Before I get into my review, a quick question. What do the following words have in common?
qi, za, xu, ki, jo
The answer? Two things. First, they are all two-letter words that are almost never used in normal discourse, and second, they are all extremely high scoring Scrabble words. Most people that have played a decent amount of Scrabble (or its online counterpart, Words with Friends) have them memorized. But memorizing short nonsense words does not make for an interesting, rewarding word game. Enter Wordsy.
Wordsy is a word game from Gil Hova and his Formal Ferret Games publishing company. The game, a streamlined re-imagining of Gil's earlier word game, Prolix, plays one to six wordsmiths in about twenty minutes. Where Prolix looked like a generic 90s party game from the shelves of a big box retailer, Wordsy's graphic design is thoughtful, with the box resembling a bound book, and shows a love for the written word.
In Wordsy, a series of eight letter cards are laid out in two rows, from a deck of cards containing only consonants. The letters in the first column are worth five points if you use them in your word, the next column worth four, then three and two. Trickier letters like Z and K give you a two or one point bonus for working them in. Players are also allowed to use any other letters -- both vowels and consonants -- they want. Not limiting players to only what is available on the board creates opportunities for longer, more inventive words -- and rewards them with higher scores. It also levels the playing field by having every player use the same letters each turn, solving another Scrabble frustration of drawing seven tiles only to find A A I I N T U.
Another interesting element is the simultaneous, real-time play. There is no set time for finding words, but there is a sand timer sitting in the middle of the table, waiting to be flipped. Whoever writes their word first has the potential for higher bonuses, and their opponents only have 30 seconds left from that time to find words of their own.
The game plays over seven rounds, with each player scoring their highest five words, as well as any bonuses for speed and/or having the highest scoring word any round. Plays will be wildly different depending on the letters laid out, as well as the play styles of those involved.
I have been involved in games where all the players were hyper focused on scoring giant words, and all took their time, neglecting the timer, and games with players that were aggressive about finding a decent -- but not great -- word quickly, and making everyone else scramble to get a word written down before time ran out.
Pros: As I mentioned at length above, Wordsy solves a lot of irritations many have with Scrabble and similar word games. Additionally, it comes in a small box and is very easy to teach and learn, making it friendly for families and easy to break out at smaller parties. The game plays quickly, and scales well to both ends of its player count. The solo mode is worth playing and does not feel like afterthought, tacked-on variant. The timer prevents any unwanted analysis paralysis.
Cons: Literacy and language barriers can be an issue, as with any word game. The end of the game requires some arithmetic, which is not always the strong suit of word aficionados. This is not a medium-weight Euro follow-up to Gil's last hit game, The Networks.
Overall, it's an excellent word game. With its small footprint, easy-to-learn rules, quick playtime, and entertaining gameplay, Wordsy will earn a space in many collections, from families to discerning gamers. Highly recommended.
Full disclosure: I received a preview copy of Wordsy from the publisher, but have no financial interest in the Kickstarter they are running for the game.
See more of my board gaming thoughts on my blog, The Cardboard Hoard, and my GenCon 2015 travelogue.