Full disclosure: A review copy of this game was provided by Funnybone Toys.
So, more word games. I count myself fairly lucky in my game-collecting habits that I haven’t managed to hit a TON of significant overlap in game types (depending on how you feel about Dominion expansions), and Anaxi is no exception to that, as I’ve never really played anything quite like it. In Anaxi, you are playing against your friends in a word-game-meets-Venn-diagram competition to see how good you are at combining three different adjectives. Can you effectively find things that exist in the intersection? Or are you going to be left out of the center? Keep reading and find out!
So, uh, setup for this game is preposterously easy, as it should be for a party game. You just … take out the three different-colored circles (for those of you with difficulty distinguishing colors, the three different circles have dotted, dashed, and solid lines on them) and separate them into three face-down piles. Put one of the 1-2-3=4 circles in the center where all players can see it. Next, give every player some kind of writing implement and a sheet with columns 1, 2, 3 and 4 on it (comes included with the game, but you may want to make your own larger ones if you expect to do multiple rounds).
Once your play area looks like this, you’re ready to start:
Gameplay is also pretty straightforward. Here’s how it works:
- Have players flip one of each color card onto the center, so that you can see all three words and all four numbers.
- Flip the timer. You have one minute.
- Write down as many people, places, or things that you think fall in each category.
- Once time is up, compare! Only unique things count for scoring (this means that if you wrote the same thing as someone else, neither of you score).
- Any column 1, 2, or 3s are worth 1 point. Any column 4s are worth three points.
Play until you’ve played five rounds for a standard game, or just play as long as you want! I’m a big fan of the round-to-round model, where you just play to maximize each round, but you might find that playing multiple rounds incentivizes players to try and “take out” the leader by writing down everything they might write. I don’t think that’s terribly likely, but it’s worth stating nonetheless.
Player Count Differences
None, really. You need a lot more paper and there’s a higher chance of overlap with more people, but that doesn’t super affect gameplay, I don’t think. Playing it with two people means you have to choose to optimize for either trying to overlap with the other player so that they don’t get to score or ignoring them and trying to write down only unique stuff. I’d generally recommend the latter option.
It’s a fun little word game, so there’s not like, an amazing amount of strategy besides “know things”. That being said, there are some ways you can try and improve your score:
- Know how you think. I personally tend to think deep rather than wide, so I try to write down as many examples of one category as I can (vehicles: car, truck, boat, airplane, helicopter, tank, submarine) before I switch categories. Some people don’t. I find that you don’t have a ton of time to get tripped up, and any slip-up can be pretty costly.
- Generally, try to aim for the center if you can. Scoring works by highly rewarding the center, so you should go for it — you’d have to write down three examples of a 1, 2, or 3 or one example of a 4 if you want to score the same amount of points, which seems like an obvious tilt in one direction. Sure, it’s the most difficult (three overlaps as opposed to two), but if you can get it, you can score big.
- Be cognizant of time. I have seen people just get stuck on a word that they can’t remember or something and completely waste a round, which is again, super costly, so just pay attention and note if you’re spending too much time not writing. You should basically be constantly writing.
- Be prepared to justify some of your weirder choices. If you get “WHITE”, “LOUD”, and “GLOSSY”, sure, “Lady Gaga” might seem obvious to you, but you may have to spend some time explaining that to the other players, so be prepared for that. I’d also be fine with “AIRPLANE” or “MOTORBOAT” or maybe “PHOTOCOPIER”.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Very colorful. I really, really enjoy the vibrant colors of the box and the game. Very eye-catching, and I think that’s excellent.
- Some words are definitely more difficult than others. I really like the variety and the difficulty of the categories, and I find it really interesting how they intersect. It’s a lot of fun.
- It’s a cool concept, as well. Like I said, the Venn diagram thing works really well for it, even though (as I’ll note later) I’m not a huge fan of having to write. I think this might make a great game to play in the car with kids, as well, if you tweak the rules a bit.
- I love all word games. They’re just fun for me.
- Box is a fair bit larger than it needs to be. It’s not as bad as like, Splendor, but it’s vertically larger than it needs to be for some reason. Maybe for future expansions? I could see how themed packs might work out, here, too.
- I would love to see more scoring layout types. For instance, it would be really interesting if the center wasn’t always the highest-scoring category — maybe have some layouts where categories 1 / 3 were each worth 2 points and 2 / 4 were worth 1? I think we’re going to try that next time we play.
- Writing is definitely a drain on this game. I could see this also work fine as “everyone has to come up with one example at a time”, sort of in a circle, and if you take more than 5 seconds you’re just, done. I haven’t tried that variant yet, but it seems like it could be really fun. And it’d work well in the car, if you’re playing with a family, or it’d be an excellent drinking game, if you’re … not. I actually have some pretty solid ideas on that, but if you want to expand on it, let me know in the comments or on social media. I think we can make something work. My major complaint here is that it kind of rewards the fastest writer, which has some accessibility concerns, among other problems (if playing with younger kids, the slower writer will take a massive penalty, in all likelihood).
- Round-based play has the Saboteur problem. If you’re playing multiple rounds of the same game you’ll often run into what I call the Saboteur problem, or namely, “I do not have enough points that I can actually win”, so the later rounds become less fun for players who fell behind early. It’s an issue, I’ll note, but it becomes a bit less so if you treat the rounds as individual units (a la the Lost Legacy series, imo, or Spyfall, which I also do). In Saboteur that kind of messes up the gameplay dynamic, but it doesn’t really, here.
Overall: 6.75 / 10
Generally, I think Anaxi is pretty fun! I’m now nontrivially interested in other ways it can be applied to games I already play, but it’s a pretty fun word game to open with in the same vein as Anomia, but it doesn’t have quite as much yelling (which makes me think that Anomia might be the superior icebreaker, but that’s hardly here or there). That doesn’t mean that this game doesn’t have its place, and I enjoy it when I play it. I’m going to experiment with some tweaks to downplay the significance of the writing element, which will probably get it to the table a lot more with my group in particular, since they generally prefer yelling to writing. The last thing I’d note is that you should do yourself a favor and make a “no synonyms” rule, otherwise you’ll have people writing down “rocks, stones, slabs, pebbles” for certain categories, which really isn’t a test of your knowledge of the category as much as it is your knowledge of the thesaurus.
If you’re looking for more word games for your collection (especially one for the whole family), Anaxi is definitely not a bad choice.