Bryan Jensen
United States
Layton
Utah
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Appletters is among the second wave of "fruit bowl" word games after the successful release of Bananagrams in 2006. Like its predecessor it comes in a visually appealing cloth package albeit with apple-red-colored letter tiles of a slightly larger and thicker variety that must be packed tightly (perhaps too tightly) when zippered closed. (I recommend keeping the letters in the inner Ziploc-style bag they come in to avoid the letters falling all over when trying to pack and unpack the bag.)

Game Play
An Appletters round plays about as fast as a Bananagrams round (10 minutes or so) but doesn't feel as fast because the energetic "multi-player solitaire" aspect of the latter is gone. Instead game play results in a single "worm" that snakes its way from either end across the table as it is built; Each player on their turn builds a word onto either end of the central worm from among their available tiles, merely trying to empty their hand first. Words earn no value other than being letter tiles that have been played out from one's hand. Only if one can't play does one draw more tiles. The rules don't forbid drawing tiles, however, if one chooses not to play a word on one's turn.

The domino-like restriction that the beginning or ending letter of one's word to play must build on the last letter on either end of the "word worm" is a fresher mechanism in the world of word games that usually follow the Scrabble-type crossword conventions. I wouldn't say it is a more challenging or cerebral game than Bananagrams, but certainly more friendly to inter-game table talk. Like its sister games Appletters loses the tile scoring mechanism that can bog down play and table conversation when compared to a game like Scrabble. In exchange there is less a sense of win satisfaction compared to Scrabble.

We never had a round that extinguished all 110 tiles in the supply. (Bananagrams has 144 tiles for comparison.) The Appletters tile supply amount and letter balance felt well considered.

Who will like Appletters?
This game is great for playing with persons who might gravitate to more light and mentally relaxing beer-and-pretzels games like Mexican Train, Uno, Phase 10, Quiddler, etc. Plus, there is more substance here with Appletters (and Bananagrams) that also makes it a decent choice as a filler game salted among more substantial and stimulating Euro games. And, we found it had great appeal as a family game, perhaps slightly more accessible to children because the pace, compared to Bananagrams, is slowed down (though still much faster than Scrabble). The compact size and portability, light but real substance, appealing packaging and low cost ($15-20) makes Appletters a great choice for a wide variety of people who will play board games. Bananagrams is still the best and most addicting of the "fruit bowl" word games family, but Appletters is a great choice for variety if the former game appeals to someone. It might not make players out of haters of word games, but certainly will appeal to those who don't like the general quietness and slow pace of Scrabble.

Appletters rules also do not explicitly forbid proper nouns like most word games (including Bananagrams). Whether an oversight of the game publisher or intention we did forbid strange or unusual spellings of given names, but allowed names of places and other well-established spellings of proper nouns. I'm guessing this is not an oversight as it allows more word creation potential given the limitation of the worm-building "train" mechanism.

Limitations
The newest fruit bowl games Appletters and Pairs in Pears have not become as available yet in brick-n-mortar places as Bananagrams. We ordered them from an online bookstore. As a result they cost a little more than Bananagrams purchased from a mainstream chain store. (But even at our cost -- $18 + s&h -- we feel Appletters is a great value.)

The letter tiles are still quite small compared to a domino, so domino racks are a nice accessory to use. Appletters tiles do stand on edge just fine due to their greater thickness, but it's still easy to tip them over when arranging words in one's hand due to the smaller size. And another limitation to the smaller tiles is that we noticed that players would crane their necks a little to look down and read tiles while arranging them. Domino racks solved all of these problems.

The game includes no hard and fast rules for scoring, which might be a turn off to game players who want the clear structure of recognizing more able winners. The rules do suggest playing several rounds and tallying who has won the most rounds, but makes no suggestion for valuing the performance of any given round. We considered remedying this by granting the sum of all opponents' tiles as a score to a round's winner. Conversely, say, starting everyone at a score of 50 and then subtracting individual remainder tiles against an individual player's running total could also accomplish this. Nevertheless none of these solutions recognize the value of a long or especially challenging word the way Scrabble does so a Scrabble fan needs to go into a game of Appletters expecting this kind of pay off is absent. In the end we'll probably continue to score this like we do for Bananagrams: We'll just have a good time playing till someone has won three rounds.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jason Lott
United States
Cheverly
Maryland
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Good review - thanks! I was wondering how these new fruits would stack up.

FWIW, I did see Appletters being sold at one of our local Barnes & Noble stores, so they are starting to make it into stores.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.