BuyWord » Reviews » A Modern Classic

Author: Friendless
BuyWord, designed by the legendary Sid Sackson, is destined to become a modern classic. It is easily played by anyone who can read, but rewards skill, and doesn't have many of the (alleged) problems of other word games.

The design is as simple as you could imagine. Most of the components are the 108 letter tiles - with about the same letter distribution as Scrabble - and 9 WILD tiles. There's also a deck of money, like Monopoly, and a six-sided die. The sides of the die say 2, 3, 4, 5, CHOICE and CHOICE.

At the beginning of the game, each player receives $200 and a small number of WILD tiles. Players then take turns rolling the die. If the die shows CHOICE, the rolling player chooses a number from one of the other sides, i.e. 2, 3, 4 or 5. Each player then draws that many tiles. Each player may then purchase those tiles.

The pricing mechanism is the genius of the game. Each tile has a number of dots on it, from 1 to 4. The price for a set of tiles is the total number of dots on the tiles, squared. So, to buy DES will cost $16, and to buy MBL will cost $64.

After all players purchase tiles, or not, players then have the choice to make words and sell them. A player may not keep more than 8 letter tiles at the end of his turn, so if you're in that situation you might as well sell a word. The price received for a word is calculated by the same formula as above - the square of the number of dots. Players may use at most one WILD in a word.

Of course, the objective is to sell letters for more than you paid for them. A single dot letter added to a word of length N is worth $(2N+1), i.e. each additional dot in a word is worth more. Hence, it's always better to make longer words. Thus BuyWord avoids at least one of the common criticisms made of Scrabble - knowledge of small, obscure words doesn't help. Everybody's happy if you score by making long words!

The anguish in the game comes when you draw some combination like WJYEA - which you can buy for $144. That's a high price! Do you think you can make that much back with those letters? Of course it depends what other letters you've got, or will get in the future. You need to assess the risk and make the call.

There's not a lot of player interaction in BuyWord, unless you help each other to find words. However whenever I roll CHOICE I choose a number so that my opponent is forced to make a word (because she has more than 8 letters) from the fewest number of tiles (preferably 9). Otherwise, the player interaction is mostly confined to complaining about the letters you just drew from the bag. That can be fun, in its own way.

With its combination of simple rules and simple goal, short play time (about 30 minutes), and the thrill of making long words, BuyWord scratches many of the itches word-gamers seek to satisfy. Nobody would have guessed in 1948 that Scrabble would become the industry it is today - maybe in 60 years we'll be saying the same thing of BuyWord.
Wed Dec 24, 2008 12:04 pm
Author: Innocent Bystander
I have to agree with you John, I think this is a modern classic in the making.
Wed Dec 24, 2008 10:25 pm
Author: Scrabblette
This is one of my favorites along with Scrabble for which I do not always have enough time and Unspeakable Words that is a lot of fun but much too easy. BuyWord has the right mix of word fun and challenge along with a manageable play time, especially when you are like me, and need all the time you can get to procrastinate on your doctoral thesis.
Thu Dec 25, 2008 12:29 pm