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KEESDROW

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Pywacket LLC, 2 to 6 players, ages 8 to adult, about 30-60 minutes; $24.99, Deluxe Edition $29.99)

Word search puzzles have been quite popular over the last few years and building a board game upon that premise is nothing new. For example, Pressman issued a game, featured in the Spring 1988 issue of GA REPORT, called Wordsearch. Fast forward almost 20 years later and we find ourselves playing with a variation on the theme that adds a few touches of its own: Keesdrow, a new game from Pywacket LLC.

Keesdrow (“word seek” spelled backwards) comes in two editions. The regular edition comes with 36 double-sided 4 letter tiles; the Deluxe edition comes with 64 double-sided 4 letter tiles. Otherwise both games are identical with three sets of colored pegs (and a nice plastic case to hold them), a game board, two minute sand timer, score pad and instructions.Keesdrow

The game board is randomly filled with the letter tiles. Each tile shows four letters with a point value for each letter ranging from 1 to 5. Players now attempt to seek out words by using letters on adjacent tiles to score as many points as possible.

Words may be constructed by using adjoining letters, horizontally, vertically or diagonally, on the board. As words are made, pegs are placed in the letters used. The first time a letter is used, a green peg is placed and the letter scores its value. The second time a letter is used, by that player or an opponent, the green peg is replaced by a yellow peg and the letter value doubled. The third time that same letter is used, the yellow peg is replaced by a red one and the point value of that letter triples! After a letter has red peg, however, that letter has “expired” and may no longer be used by anyone in making a word!

Play continues until either a set point total is reached (150-200 points when playing individually, 200-500 points when playing in teams), a predetermined number of turns have been played or no player can construct a valid word in his turn. The player or team with the highest score at that point wins. We prefer a set point total as the victory condition (allowing each player to have the same number of turns) as it keeps the game play within a reasonable time frame.

Keesdrow combines elements found in other games (like Wordsearch and Boggle) to form a new entity with a life of its own. Game play is simple yet challenging. Players must attune themselves to finding the best combinations of letters to maximize points. But you also need to consider your positioning and that adds a whole other dimension to the gameplay.

Since your opponent can use letters already pegged and get double or triple the points when doing so, you have to be careful about staking out letters. Place too many green pegs on letters to score a short term gain and you will leave opportunities for your opponents to double and triple their score – thanks for your help! (This puts the player going first at a slight disadvantage.) The fact that letters used are not unlimited and that letters will “expire” after their third use encourages the use of words with three of the same letters in them. Words like “bubble” and “stress” can be powerful on offense (scoring triple points for yourself) but equally powerful on defense as eliminated letters prevents them from using them and can result in obstacles created to hinder the linking of letters. (This is particularly true if E or S letter tiles have been “expired”.) The regular edition of Keesdrow uses bigger tiles resulting in fewer letters on the board. The smaller tiles in the Deluxe edition increases the number of letters in the game and causes the game dynamic to change. The game is prone to a bit of “analysis paralysis” (particularly as the red pegs begin to pepper the board) so the inclusion of a two minute sand timer in both editions is very welcome. Since the essential play of both editions is virtually the same, your pick of edition is purely a matter of personal preference.

Keesdrow boasts a very strong presentation in both editions (nice tiles and colorful plastic pegs and, instead of your typical ziplock bags, a sturdy case to keep them in) as well as easy to follow instructions (even including game variations for those wanting something beyond the basic game). In marketing the game, the company stresses the “educational” value of the game. This is the gaming equivalent of saying your blind date has a “good personality”. A red flag to be sure. Fortunately, there is no need to be concerned. Educational? Maybe. But more importantly, Keesdrow is fun! – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy


 

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