Spell it!

Award-winning word game for parties, familiesYou throw the five letter dice into the conveniently felt-lined dice-throwing area. The letters appear: U S R S R. Though you only need to use three letters, you come up with the awe-worthy “RHINOCEROUS” – which uses all 5 cubes (scoring bragging rights) and earns you the 10+ chip. Yes, it would have been even better had this been the second or so turn, and you had exactly that roll and the category had been “wildlife.” But that, clearly, is neither here, nor there.

You collect your chip. Turn it over. And reveal the “Home Sweet Home” category, which entitles you and your fellow players to “any word related to things you can do or find in your home.” Can do or find. A bit generous for your typical Home Sweet Home category. But all the more welcome, eh? You toss the dice. The letters appear: P R R F U. And the race is on.

“REFRIGERATOR” you say? Good enough. More than good enough, even though you didn’t use all five letter cubes, as its 12 delightful letters earn you the right to pick up that most valuable of all 10+ chip, and to be the category-giver and the dice-tosser for the next round.

And so it tensely goes, players displaying verbal uncanniness, gathering chips, chip-after-chip-after-chip, until all the chips are used, or some pre-arranged score is reached or until you all can’t wait any longer to decide who the winner really is.

winning the word, family, kids, party game awardAnd no, you don’t get any extra points for using all the cubes. And yes, you can make it the rule that some people have to use more cubes than others, like, for example, because they’re younger, or because they keep on winning. But no, all you really have to use is any three cubes. And further no, it doesn’t matter if your word is longer than someone else’s if that particular someone else has already declared her particular word.

You can run out of a certain kind of chip. In that case, the winning player can take any chip. This adds a strategic wrinkle, if you’re interested in wrinkled strategies. If you can exhaust even the lowest scoring, four-letter-word chips, all the four letter words you come up with after that can earn you the 10+ chip, or whatever highest value chip remains. What this means is that, given the circumstances, proving your personal brilliance might not be the smartest move. Ah, so much like life, eh?

In addition to the dice there are seven stacks of chips, each stack worth from 4 to 10 points (indicating how many letters the winning word must have), each chip showing the score value on one side, and the category on the other. There’s one “Create a Theme” category which adds the opportunity for much interpersonal introspection and the opportunity to play compassionately or competitively depending on your whim and/or wisdom.

There are several other ways, in addition to  your clever use of the “make a theme” category,  you can fine tune the game to match the needs and interests of the players. As described, you can increase the challenge by making it the rule that everyone, or just the winning player, has to use more cubes in their word. In like manner, you can decrease the challenge. You can be more lenient in your definition of what meets a particular category (OK, you can use fictional characters in solving the Famous People category), or you can be more, shall we say, literal (only Russian authors). You can make the game shorter (by playing for a specific score or number of chips) or longer (playing for two or more rounds). This kind of flexibility significantly increases your chance to have a good game with almost anyone. And yes, you can play in teams.

Spell it!, from Blue Orange Games, was designed by Thierry Denoual, who also designed, among many other games, the Major Fun award-winning Yamslam, which also uses a similarly ingeniously designed, self-contained tin container to house dice, felt-covered dice throwing area, and seven stacks of chips, and yet, even more ingeniously, turns out to be an equally award-worthy, yet completely different game, entirely.

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