Designer: Steve Smith
Publisher: Intellinitiative Game Company
Number of Players: 2 - 4 Teams
Review by: Greg J. Schloesser
NOTE: This review was first published in Knucklebones magazine
Sometimes it seems as though there are as many word games on the market as there are words in the dictionary. I realize that this is a gross over-statement, but there is no denying that there is an abundance of games whose central concentration is on words. One of the latest in this series of games is the award winning Word Sweep from Intelliniative Game Company.
Developed in conjunction with famous dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster, Word Sweep challenges players to correctly identify three words based on their definitions. Making this task considerably easier is that these words appear consecutively in the dictionary. Points are scored based on the difficulty of the category selected and how many words were correctly identified.
The game can be played individually or in teams, which makes it suitable for larger gatherings. While the game contains an oversized and largely superfluous board, the cards are at the center of the action. Cards are divided into three categories of increasing difficulty: everyday, intermediate, and challenging. Each turn, a player or team selects a category, and the player seated to his right (known as the "card reader") selects a card from the chosen deck and reads aloud the letter and three definitions listed. The active player or team announces their three guesses as to the identity of the words. The card reader states how many answers are correct, but does not yet reveal the actual words. The team moves their pawn forward a number of spaces equal to the number of words correctly identified, with additional spaces being earned if all three words were correctly identified when using a card from one of the two more difficult categories. If all three words are correctly identified, a "word sweep" is achieved, and the team must select a card from a higher category on their following turn.
If a team fails to correctly identify one or more of the words, each opposing team in the order of play has the opportunity to "steal" the missed words. For each word successfully identified, that team moves forward one space on the board. However, if they incorrectly guess a word, they must move backwards one space. So, there is risk involved, and players must be reasonably certain of a word’s identity before venturing a guess.
If a team is completely stumped by a card, they may instead roll the custom die. If a ‘1’ or ‘2’ is achieved, the team moves forward that number of spaces without having to guess any words. If a zero is rolled, opposing teams may attempt to steal any of the three unanswered words as described above. While rolling the die is always an option, consistently choosing this path does defeat the point of the game. Thus, it should only be used as a last resort.
The game continues until one team traverses the board’s twenty spaces and reaches the end of the track, achieving victory. This only takes about 30 minutes, so the game does not overstay its welcome.
The words seem to be well divided into the three different categories. Everyday words tend to be easy to identify, while those falling into the challenging category can be quite difficult. I find the game is best when played in teams, particularly if the teams are arranged to insure relative equality. Played individually, a word expert can easily dominate play, while those less skilled in word identification can be left feeling they are on the short end of the intelligence scale.
Fans of words will thoroughly enjoy the challenge provided by correctly identifying words from their definitions. On the other hand, those who tend to shy away from word games won’t find much enticing here. Word Sweep is not one of those laugh-out-loud or physically active party games that liven a party. Rather, it is clearly more suitable for more cerebral gatherings.