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BUYWORD

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Face 2 Face Games; 1-4 players, ages 8 and up, 30 minutes; $24.95)

 

A Sid Sackson game is always something special. But when a NEW Sid Sackson game hits the shelves, then there really is something to talk about. That is precisely the case with BuyWord, the new Sid Sackson word game produced by Face 2 Face Games.

BuyWord comes in a strong square box which contains 108 letter tiles (and a bag to hold them), 9 Wild Tiles, a special die, play money, “price list” play aids and 4 pages of rules.BuyWordcover

Players begin with a stash of $200 and a few Wild Tiles (two Wilds when four are playing, three when three are playing and four if you’re having a two player game). The start player (choose any way you wish) rolls the die and off you go!

The special die is six-sided with numbers 2 through 5 and a side labeled Choice. If Choice appears, the roller may choose any number from 2 to 5. The number rolled (or chosen) determines how many tiles a player draws from the bag that round. Each player must now decide if he really wants those tiles, at least wants them enough to buy them.

Each letter tile also has a certain number of “spots”. The cost for the drawn tiles is the total number of spots on ALL the tiles drawn, SQUARED! So, for example, if you draw 4 tiles and the combined total of spots on those four tiles is 6, you must pay $36 (6 squared) to buy those tiles. You cannot buy SOME of the tiles. It’s strictly an all or nothing proposition.

Once purchased, players may create words from the tiles bought and any tiles remaining from previous purchases. (Players may not have more than 8 tiles remaining in their hands at the end of a turn.) A Wild Tile may be used as any letter but only one Wild may be used in a word. These new creations are now sold to make money.

Word sales are similar to word buys in that the total of spots on the word is squared to indicate the money collected from the bank. For example, spell the word “ENJOYED” which has a total of 13 spots and you will collect a hefty $169 (13 squared). And if the thought of squaring numbers is mind-numbing to you, those play aids provided do the numerical gymnastics for you.

The game continues until all tiles have been drawn and all created words sold. The player who has amassed the most money wins!

The path to winning the game is to build those long – and high scoring – words so try to keep a full cache of letters available for word building. Don’t be so quick to cash in the four and five letter words. Hold on for a round (or two) and then bring out the heavy artillery with a seven, eight or even ten letter word. Judicious use of Wild Tiles is imperative. Towards the end of the game, a Wild Tile in reserve to give you flexibility to utilize remaining letters can mean the difference between winning and losing.

The word tiles are made of wood but it would have been better had the letters been written larger (as shown on the box and rules) and a nicer finish on the wood wouldn’t have hurt. Face2Face missed a bet here with the size of the tiles. The tiles are large and, generally, that’s a good thing. But, in one of the variations offered in the rules, it is suggested playing the game in a “crossword” fashion, that words made by the players must interconnect. Had the tiles been made Scrabble size, players would have been able to use their already owned Scrabble boards when playing Crossword BuyWord. Since the game is very heavily weighted towards solitaire play (rules are provided for solo games), a crossword configuration would improve interaction. As it is, player interaction is subtle and hinges on choosing how many tiles to pick to force an opponent to make words instead of enabling him to build a cache of potentially high scoring letters.

As long as we’re talking variations, we’ll offer a variation to increase interaction not found in the game rules. As written, the game ends when tiles cannot be drawn to fill everyone’s draw and, once players, have sold their last words, remaining tiles are discarded with no penalty (outside of not being able to use these tiles to score). We suggest that in a two player game, the player who manages to go out first by using ALL his tiles gets the points of his opponent’s tile(s) while his opponent loses those points! (So, for example, if I go out and my opponent has two tiles left with a total of 3 spots on them, I get an additional $9 and my opponent LOSES $9!). In a three or four player game, the spots are still added and deducted but NOT squared. This encourages maximizing your letter resources. If you don’t, you will pay the price!

I originally played this game with Sid years ago when it was a prototype. I was absolutely shocked when he told me he couldn’t place it with a company. The reaction he got was that if it wasn’t Scrabble or Boggle, they weren’t interested! Well, this certainly isn’t Scrabble or Boggle. BuyWord takes a completely original turn here. This is the first game I’ve played where a buy/sell/money exchange is intimately involved with word play – and I’m glad that Face2Face wasn’t scared away by the originality.

Whenever a new Sid Sackson game appears, it is cause for excitement and BuyWord does not disappoint. Game play is fast, challenging and fun – and suitable for all ages. The good word on BuyWord? Buy it! – – – Herb Levy


 

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