Reviewed by Herb Levy

(INI, LLC,, 2 to 4 players, ages 10 and up, 30-60 minutes; $24.95)


Word games are one of the staples of gaming. There is, of course, Scrabble which leads the way in this category but there has always been a contest to create the next big word game. Along the way, there has been the ever popular Boggle and Sid Sackson’s BuyWord (Fall 2004 GA Report) that went on to be named GAMES magazine’s Game of the Year. But the search for the next new twist in word gaming continues with the latest quality contender being a game that puts a spin on the classic game of Anagrams: Dabble.dabblebox

Dabble, designed by George Weiss, comes boxed with 142 letter tiles (plus 6 additional tiles for Spanish) and a bag to hold them, 4 five-tiered “stadium style” racks, a sand timer and rules (in both English and Spanish).

Each player is given one of the five tiered letter racks, randomly draws 20 letter tiles from the bag and places them, face down, in front of him. When everyone has their tiles, the timer is turned and all tiles are turned face up. Now the race is on!

In Anagrams, players attempt to make words from letters. In Dabble, this is taken one or, shall we say, five steps further. The goal here is to create from those 20 picked tiles FIVE different words: one each of 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 letters. As long as sand remains in the timer, players continue to try to complete their set of words. If only one player manages to accomplish this task, he wins the round. But if more than one player completes his set before time runs out, all will score!

Players who win the round collect the points of the letter tiles that the other players were unable to use to make words. Most tiles are worth 3 points but there are blank tiles which may be used as any letter (worth 0 points) and the more difficult letters are worth more (M is worth 9, H 12 while Q and Z come in at 30 points each!). There are even two “apostrophe” tiles (with a 0 tile value), something you rarely see in word games. Even though they don’t have a tile point value, they are usable for making words and potentially valuable in scoring. A player using an apostrophe tile gets DOUBLE points but an apostrophe that has not been used is worth 5 points to the winner(s) of the round. Optional rules are provided to give players bonus points for making words in a particular subject. But suppose no one can make a set of five words?

If everyone is stymied, the round ends, no one scores, and players may toss in as many tiles as they like into the bag, shake it up and then draw new ones. The timer is then turned over for a second time and the players try to compete their task again. On the other hand, if EVERYONE has managed to create a set in time, the rules provide for several options: either no one scores (a tie with everyone earning 0 points) OR the player with the highest scoring word is considered the winner of the round and receives the point value of that high scoring word.dabblepcs

The first player to score 100 points (or 200 or 500, that’s up to you) wins!

The racks are sturdy, perfectly built to hold the tiles, and the tiles are big enough for small hands (and the plastic seems immune to dirty hands too) making the game suitable for young gamers. To heighten the appeal to the competitiveness of adult gamers (and add a degree of frenzy to the game), we play that the FIRST player to complete a set of five words is the winner of the round. Other players can still complete their sets before time runs out but the round winner is the ONLY one to score. By doing this, the other players need to play “defense” to reduce an opponent’s possible high score. To minimize the luck factor (and when you’re drawing tiles blindly out of a bag, luck is definitely a factor), we suggest eliminating the scoring bonus for apostrophe tiles. Getting one of these tiles is purely by chance and to be able grab a big score from their use rewards luck more than skill.

The quest for the next great word game continues. Dabble is an excellent candidate for that honor and if you’re looking for a word game that fits the niche of family game entertainment with enough of a kick to intrigue adult word gamers, then Dabble is worth dabbling in. – – – Herb Levy


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Fall 2012 GA Report Articles


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