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Subject: Unspeakable Words - a review rss

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Will Watts
United States
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“Unspeakable Words” is the Call of Cthulhu word game.

In the game each person is a researcher discovering “words man was not meant to spell.” The game play fits the theme quite well as everybody is trying to make points by spelling words before they go insane. With every word you spell there’s a chance to slid closer to total insanity.

Components – The game components consist of 96 letter cards, one twenty-sided die and 30 plastic Cthulhu figurines. To play you will also need a pencil and paper to keep track of words played and the score. The cards are of decent quality and should stand up to many games. The artwork on the cards is humorous without being cartoonish and is like a child’s alphabet guide to Cthulhu. (A is for Azathoth, B is for Byakee, C is for Cthulhu, etc.) The Cthulhu figures, which are used to keep track of your level of insanity, are plastic and cute in a Cthulhu-like way. The die is a standard plastic die. Everything fits neatly back in the sturdy box it comes in.

Game play – The object of the game is to use the letter cards to spell words for points and try not to go completely insane. You can win one of two ways. Be the first person to get to 100 points, without going insane or be the only person left who hasn’t gone completely insane.
You set up the game by giving each person five Cthulhu figures and seven cards. The rest of the cards are placed in the center and are used to draw from. You play by using the letters in your hand to form a common word (no proper nouns, abbreviations or acronyms) of three or more letters. You add up the point value on the cards to get the value of the word. You then do a sanity check by rolling the twenty-sided die. You must roll the point value of the word or higher to keep from going insane. If you roll lower than the value of your word you lose one of your Cthulhu figures. If you lose all your Cthulhu figures you have gone completely and irreversibly insane and you have lost the game. After playing your word and making your sanity check you draw from the stock to bring your hand back up to seven cards. Also the word you played must be recorded because words may not be used twice in the same game. Instead of playing a word on your turn you may discard your entire hand and draw seven new cards. You score no points this way but you also take no chance on losing your sanity.
As part of the theme the point numbers on the cards represent the number of angles the letter contains. This represents a possible attack potential by the Hounds of Tindalos, demon dogs that enter through the corners of your room to devour your mind. This interesting thematic element means that C’s and O’s are worth nothing while Z’s are worth two points and H’s and E’s are worth four points. This is the reverse of many word games where the harder to use letters are worth more points. But that’s okay in this game since at no time does an inability to use a letter count against you. Actually the spelling of obscure words has no great tactical advantage in this game so you don’t need a killer vocabulary to play, although it doesn’t hurt either. The tactical decisions in this game are more on when to risk your sanity and just how much risk you want to take depending on the standings of the other players.
There are four optional rules that add interesting twists to the game. My favorite is “The Unspeakable Oath.” This rule allows a player who is down to their last Cthulhu pawn, and therefore just barely holding on to their sanity, to use anything as a word, even nonsense, as long as they make their sanity check. I like the idea of being so crazy that you’re just spouting nonsense. The other rules allow players to regain sanity under certain conditions, forces players to use certain words or gives the other players one last round against an opponent who has just reached 100 points.

Fun for who? – I like this game a lot. It’s a light, fast paced, word game that you don’t need to be a word expert to be competitive. While there is no direct player interaction there is definitely pressure between the players in the balance between their relative positions on points versus sanity. There is a luck factor in the deal of the cards and the throw of the die but you try to off set this by playing the odds and knowing when to play conservatively and when to go for broke. Even though it’s only set up for six people it has a party game type of feel to it

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