Palabra is a word game that is easily as deep as Scrabble®, more competitive, more challenging, and yet requires only a deck of cards. 120 cards, actually. Cards with letters on them. And colors. And some even with special symbols. And some more special than that.

It’s not just a word game. It’s also rummy-like. So, if you really can’t find a word, but if it just so happens that you can make a “straight” with, say, the letters J, K, and L, well, go for it. Since a J is worth 9 points and a K 6 and an L 2, you got 17 points right there. And if they are all the same color, you’d double your score. And if some of the cards have stars on them, you might double or triple the score again!

The competitive part, and I mean, really competitive, comes with the “shaving” rule. On your turn, if you have cards that match those the person before you just played, you can use them to take points off his score and add them to yours. Kind of a delicious moment in the annals of legally mean things to do in the name of fun.

I know. It sounds just too complex to be fun. So many other things to think about that it could take away the joys of word-making. And yet, it turns out at least as interesting for the word game lover as Scrabble, with all the fun of a really good card game.

The deck has been recently refreshed – the cards are a bit thicker and the color key on the side of the cards has a different shape for each color – a great help for people who have difficulty telling colors apart. If you have the old set, it’s still worth getting a newer version, because with 2 decks (yes, 240 cards!) you can play with up to 12 people.

Major FUN? You bet! Hmmm. Betting. As one might do in poker. Hmmmmm. And hmmmm again. Given the 28 variations currently described on the remarkably thorough and generous Palabra website (which includes resources like the inestimably valuable 2- and 3-letter word list, vowelless words, and Q-words not followed by a U), given, in particular, variations 13 (called “All Poker”) and 24 (“Texas Hold ’em), poker, most definitely. And there’s, for further example, a more Scrabble-like crosswords (variation 12), of course. And, should you enjoy playing with yourself, so to speak, a significantly amusing solitaire (variation 21), even.

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