of the game immensely.
If you don't think you will like the amount of luck in Photograph, I would recommend Kanagawa. Both games are about drafting to put together rows of pictures and you get extra points for making certain sets.
Alternatively, if you would like a more cooperative game where you still have to keep track of the order of the cards in your hand and play them in a certain order lest you incur penalties, you may like Hanabi.
Art And Components
All of the cards in Photograph are of good quality, durable, laminated cardboard.
The Photo cards are charmingly illustrated as film frames, with each colour showing different parts or shots of a different scene or location.
As you play through the game, you get a real sense of what the in-game neighbourhood is like, and what the photographer thinks is interesting. This, of course, is not part of the gameplay itself, but it's fun to look out for nonetheless.
The game also includes player aids for how to do your turn, how to set up the Field, and how to count up your points.
Finally, the game box itself is quite small, making the game well suited for bringing around on travels.
Photograph is a quick, fun game with an ever-changing game Field and lots of decisions to make.
I especially think the fact that you can only rearrange one card per turn is really cool and makes for interesting choices: Which cards to keep for later, and which to just get out of your hand, regardless of point loss.
There is a lot of luck involved, especially with regards to the order cards are made available. Players do not interact much during a game, only the cards you take influence the others.
For these reasons, Photograph can sometimes feel like competitive Solitaire with extra steps. That will not be for everyone, but I have had a good experience every time I've played, whether the deck was in my favour or not.