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What’s My Word?

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Gryphon Games, 2 players, ages 10 to adult, 45-60 minutes; $29.99)

 

whatsmywordSeveral decades ago, in the early 1970s, game designer Phil Orbanes decided to start his own game company. The result was Gamut of Games. Although a relatively short-lived enterprise, the company published many games of note including Cartel and Infinity (both by Orbanes) and two word games – Montage and My Word! (both by Joli Quentin Kansil) which appeared and disappeared all too quickly and, because of that and the difficulty in locating them, soon were considered “game classics”. While plans are underway for a reissue of Montage by Gryphon Games, the wait is over for My Word! as that game has been resurrected by Gryphon with the gameplay intact but under a minor name change: What’s My Word?

What’s My Word? is played in two rounds. Each player has his own folder (purple and red, in this edition) which contains two game sheets. In the first round, each player chooses a secret six letter word that the other player must uncover. In the second round, the challenge increases as the secret word is now a seven letter one. The game sheets allow players to both chart the progress of his opponent and track his own efforts in decoding secret words.

The player with the purple folder goes first in the first, six letter word, round; the red folder holder goes first in the final, seven letter word, round.

Each game sheet is basically divided into two sections and two sheets are needed for each game. Underneath the flap of the folder (on the top line of the sheet), there is room to write your secret word. Below that is a section to record and score the guesses of your opponent. Below that is a section for your own educated guesses and to keep track of your scoring successes (or failures).

whatsmywordaUnderneath your secret word are lines for words you supply to help you determine what letters are in your opponent’s secret word. These lines for your “guessing” words are “staggered”. That is, they appear in different positions. Guesses begin with a two letter word and gradually call for three, four and five letter words until the sixth word guess (which will hopefully match your opponent’s secret word) is written. (The “Guessword ladder” for the second round, runs from three to the final seven letter word.) The scoring for your Guesswords depends on whether letters in your Guessword match letters in your opponent’s secret word AND if you have discovered the right position of a letter. You earn 1000 points for each letter in your Guessword that matches the letter in your opponent’s secret word AND is in the same position. You earn 250 points for each letter in a Guessword that appears in your opponent’s secret word. Letters that do not match score 0 points.

As the rounds go on, players continue to score and these scores are clues to discovering the letters of the secret word. On the last turn of a round, a player will write down a six letter word (or a seven letter word). If that last word is the secret word, that player receives a 3000 point bonus! At the end of the second round, players combine scores from the first and second rounds. The player with the highest total is the winner!

As the game goes on, you will discover a letter or two that fits in the “right” space. By repeating those matches in the same positions (while putting other letters around them), you can start “filling in the blanks” and eliminate letters that don’t appear in the secret word while racking up high scores. (A word of warning: be careful in tallying scores. If you provide an incorrect score for your opponent, making it that much more difficult to decipher the secret word, the penalty is a considerable 2000 points per turn that the error remains undetected!) Alphabet columns appear on the side of the game sheets which are extremely handy in keeping track of which letters are “live” and which you can safely eliminate.

What’s My Word? is not the typical word game. No board, no word tiles to crisscross, no letter cubes here. This is strictly a paper and pencil affair. But by adding a Mastermind-like element, the game is elevated from standard wordplay to a game requiring higher level deduction and critical reasoning. The result is a game both simple and complex. Choosing a six or seven letter secret word is hardly difficult. (The rules specifically state that the chosen word must be a word that is familiar to your opponent so the temptation of using arcane terms or words specific to a particular field or hobby is considerably lessened.) Making Guesswords of two or three words is not a brain-burner either. But choosing which Guesswords to use and how to position them to extract the most information possible is not as easy as it may sound. Add to that the mental gymnastics of unscrambling deduced letters to recreate those secret words and you have What’s My Word?, a game both challenging and fun, worthy of its game classic reputation.

 


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