In addition to our main Game of the Year Awards 2021, each member of the PC Gamer team is shining a spotlight on a game they loved this year. We'll post new staff picks, alongside our main awards, throughout the rest of the month.
There's a game in Jackbox Party Pack 8 about drawing weapons. No, it's not Drawful, because you're not guessing what each other's weapons are. In Weapons Drawn, your artwork is a smokescreen for a murder mystery. Hidden within each murder weapon drawing is a letter (a calling card, if you will) from the name of its artist, and identifying it is the only surefire way to know whodunnit.
You also get to name the party guests that get targeted for murders whatever you want, be it "Pipplebuff Crumblebottom" or "George Pleasedontkillmeton". During our last game of Weapons Drawn over Thanksgiving, I had to draw a sword and figure out how to hide my telltale "M" within it. I decided to camouflage the spiked consonant as the sword's hilt. The disguise worked for all of six seconds before my friends noticed the, in retrospect, suspicious hilt shape.
If you're keeping track, that makes Weapons Drawn one part art game, one part hidden identity, and one part creative writing. I've never played anything like it, and that's sort of amazing when you consider there have now been a total of 40(!) Jackbox games. By Party Pack 8, you'd think our group would've gotten sick of punching in room codes and drawing obscure prompts, but Jackbox manages to surprise us every year.
I think it helps that Jackbox has gotten very good at borrowing concepts from its own games to make new ones. Weapons Drawn, for instance, is a murderized twist on Drawful and Fakin' It. The Wheel of Enormous Proportions, this pack's most casual game, has a same trivia format as Trivia Murder Party with a splash of randomization added through wheel spins. Drawful Animate is… well it's just more Drawful, except now you can draw a few frames to tell a story.
One of my favorite remixes in Party Pack 8 is Job Job. This one asks players to answer a benign prompt with as many words as they can. Players then have to answer a new prompt, but can only make their answers using a pool of words from previous answers. The results often end up sounding like those autocorrect challenges that are grammatically correct but never really make sense.
"I don't eat tacos because why even bother with forks and spoons on a Wednesday," is how I roughly remember answering a question about food. I promise it made sense at the time—you had to be there. The group then votes on their favorite answers like classic Quiplash. I've always loved that you can go serious or funny in games like these, and the added burden of restricting word choice makes both options more challenging.
Party Pack 8's biggest triumph is Poll Mine, which is basically Family Feud if you were both the players and the survey. It's also team-based, which is apparently a first for a Jackbox game. Teams spend a few minutes answering a survey (something simple like ranking Pringles flavors or forms of greetings) and then take turns guessing which answers were the least or most popular among the group.
I didn't expect to like this one much because regular Family Feud is kinda bad, but this variation is genius. Instead of a general population survey with inconsistent answers, you get to use your own responses as a baseline and dive into your friends' heads to suss out answers. Do you make your answers public to help in the short term, or keep your mouth shut so opponents can't share the benefits? If Poll Mine sounds fun, I wrote about it in more detail here.
It was a good year for Jackbox. Most packs have one or two stinker games that we rarely go back to, but Party Pack 8 is nothing but bangers (unless you've played a billion rounds of Drawful already, in which case animating doesn't add much). Just don't make this your very first Jackbox—the slightly complicated rules of Weapons Drawn and Poll Mine are a bit confusing for beginners.