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Word Games of Skill for Verbal Connoisseurs
Jonathan Kandell
United States
Tucson
Arizona
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There are word games and there are word games. I'd like to start a geeklist of word games that require more than just a good vocabulary or ability to anagram. While those games may be fun, they are not games for the "word connoisseur". The games for this list should require (1) good vocabulary and/or an ability to anagram, (2) some other skills, other than just 1, (3) tactics and strategy. Scrabble is a good (though maybe not the best) example of what I'm looking for: you need to know all those silly words like Qat, but you also need to plan how to utilize the squares and how to build a hand. Bananagrams is an example of what doesn't fit this list: it's a great game, but revolves solely around quickness and re-arranging letters. There are no tactical or strategic considerations to speak of.

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1. Board Game: Scrabble [Average Rating:6.36 Overall Rank:1126]
Jonathan Kandell
United States
Tucson
Arizona
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You need to not only know obscure words like Qat, but you need to strategize how to utilize the squares to their best advantage, and how to build a hand. There are also tactical moves good scrabble players can pull on you.
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2. Board Game: Bali [Average Rating:6.34 Overall Rank:4602]
Jonathan Kandell
United States
Tucson
Arizona
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Klondike with letters. Cut-throat word game that requires not just an extensive vocabulary, but also the ability to move word-fragments tactically, for offense and defense. Lots of interesting decisions (e.g. when and whether to "cash out" a word). See my review for more comments.
 
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3. Board Game: Tisby [Average Rating:7.55 Unranked]
Jonathan Kandell
United States
Tucson
Arizona
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Both players compete with the same 16 random letters to form their own crosswords on 7X7 boards, attempting to connect two designated spots. Row of bonus squares along top. Since both have exactly the same letters there is no luck, the better player wins. Either player can "stop" the clock at any point and the other has a minute to finish. In short: a thinking person's bananagram.
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4. Board Game: Wordsearch [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:4608]
Jonathan Kandell
United States
Tucson
Arizona
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Move letters like queens in chess to form words, remove word and score. Letters slide in from all directions. Requires not just vocabulary but skills more typical of chess.
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5. Board Game: What's My Word? [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:1972]
Jonathan Kandell
United States
Tucson
Arizona
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Mastermind meets Hangman. Turns Jotto, which does not make this list, to a more complex game that does. Requires deduction plus vocabulary. Progressive scoring adds a layer of strategy. And even if you solve the word early, you have the additional challenge to exploit it by offering high scoring words to fill the remaining boxes.
 
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6. Board Game: Last Word [Average Rating:5.60 Overall Rank:8355]
Ross G.
United States
Indianapolis
Indiana
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Wisdom begins in wonder.
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Stale pastry is hollow succor to a man who is bereft of ostrich.
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In addition to collecting letters to form words, you are also playing a tactical game of trying to strand your opponent and limit their opportunities.
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7. Board Game: Wordrop [Average Rating:5.61 Overall Rank:8679]
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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Nice components and an interesting take on Scrabble-genre - you drop letter tiles into a Connect Four-esque grid, scoring points for words made in all directions. My review is here.
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8. Board Game: Upwords [Average Rating:5.71 Overall Rank:4225]
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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Like Scrabble, but you can stack letter tiles to make new words. Tiles count more if the word is only 1-tile high, but sometimes adding a tile to a well-stacked word counts big, too.
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9. Board Game: Lingua [Average Rating:5.81 Unranked]
Jonathan Kandell
United States
Tucson
Arizona
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Haven't played this, but it looks like it would fit the list. Instead of letters having pts, different colors have points. Blue letter one point, yellow two pts, green three and red four. Same color tile on same color space is bonus 10. Words of same color bonus 25.

Anyone who knows this game describe its tactics or strategies?
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10. Board Game: BuyWord [Average Rating:6.35 Overall Rank:2075]
The one and only (but one of two in BGG)
United States
Minnesota
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"Desire makes everything blossom; possession makes everything wither and fade." (Marcel Proust)
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Another brilliant Sid Sackson design. Involves buying letters, making words out of them, and selling the words. Nice mix of word forming and math skills, plus money management. Biggest rewards are for longer words; you won't get anywhere trying to cash in on the short words that play such a role in Scrabble.

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11. Board Game: Typo [Average Rating:6.15 Overall Rank:3064]
Jonathan Kandell
United States
Tucson
Arizona
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The addition of this game is debatable. Technically it fits the criteria. But, the required verbal skills are so lame (can you add a letter to make the start of a word?) I'm reluctant to include it. The main "meat" of Typo is playing your "hand" to win the bidding at the appropriate times. This takes considerable skill, more like a card game. (It is basically 6Nimmt with letters.) But the word part is so shallow I add it with reservation. (This is a word game geeklist after all.)
 
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12. Board Game: WYPS [Average Rating:7.77 Unranked]
 
Jonathan Kandell
United States
Tucson
Arizona
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Haven't played it, but John Farrell's review makes it look to fit the bill. Game of Y adapted to words: Try to connect three sides, stealing opponent's letters for your own words turns them yours.
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13. Board Game: Keesdrow [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:4898]
Jonathan Kandell
United States
Tucson
Arizona
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Giant boggle with a timing element, since letters get more valuable if reused (green > yellow > red).
 
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14. Board Game: Montage [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:2609]
Jonathan Kandell
United States
Tucson
Arizona
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An odd game that almost no one owns but gets rave reviews. It does fit the criteria. Partners compete to claim areas of the board by giving clues to words with colored pieces. Each color represents a set of letters. Game involves not only skill in giving a clue that is not too easy not too hard, but also figuring out how to maximize board position.
 
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15. Board Game: Cold Spell [Average Rating:5.75 Unranked]
Jonathan Kandell
United States
Tucson
Arizona
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Icehouse variation of Boggle. Players compete to form the most valuable words with tiles gathered using the Icehouse pieces. Each turn you have a choice of moving an piece, claiming a letter tile, taking a tile, reneging a claim and moving a piece, forcing a claim on your opponent (by aiming a piece at a letter), or adding a new tile to the board. Letter values are multiplied by the value of the icehouse piece. Definitely a word game of skill!
 
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