Who’d think that a spelling game could be interesting enough, fun enough, exciting enough, to make into a party? Well, Matt and Derry, two, young, entrepreneuring game designers, certainly did. Enough to build a whole game company around. And, after playing it for five minutes, I was as convinced as they were.

Coodju is the kind of game the Major FUN Award was invented for. It’s innovative, unique, easy to learn, fast, challenging, funny fun – and it’s all done with spelling! You (at least 4 of you over-twelve-years-old types) play more or less in teams. Your partner has a card with five words on it. She reads them to you one-at-a-time. All you have to do to win the card is spell the words correctly. Of course, depending on the roll of the die, you might have to spell the words backwards, or inside out, or spell every other letter, or only the vowels or consonants. And depending on the roll of the other die, you might have twice as much time, or get twice or three times as many points, or take away points from the other guys.

You can almost feel those braincells burning as you try to spell a word “outside-in.” P-Y-A-T-R is obviously PARTY. But what, one might ask, is H-S-A-S-P-E-P-N-I?

We liked everything about this game. We liked the challenge. We liked the scoring. We liked the dice. We liked the portable, two-compartment card tray that made it so easy for the Reader to keep track of which cards have been used. We liked the box that had the rules printed right on it. We didn’t especially like the scoring pad or sand timer. We appreciated having them. And what, after all, is especially to like about scoring pads and sand timers?

And we especially liked knowing that there was a Coodju Lite – a different package with words that seven-year-olds could spell, a spinner instead of dice, and no scorepad. Coodju Lite is an elegant adaptation of Coodju, reduced in complexity to appeal to the age-impaired, but not reduced in play value. In fact, we found that because the cards in Coodju lite were a different color, we could combine games so the whole family could play together. The designers even included a cloth bag, knowing that kids would cherish the game enough to want to take it everywhere.

As to the “we” – last Sunday’s Game Tasting group included myself, my wife, Rocky; the amazing Ivory (a beloved, game-addicted regular), and the co-inventorsm them-very-selves. It just so happened that they lived a couple beaches north of us, and, despite my misgivings about undue influence, they turned out to be wonderful, fun people, who appreciated games as much as we did, and we delighted in their delight as much as ours. It was a rare opportunity, and fortunate in deed that they had such genuinely BERNIE-worthy games to share with us.

That inside-out word, for those of you who are still seeking: HAPPINESS.

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