#69 – Wordsy [Preview]

box

Base price: $20.
1-6 players.
Play time: ~20-30 minutes.
BGG Link
Check it out on Kickstarter!

Full disclosure: A preview copy of this game was provided by Formal Ferret Games. As this is a preview, I will mostly keep my comments limited to gameplay. That said, please note that final artwork and rules may change, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game.

So, I love word games. And thankfully, there are always more. Paperback, Anomia kinda, Letter Tycoon, tons of word games. And Wordsy is no exception! However, unlike most word games that challenge you to only work with what you have, Wordsy lets you get a bit creative on how you fill in the gaps while adding in some element of speed. Do you know words? Do you have the best words? Well, play Wordsy and find out!

Contents

Setup

Setup is pretty straightforward. You’re going to find a sand timer (I used my phone’s stopwatch) as well as some cards. Please note before going forward that, again, this is a preview copy and some of these components / graphics may change. One such card is the No-Flip card:

no-flip-card

Which has a solo game tracker on the other side:

solo-card

Set that aside for now. I’ll cover the solo game in Player Count Differences. You’ll also find some point value cards:

column-cards

Set them up high to low (5 on the left, two on the right) in a row. Now, take out the letter cards:

letter-cards

Shuffle them and deal them into four columns of two cards, keeping two rules in mind:

  1. You can never have more than two of the same letter. If you try to place a third, discard it instead.
  2. You can never have more than two bonus letters. These are letters that have +1 or +2 points underneath of the letter. If you would try to place a third, discard it instead.

So, for instance, this is illegal:

illegal-board

There are too many bonus letters, here — you should have discarded one of the K’s instead of adding it to the board.

Give each player a player score sheet:

player-score-sheet

And once your play area looks like this, you’re ready to start!

setup

Gameplay

Gameplay is actually super straightforward. First, agree on a dictionary that you’re going to use. I usually use “does it sound like a word or will we have to Google it”, which works for me reasonably well, but you might want to use something more precise, which is totally your business.

Next, remember that setup board?

Setup.jpg

So, you’re going to try and make a word from those letters. “But Eric,” you might say, “all I’ve got is consonants“. First of all, solid reference. Second, you don’t use just the letters on the board — you can use any letters you want! You just score the letters on the board. So for that example, there, CHOPPER (as in, “get to the”) would only score CHPPR, or 21 points. (Let me know in the comments if you can do better!) Note that if you use the R more than once, you only score it once, and if you used the P once, you’d just take the higher-scoring P.

Now, the interesting thing about Wordsy is that it’s not just about the highest-scoring word, it’s also about which player is the first one to come up with something. If you are (and you don’t have the No-Flip card), write down your word and as soon as you’re finished writing, flip the sand timer and take the No-Flip card, meaning that you cannot flip the sand timer next round (so you can’t be first). Note that you do not use the No-Flip card in a two-player game. The other players have 30 seconds to come up with a word. If they don’t, they score 0 points, but you’re welcome to be a bit flexible on this. Up to you. Once time’s done, starting with you, read your word and your score.

Once everyone’s read their word and score, bonuses can come into play. Remember the checkboxes? (Again, preview copy, subject to change):

player-score-sheet

If you scored strictly more than the fastest player, put a checkmark in the first bonus column (the left, in this picture). For the right column, you can only get that bonus if you’re the fastest player and your word was as good as or better than some number of other players’ words:

  • In a 2- or 3-player game, you have to be better than everyone else.  (Note that you do not use the No-Flip card in a two-player game.)
  • In a 4-player game, you have to be better than 2 other players.
  • In a 5- or 6-player game, you have to be better than 3 other players.

If you are, check the second bonus column. It’s worth more points, too, which is a nice bonus. Once you’ve done that, clear the two rightmost columns of the play area (the 3- and the 2-point columns), discarding their cards and sliding the cards from the 5- and 4-point columns to the right. These are now worth fewer points. Flip four more cards and play the next round.

Note that there are some rules — you cannot reuse words across rounds, even if you’re changing the form (PRANCE->PRANCING, for instance). If two or more players use the same word in a round, that’s fine, though. And as with all word games, no proper nouns, hyphenated words, or contractions.

You can also challenge people’s words if they seem like they’re made up words (though some people would argue that all words are made up words, which … woah). As you might imagine, only one player can challenge a word per round. If you’re correct, they get 0 points for the round. If you’re wrong, take a penalty mark (worth -2 points at the end of the game). Generally, I tend not to play with strict challenge rules unless I’m playing with fairly aggressive people, so your mileage may vary on how much play this rule gets. I’m just listing it for your benefit and to be as thorough as possible.

Now, once you’ve played 7 rounds, consult your score sheet and drop the lowest two scores (but keep their bonuses, if you earned them). Then, add your best five scores, all of your earned bonuses, and your accrued penalties together to get your score — highest score wins!

Player Count Differences

So there aren’t a ton here, to be honest. You do have some differences in how you earn the fastest player bonus, which I’ll reiterate here:

  • In a 2- or 3-player game, you have to be better than everyone else.  (Note that you do not use the No-Flip card in a two-player game.)
  • In a 4-player game, you have to be better than 2 other players.
  • In a 5- or 6-player game, you have to be better than 3 other players.

