Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
1. Introduction

I received this game relatively recently as a review copy. Since then my wife and I have played a number of times, and she has also taken it to a game group which is unfortunately scheduled while I'm normally at work. While my wife is more of a fan of word games than I am, we do both like them. More important to mention perhaps is that I have an undergraduate degree in philology, my wife in linguistics. In other words, we both do pretty well at this kind of game. Naturally, this game got played straightaway.

Speaking just for myself in this review, I genuinely like the game but I don't see it having staying power. Likely it will get played sporadically in future. Yet if asked, I would probably recommend buying this game if it becomes available, though perhaps I'd not recommend going out of one's way to get it.

On the one hand, the game like most word-games engages the brain. A person playing this game will have to think and will need a decent vocabulary. On the other hand, the game does not require deep thought. A person can play this game with a ten year old or with an English professor. In either case, this game should prove an enjoyable experience.

1. Components and rules overview

Rules are available at the games website, but I'll give just enough of an overview as needed to understand this review.

The components are simple-- a set of cards marked with a word and a point value. The cards have a definite orientation so that combinations have a definite ordering.

and rules printed on three cards (of which the gallery has no picture currently), as well as a reference card:

I'll not spell out all the rules, but the essence of the game is as follows: players have seven cards in their hand and can play on a turn as many as they are able. Cards are played in two card combinations vertically or horizontally with the cards played face up on the table like points on a rectangular grid. Two cards read left to right or up to down should form either a compound word or a standard phrase. Players are left to decide for themselves what specifically this means and what restrictions apply. Except for the play of the first player in the first round, players must build off of cards already played. At the end of the turn, the hand of seven cards is refreshed from the draw pile until the deck is exhausted. Players agree beforehand whether to end the game when the deck is exhausted or to continue from that point until one player has played all cards. In each turn, a player tallies up points for all combinations played.

3. Gameplay and suggestions for improvement

The game is light and quick. My wife and I averaged about 5 or 6 cards played a turn, even when limiting combinations to combinations which either had their own entries in a dictionary or were listed as standard phrases under a head word. As such blocking was virtually non-existent in the game. The points which might be denied the other player were small comparatively, and none of the cards were too difficult to match-- especially once one got to know well what cards were in the deck. One does have to be creative and think of the order in which to play cards so that one can build off of cards one plays with other cards.

Obviously the scoring is not difficult but adding up lots of little points which can be spread out over the area of play can easily lead to overlooking combinations played. This caveat need not be a major fault but one does have to be careful sometimes.

The game seems well suited to playing with language learners or young children to develop language aptitude in a fun and light manner, but I don't find that the game rewards repeated play. The game seems to develop a sameness when all combinations accepted by the set of players become known and almost I feel that the burst of creativity from the first playing of the game gets lost in rote combinations. Hence I do not think the game has staying power as written.

Yet at the same time, the game feels like there should be more to it than this. Playing the game, one feels a deeper game begging to get out. As a reviewer rather than a game designer, I do not propose the following necessarily as an fully developed alternate form of the game, but I do think it illustrates potential.

1. The deck is shuffled, then one card played face up in the middle of the play area. The remaining cards are dealt out evenly to the players with any extra cards left over set aside and not looked at.
2. The game consists of ten rounds exactly with each player playing one and only one card per turn. Therefore, a player will have cards left over at the end of the game.
3. Standardization of acceptable combinations would be a decided improvement; perhaps it should be based on a particular dictionary and published on the game's website as a downloadable pdf file.

In short, 'm glad I was sent this game because I see it coming out of the cabinet once in awhile for years to come, especially as my daughter gets older or as people in the family who like quick word games come to visit. This game is by no means a bad game; I'd even call it a good game. It's just not a great game. Perhaps with some work it could become one.
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