Theme and What is It?
Wordsy is a game of longer words. How many of the letters can you use to maximize your scores? How wordsy can you be?
Wordsy is a word-building game from designer Gil Hova and Formal Ferret Games. Over the course of seven rounds, one to six players will try to create words using letters from the tableau. In each round, there will be eight letters in five columns of two, with a bottom row of point cards in descending order indicating that the two cards above each point card are worth 5, 4, 3, and 2 points respectively. Some rare letters afford the players bonus points for their inclusion in a word. Regarding the grid of letters, there are two rules of two: there can never be more than two rare letters face-up on the board and there can never be more than two of the same letter on the board. In the event that placing a card would violate either rule, discard it and draw a replacement.
Each round, players will simultaneously study the board and think of a single word that would score as many points as possible. You can not look at words that other players are currently writing. Unlike other word games, players are neither limited by nor restricted to the letters appearing in the tableau. The letters can be used in any order. You can not use proper nouns, contractions, or hyphenated words and you also can not re-use or modify previously played words. The first player to complete their word on the scoresheet will grab the sand timer and flip onto their scoresheet. You may not change your word after grabbing the timer and you must have completed your word before grabbing the timer. The other players now have 30 seconds to complete their words. Players are allowed to finish writing a word after time expires.
Words are scored by adding up the points of every letter used in the word and there is no penalty for using letters not on the board. Letters may only score up to the number of times that letter is present in the board, so using a double-letter in your word your when only one card of that letter on the board will only score once. Similarly, if there are two of the same letter cards on the board, and your word uses that letter only once, you only score one of the cards, in this case score the higher value. If there are two of the same letter card on the board and you use that letter twice, you score both cards.
The fastest player scores their word first before checking other words clockwise around the table. If you think someone used a made up word, you may challenge. Following a challenge, an agreed-upon reference is consulted. If the challenge is successful, the word in question receives zero points, while unsuccessful challenges will lose you two points from your final score. If your word scores higher than the fastest player, check the first bonus box for that round. If the fastest player’s word scores higher than all of their opponents in a 2-, 3-, or 4-player game (or higher than three of their opponents in a 5- or 6-player game) then they check the second bonus box. The bonus boxes will add to a player’s final score. After scoring, the round ends. The fastest player receives the No-Flip card, as they cannot take the timer two rounds in a row, and the four rightmost letter cards, those in the columns worth 3 and 2 points, are discarded. The remaining cards slide to the right and four new cards are added to the board.
After the seventh round, players proceed to final scoring. For final scoring, the players will first cross out their two lowest scores, but not any associated bonuses. Players then add the totals of their five remaining words and deduct any penalties from failed challenges. The player with the highest score wins. There is also a mode for solo play wherein players can race the sand timer as they try to make high scoring words, trying to achieve a specific final score and with penalties for the sand timer running out during play, as well as a few variant options for gameplay.
Historically, I am not a huge fan of traditional word games, but the mechanism of not being limited to or restricted by the letters present on the board had me interested. I am also a big fan of the designer’s previous work and had had a chance to playtest Wordsy at an earlier GenCon
Game Build Quality
Wordsy comes with 60 letter cards consisting of 44 common letters and 16 rare letters, four column cards, one no-flip/solo card, score sheets, one 30-second sand timer, six pencils, and the rulebook. The cards are small form factor cards and are thick enough to last through countless plays. The pad of score sheets will last for many, many games and my appreciation for the inclusion of pencils cannot be overstated.
The artistic direction in Wordsy is simple, easy to read cards in bold font, with a nice background and a fancy top hat on the card backs.
Difficulty and Age Range Suggestion
Wordsy suggests ages 10 and up on the box and I think that is a good starting point given the nature of the game. Being able to create words that make use of the letters on the board requires good spelling skills and is certainly aided by a robust vocabulary. However, either through using the no time limit variant or simply by using it more as an activity than a proper game, it could certainly work for younger players.
Wordsy is a great game and a wonderful mental exercise all at the same time. It offers the brain crunch of searching your vocabulary, but frees you from the common restraints of using only the letters presented. This simple change to the traditional word game formula makes all the difference. Sometimes, people will still see similar words or build off the same root word, but other times you will be surprised by your fellow players’ creativity. The sand timer gives just enough push to be quick and exciting as you race to rifle through your brain, but Wordsy can just as easily be played without the timer. If you enjoy word games, then Wordsy is a must-have, however, even those who might have eschewed more traditional word games should give Wordsy a try. The designer even has a Twitter bot that runs games of Wordsy daily (@Wordsybot) so if you are on Twitter, go ahead and give it a shot. Wordsy should find a place in most game libraries.