Other than that, not much. That said, there’s also a Solo variant, so I’ll explain that:

Solo Wordsy

In Solo Wordsy, you’re playing against yourself, and it can be pretty difficult. You’re going to need the sand timer and the Solo Side of the No-Flip Card:

solo-card

Usually, you’d put the sand timer on the green zone to start. I don’t have a sand timer, so I instead used my phone’s timer and the Ox Bellows / Flash character from Betrayal at House on the Hill:

sand-timer

He’s about as smart as a sand timer, so it works out.

He has super low Knowledge, generally, so he’s who I’d want as my Wordsy opponent. Anyways, you play normally with one exception — if you finish your word early, you can “pause” the timer for a bonus.

At the end of each round, if you successfully paused the timer and scored at least 15, check your Solo Card — if your timer is still on the top spot, take the (more valuable) right bonus. If not, take the left bonus.

If you scored less than 20 points, however, move the timer down on the Solo Card by one space. If this would move you off the card, take a Penalty Mark (-2 points at the end of the game) and move the timer back to the middle space on the Solo Card. Ouch!

If you score more than 20 points but failed to pause the timer, keep the timer in the same spot on the Solo Card.

If you triumphed and managed to get 20 points and pause the timer, you can move the timer to the top spot on the Solo Card. This means you’ll potentially get the more valuable bonus next round, which is awesome.

Once you’re done, tally your scores:

  • Easy Victory: Score 100 points.
  • Medium Victory: Score 110 points.
  • Hard Victory: Score 120 points.
  • Brutal Victory: Ignore the middle spot on the Solo Card, using only the top and bottom space. If you would move the timer off the Solo Card, take a Penalty Mark but keep the timer on the bottom space. Score 120 points to win. (Very difficult!)

Strategy

There’s actually some interesting strategy to this game, but a lot of it just depends on words that you know.

  • Remember your math. You generally want to be scoring at least 20 points per round if you want to win in Solo, so you know that 5 + 5 + 4 + 4 = 18, meaning you need at least two more points from somewhere.
  • Know quick ways to lengthen words. RE-, -ING, -EST, and -MENT are all great prefixes and suffixes to add some consonants onto your word, thereby potentially scoring you more points. It helps to try those, especially when you see M, N, T, G, or R on the board. -ION isn’t as useful, since vowels are never worth anything.
  • Sometimes it’s just good to be the fastest. If you can get that fastest player bonus, you’ll still be able to do something useful with a 16-point word. Especially remember that your lowest two scores are dropped, so for particularly hard boards it might be worth just going for the flip and hoping nobody else can come up with a good word in 30 seconds.
  • Pretty much always use the bonus letters. Especially if they’re in the 5 and 4 columns. It’s just extra points for free, which means you can avoid using extra letters and adding unnecessary complexity to your word.
  • Again, remember that you get all your bonuses but only your five best word scores. This means it might be worth accidentally getting a 0 in a round for the chance to try to get a better word than the fastest player, since you’d just drop two zeroes. Just make sure your other rounds are great.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • Novel word game. And I’m not just saying that because the box looks like a book. I think it’s interesting that you play in sort of the “negative space” of the extra letters that aren’t on the board to try to come up with words. It’s an interesting spin. Plus, the sort-of-race feel is pretty great. Makes the game run quickly.
  • I really like the endgame scoring mechanic. It means you can have two bad rounds and still be in the running, so you never really feel out. I also like that the scoring during the game makes it feel very easy to get to, say, 16 – 20, but very hard to get to 28+.
  • Nice aesthetic. It feels very clean to me. I imagine the graphic design will change a bit, but I definitely wouldn’t complain about it right now.
  • The solo mode is very satisfying. I like playing it a lot — I’d highly recommend it to people who enjoy solo gaming or word games. It’s a good way to distract yourself. But then again, there’s also the bot version.
  • Tense, but in a good way. 30 seconds is the perfect amount of time for a round. Prevents AP (or at least punishes it) and makes the game go by quickly.

Mehs

  • Small cards. I didn’t particularly like it about Ticket to Ride either, but this is a nitpick. I would love it if the Kickstarter had a stretch goal of larger cards. That said, larger cards normally bump the shipping cost / fulfillment cost up a lot, so… trade-offs. It’s not that small cards are huge negative, I just find them a bit more difficult to shuffle.

Cons

  • If you’re playing with groups with a wide skill variety, it will probably feel lopsided. I love it because I love word games and it’s a great word game, but it definitely rewards people who know lots of words. I wouldn’t play this with, like, small children, but I think I feel the same way about Letter Tycoon (which just rewards long words). I imagine you might be able to find tweaks to make it a bit more workable, but, also, not every game is for every group, so … just making you aware of it. I feel like this is a high word-skill game. It’s also a bit difficult in your first game because you don’t really know what typical scores look like in a round. Should you be satisfied with 14? Generally, no.

Overall: 8.25 / 10

in-progress-solo-game

Overall, I think Wordsy is great! It’s short, light, and portable, but still manages to be tense and exciting! I really like the way that the endgame scoring works, as well, and the bonus structure is really interesting. I feel like it’s keeping my spelling sense sharp every time I play, so it’s also great. Add in an interesting and fun solo mode and you’ve got a solid word game! I’d highly recommend taking a look once the Kickstarter launches.

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