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WORDSPIEL

Reviewed by Herb Levy

WORDSPIEL (Set Enterprises, 2 to 6 players, ages 8 to adult, 45 minutes, $12.99)

 

As a kid, I remember playing a game we called Geography. The premise was simple: state a geographical place (say Kansas). Then the next player had to come up with the name of a place that started with the LAST letter of the previously stated location (such as using the “s” in Kansas for San Diego) and so on until someone couldn’t come up with a place. That person was OUT and you could either continue until only one player was left or simply end it there with everyone else but the eliminated player winning. This was simple fun – and made you think about places around the world that you barely ever thought of! Now, a similar principle has been applied to word games with this new one from Marsha J. Falco: WordSpiel

WordSpiel consists of a deck of 110 cards and an electronic 60 second timer. Each card displays a letter and every player is dealt a hand of 10 cards. The action starts with one card drawn from the top of the deck and revealed.

The player to the left of the dealer begins by trying to use the letter cards in his hand to make a word beginning with the letter flipped over. Players have 60 seconds (as tracked by the electronic timer) to come up with something. Almost any word is allowed but, as in most word games, no abbreviations, acronyms, proper nouns or contractions are not. As words are created, the chain of letters gets longer and longer, forming a spiral. After the first play, subsequent players may use the last letter of a played word or, if they prefer, go back a letter or two (or three or more) to make longer words. For example, if the first letter flipped is F, then the word FUN would be fine. The next player can use the N and make the word NO or, if the cards he holds cooperate, go back another letter and make the word UNITE. You don’t score points for word length. What you are trying to do is get rid of ALL the cards in your hand! But what happens when you can’t make a word???

If the letters you hold won’t work for you, you are allowed to trade up to 3 cards per round. This trade is done before the round starts or when it is not your turn (a good rule in that it doesn’t slow the game down). The discarded card is placed, face down, in front of you and a new one drawn from the draw deck. If you are stuck and/or time runs out, you must draw a card and, WITHOUT LOOKING, either place it at the end of the spiral for the next player to use or add it to your own hand. The “without looking” part of the penalty is curious. Better to act with some knowledge than being subject to the pure luck of the draw. Adding a card to the spiral and losing a turn is penalty enough. Adding a card to your hand is penalty enough too so adding it blindly seems a bit too harsh in such a light game. (Of course, if you don’t like this part of the penalty, you can just eliminate it.) For some reason, the game box gives design credit to “the creator of Quiddler”. All well and good and understandable as a promotion for one of the flagship games of the Set Enterprises line but game designers – just like authors – deserve credit for their work. In this case, the name of Marsha J. Falco who designed Quiddler and Set (featured in the Fall 1991 issue of Gamers Alliance Report) should appear somewhere on the box and/or rules. 

In a card game, card quality is important and these cards seem sturdy and able to stand up to hard use. The use of LARGE letters on the cards make reading them a non-issue, particularly for older players. That everything fits in a small package making this an easy fit for travel is another plus. 

When someone has managed to play all of their cards, the rounds ends. Each card held by the other players is worth 1 point. Then all cards are collected, shuffled and the next player to the left becomes the new dealer and we do it all over again. At the end of the fifth round, the game is over and scores are totaled. The player with the LOWEST score wins!

WordSpiel is not a “brain burner” by any stretch – but it’s not trying to be. Rather it is a bit of chaotic fun, especially appealing to word game lovers who enjoy anagrams and Scrabble. With its simple rules and quick play, this game also has the ability to bridge the gaps between “serious” and “casual” players and, even better, become a vehicle to span generations as parents (or grandparents, for that matter) can play and interact at the gaming table with the kids.- – – – – – Herb Levy


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