Amuse Amaze

Amuse Amaze is a word game that is not quite like any word game you’ve ever played. It’ll remind you maybe of Boggle, maybe of Scrabble, but it’s something else, entirely.

There’s a board. Actually, there are 18 boards which you assemble in different number and configuration, depending on how many people want to play (2-6). There are 88 plastic letter tiles in their own zip-lock, black baggie. Most of these tiles go onto the board in the empty blue squares. A few of these tiles go to each player, to be placed, oddly enough, face-up in front of the player. And there’s a cute little question-mark-shaped playing piece for each player.

Wait – I’m still explaining.

One board is called the “Start” board. You can tell which board this is because in the center of it, writ large, is the word “Start.” Taking a closer look at this board, you’ll also notice that there are blue squares (the squares that get seeded with letter tiles), there are squares with letters printed on them. One square is dark brown, with a white letter K in the center. And, here and there, are squares with hedges on them.

There are also gardener cards. You get one of them. And cards of different color that correspond to each of the Target boards, about which you currently know nothing.

That about sums it up. Now to the fun part.

Your goal is to move your piece from the Start square on the Start card to the Target Square on each of the Target boards. You can tell they’re Target boards because they include one or several letters in a different color – a color that matches those “cards of a different color” I told you about. You move your piece by making a word, letter-by-letter, from vertically, horizontally or diagonally adjacent squares (hence the Boggle-likeness). Now, as long as it is a real word, you really don’t care about what word you make – because you don’t get any points for making it. What you do get is a little closer to a Target square. O, sure, making a longer word is good, as is using one of the white letters, because this gives you an extra turn. But your verbal abilities don’t count nearly as much as getting to each of the Target squares. I have to say this a couple times, see, because that’s one of the things that makes this word game so very different.

As to all those letter tiles… If you use a letter tile in making a word, you get to pick it up. This is a good thing to do, because you can also lay letter tiles down as you go, placing them on top of whatever letter is printed on the board, hence making words where no words were there to be made.

Assembled, the whole board looks like a maze. There are even uncrossable maze-like hedges here and there, mostly where’d you least want them to be. You have a Gardener Card. Only one. And you can use that, only once, to cut through a hedge.

And, to further complicate things, other players are always getting in each other’s way, which can be strategically astute and significantly frustrating.

Yet, despite all these strange new things, the game is surprisingly easy to understand, and even more surprisingly challenging. It is strategically deep, and significantly fun. Major, one might say, FUN.

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