A lot of the joy and fascination I experience from word games is a result of the inefficiency of the English language. So many spelling rules and irregular forms make for slippery, variable game play. The rules of the game can be simple and elegant because the sloppy kiss of language that we have received from our mother tongue (don’t think about that image too much) provides us with all the complication one could hope for in a life time.
Up for Grabs is a great example of how a game provides just enough structure to let us really play with our untidy language PLUS you get to mess with your opponents! What’s not to like?
As promised, the premise is simple. 100 letter tiles are face down. Players take turns flipping them over until someone spots a word. First person to shout out the word collects the tiles and players resume flipping over the tiles. But don’t get comfortable! Your words aren’t safe. Someone may steal one of your words if a new letter allows them to make a new word. For example, if you made the word “COT” and an L is revealed, I could call out “COLT” or “CLOT” and thus steal your word. The letters can be completely rearranged so if you have “PROD” and an O is revealed I could make “DROOP” thus proving myself the better lexicologist and a dirty rotten thief (or words to that effect, it was hard to keep track of all the epithets thrown my way during the course of the game.)
Players can also combine entire words into a new word. If you have “TART” and your neighbor has “SLED” I can combine them into “STARTLED” earning me several new and NSFW nicknames in the process.
It’s a busy, tricky, lively game. Especially if, like me, you are a sniveling word rat.
High marks to MindWare for design and packaging. This is a big game in a small box. The hexagonal box is small and efficient. The rules fit on a thin, tri-fold booklet with plenty of good examples. The tiles are small but colorful. My only gripe concerned the letters N, Z, W, and M because there was no under-line to indicate orientation. It was a drag to pause play while we figured out if I could use the letter to steal someone’s word. It slowed down how quickly I could be called something unrepeatable in mixed company.
I really like stealing words. Major fun.
Up for Grabs is © 2009 MindWare Holdings, Inc. under license from Excel Development Group, Inc.
Will Bain, Games Taster