Word games are often time consuming affairs—the kind of game where you either find an almost maniacal fascination with anagrams or where you must carry on an extended conversation with your fellow competitors as each player grinds through endless permutations of letters and point combinations. Don’t get me wrong. I love thoughtful word games but there are times when I want a full game to be over in the time it takes to finish one round of Scrabble.

Games like Boggle, Bananagrams, and Word on the Street are good examples of fast paced word games.

To this category of word game I wish to introduce the Major Fun Award winning game of Kerflip!

In many ways, Kerflip! is like a puckish and caffeinated child of Scrabble and Boggle. Players draw letter tiles from a bag and then simultaneously drop them on the game board. The players then look for words created by the letters. When you call out a word you can’t change your mind so you have to make sure it’s a good one. But you also have to be fast. The first players to call out words have a distinct advantage when it comes to scoring. If someone is taking too long, the game comes with a 15 second timer which may be deployed to speed things along.

It’s like a cattle prod in the shape of an hour-glass.

There are many quirky elements to scoring but a large part of it boils down to the tiles. The letter tiles are double-sided: one side is whit and the other side is orange. After players drop their tiles onto the game board they must flip any orange tiles to the white side. Once all players have called out their words, scoring starts with the fastest player. That speller scores 10 points per white tile and flips any tiles from his or her word to the orange side. The next player scores 5 points per orange tile and 10 per any white tile, flipping the white to orange as they are used.

This mechanic rewards speed AND word length. It also is a great way to apply pressure to the combatants. For the most part the players race each other. The timer is only needed for that last poor sucker who thinks he can calmly sift through all the letters for that killer word (er… he or she… it’s not like it ever happened to me…)

awardOrange tiles are removed from the game and any unused white tiles are returned to the bag. The game is over when the bag does not contain enough tiles for each player to draw.

Like I mentioned before there are other scoring rules that I won’t go into here. They are designed to keep the game fast paced and the score always in doubt because some points are kept concealed until the end of the game.

The game is beautifully designed, and the box is a lesson in game utility. The game board fits inside the box to easily contain the tiles. Clean-up is especially ingenious. Used orange tiles are pushed into two openings in the box. At the end of the game, you simply tilt the box up and the tiles slide into a waiting cup so you can simply pour them back into the bag.

It’s fast. It’s addictive. It’s elegant.

It’s Major Fun.

2-4 players. Ages 8+

Kerflip! was designed by Damon Tabb and is © 2012 by Creative Foundry Games. Provided by the good people at Game Salute.

Scrabble Flash

Scrabble Flash is an electronic word-making game. It’s a good word game. It’s fun, absorbing, challenging. There are three different games, and each has one variation. In the first game, you try to make as many words as possible in the given time (75 seconds – with an extra 5 seconds added to the clock for every 5-letter word solved). In the second game, you have to use all the tiles (4 or 5 depending on how many you start with) to make one word; and, as soon as you do, you get your next set of letters, and so on. In the last, you play competitively, passing the tiles to another player as soon as you have succeeded in spelling a word using all the tiles. That player must accomplish the goal in ever diminishing time. If the timer expires, you’re out for that round.

The variation: you can use 4 or 5 tiles. If you use 4 tiles in the first game, you can spell 2-, 3, or 4 letter words. In the other games, all the words have 4 letters. If you use all 5 tiles, words have to be 3, 4 or 5 letters, and the other games require your using all 5 tiles. Whether you elect to use 4 or all 5 tiles, the games are equally challenging and inviting.

Whenever you finish a game (the time has run out), the tiles inform you how many words you were able to complete, and how many words you could have completed if you only thought harder and moved the tiles faster. This is really all the information you need to keep your ego in check. As you might guess, the game uses the official Scrabble dictionary. As you might conclude, many of the words you’ll need to know are, well, shall we say “obscure”?

Major Fun AwardScrabble Flash is not just an electronic word-making game. You could download one of those to play on your iPod/pad/phone or computer. It’s the tiles, the 5, separate tiles, and the feel of them, and the challenge of moving them and lining them up as quickly as quick can be that makes Scrabble Flash as uniquely, and majorly fun as it turns out to be – no matter which variation you play, regardless of whether you’re playing by yourself or with friends or family.

If you’re over 10, it will take you a while to get over the sheer wonder of the technology you’re playing with. It’s truly amazing to discover how this thing works – how the tiles can function individually and collectively, how it “knows” how many letters you’re playing with, how the tiles communicate with each other. If you’re under 10, you’ll just enjoy playing the games, taking, as is your age-related privilege, the technology completely for granted.

You get 5 tiles and a storage case. The tiles are like Siftables – they are each battery-powered, they each have an LCD screen and a computer chip, and they “communicate” with each other via infrared transmitter/receivers housed in each tile. The batteries (watch-like), are included, bless them.

The whole package is so convenient, the little case so elegantly portable, the components so accountably few, that you’ll be taking the game with you pretty much everywhere. All of these factors also make it perfect for a library games collection, for a school library collection, for your own personal collection, to play at home, to play at restaurants, and, whenever possible, to flaunt shamelessly.

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