The age-old parlour game of Charades has been game-ified in many different ways over the years: from the tense three rounds of Time's Up (R&R) and the iconography of Concept (Repos) to the about-face of Reverse Charades (IELLO / Jolly Thinkers). A new entry to the genre from Monkeyshine Games is the seemingly kookily named Bilder, which adds to the list, 'Charades... now with wood'. Yup, that's the schtick.
Inside the surrounding game structure, the atomic element is making an image out of variously shaped wooden pieces to represent one of two things on a 'WHAT' card. The 40 wooden pieces are up to the job, with a core few used consistently while some sit out a large chunk of the game. It works well, though the 'optional' two-minute time limit should be considered mandatory. The reward for guessing right is to take the card, which has one of six letters on it, B-I-L-D-E-R. One point per card; bonus three points for completing a full set, which is when the game ends and the highest score wins.
There are also optional 'HOW' cards which give an often humorous restriction to the turn's clue-giver: these should be played with, too, when players know what's going on, otherwise the clue-giver has no in-game incentive to make their clue guessable. When successfully used, HOW cards yield extra letters or wilds. The play, as with most Charades variants, is sociable fun, riffing off others' guesses and throwing the occasional ludicrous but entertaining guess into the mix just for laughs. It ticks along at a good pace and there is great fun to be had both with creative and cack-handed construction.
Given the way in which players use blocks to represent words and phrases, and knowing the game's Belgian origins, we automatically assumed that Bilder was Dutch/Flemish for Builder. And being English, we bemoaned the 'missing U'. Bilder, however, is simply the German word for Pictures! No longer irked by the missing U in the title, some players have still been put off by the game's presentation: the pale pink box and slanted bitmap font may make Bilder stand out on the shelf but, frankly, I don't want to look at it. Ever. Also, several of the HOW cards are outright annoying, especially Challenges that come across as sops to mass market or drunken gimmickry: we have just discarded them when drawn, but they might work for the right group (in the way Cards Against Humanity does).
Longevity can be an issue with games that have finite clue cards: even Time's Up's 432 doubles-up cards become familiar if played enough. There are over 100 cards in the base box, as well as 60 harder ones in an expansion pack, but although there are two words per card, one is often markedly easier and will be chosen over the other (depending on the letter needed for scoring). The shame is that, if you like the game, you're likely to run out of new WHAT cards in not a lot of plays.
Despite these niggles, Bilder is a lot of fun: it's a good party game and light-hearted closer at game night when brains are tiring. There has been more hilarity and elation than frustration, particularly with a lightning quick deciphering of the D-Day Landings (10 seconds), a simply brilliant Abbey Road, and a frenetic last-gasp success with Pearl Harbor giving rise to handshakes all round (we're British, don't you know?)
(Review by David Fox)