Theme and What is it?
Letter Jam is a cooperative deduction game that puts you and your teammates spelling/vocabulary skills to the test. It fits a very unique blend of mechanics in a game that will have you coming back for more.
Everyone is working together to make sure the end result is a solvable individual puzzle. The start of the game requires players to generate a final solution possibility for their neighbor and the end game is one giant meta puzzle based on all the previous ones. I have never seen another game quite like that.
Players set up stands with letters in front of them. For each of the 6 player count that is missing, a neutral “player” stand is constructed with a deck of supply cards. Letter Jam lets you see every letter out in a round of play except your own. When someone has a clue they think is good enough, that player uses numbered tokens to mark the order of the letters of their word. Players who have a letter in the word then record what information they have on a personal record sheet.
Clues will only have ? spaces for the players own letters and the potential for some *’s if the speller needed to use a wild letter card (which can only ever represent the same letter). This results in clues looking something like GR**?* or DAI?IE?. Word puzzles of this type are what you need to enjoy to want to play Letter Jam.
Deduction games have a wide variety in the gaming world. Competitive games where everyone has part of the information. One versus many. But there are very few cooperative deduction games where the puzzle isn’t provided directly by the game. Those games usually have very limited replay value and don’t adjust at all to the skills of the players.
Letter Jam is what you make it! If you want an easy experience, everyone can spell 4 letter words to seed the initial setup. If you want a more difficult play, you can up the word length to 6 or even 7. The number of rounds to give clues doesn’t change so the stakes on making really solid clues get higher and higher with the more you push the initial setup.
Game Build Quality
Letter Jam has relatively simple components but they are all top notch. The letter cards have raised embossing on the back pattern. It feels really nice in your fingers and shuffles really well.
The clue tokens are really cool looking arranged into flower patterns in setup. I really am not sure I understand the reason for the flower patterns but I do like that the game naturally encourages a nearly even amount of clue giving to clue solving between the players.
The coolest part about Letter Jam is that players go through a series of rounds moving onto the next letter in their pile each time they think they know their currently displayed one. After the clue tokens run out or everyone thinks they know all of their letters, players attempt to unjumble the letters they were given to spell a valid word.
They didn’t have to be sure of the word they spelled or even end up spelling what they thought it was, it just has to be valid. My favorite moment was in our very first game when a player went to spell the best thing he could think of with his letters, REDLIT. But he was surprised the final letter was a W instead of a T. He had unintentionally spelled REDLIW which from the other players on the other side of the table was WILDER. That counts as a success!
Age Range & Weight
8+ is completely fair. This would be a totally different game with a younger or mixed age audience. The need to make sure everyone knows the words being given as clues as well as have the ability to spell it is important. That said, this is going to be a game I attempt to draw my future children into as a teaching tool. I can see this being excellent way to reinforce school assignments and might even go so far as to stack the deck to ensure specific words are more likely to come up.
A great part about Letter Jam is how you can make the game be what you want. I have truly enjoyed playing it with some scrabble aficionados who spell words like aficionados during gameplay. It takes my personal skills to the very limit but doesn’t make me feel dumb in the process.
I love deduction games. Competitive ones often leave some players feeling outmatched from the very beginning or incentivize taking risky 50/50 guesses early enough that it doesn’t always feel rewarding. Cooperative ones usually involve some preconstructed story like a Sherlock mystery or an escape room game.
Those are wonderful but have extremely limited reply value or end up having issues with a few players always carrying the game. I want to solve my own puzzles not have someone tell me the answer seconds after glancing at it.
Letter Jam has become one of my top 2 cooperative deduction games within a week of owning it. It is perfect with a group that enjoys wordplay and vocabulary based games. My family are a perfect candidate for games like this. A quick nod of the hat to my other top cooperative deduction games, Shipwreck Arcana has been a huge hit as well but is more of a numerical manipulation game.
If you also enjoy deduction or even if you just like vocabulary/spelling games or even the final puzzle word scramble, go pick up Letter Jam right now! Nothing is quite like this experience. The emotions of a full table of people putting 8 or so clues together during the final word scramble and successfully getting each of us to a valid solution is incredibly satisfying. The individual puzzles would have sold me on the game. The meta puzzles have made me a lifelong player.