Taboo

4 - 5

Number of Players: 4 – 10

Year of Publication: 1989

Creator(s): Brian Hersch (designer), René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo (artists)

NO. FLAILING COUNTS AS CHEATING.

Taboo is an absolutely hilarious game, even more so when you play with people you know really well. It’s only kind of a quiz game, in that it’s not actually about how much stuff you know, it’s about your ability to describe.

What’s In The Box:

The Stuff.
The Stuff.
  1. 1 Rulebook
  2. 1 Taboo Easel
  3. 1 Really Annoying “Nuh-Uh” Button
  4. 1 Score Pad
  5. 2 Reversible Word Decks
  6. 1 Timer
  7. 1 Pencil
  8. 1 Die

Playing The Game:

Objective: To get more points than your opponent by accurately describing more words to your team.

This game’s pretty simple, essentially you just divide up into teams, and then take it in turns to do some describing. You choose one player from your team to describe, and one to guess. The describer then places one card up on the easel, like this:

This is how you put the cards you're describing.
This is how you put the cards you’re describing.

As you can see, there are four colours on each card, which is great, is allows you to play four different games, and the colours have different kinds of words on them. We were playing to describe the green words, so the deck is placed accordingly face-down inside the easel and only one card at a time is revealed. Once the top card is turned up it’s the job of the describer to describe the word in such a way that their partner can guess it. BUT, they aren’t allowed to say the word on the card, or any of the words underneath it. These are “Taboo” words, and saying any of these causes you to give away a point to your opponents, as does passing because of the difficulty of a word to describe. They’re also not allowed to say the letter that the word begins with, or make explicit gestures.

Whilst you’re doing this you sit with one of the players from the other team; they’re given the annoying “Nuh-Uh” button and if you say anything you shouldn’t, they hit it so everyone knows you’ve made a mistake. For every word your partner guesses correctly, you get one point. Every time you finish a word, either because it’s been correctly guessed, passed or you said a Taboo word, you then flip up another card, trying to get through as many as possible per turn. The timer is used to regulate turns, each team is only allowed to turn it over once per turn and when it runs out your turn is over.

There is a second, slightly different version of this game, wherein the die is used. The only difference this makes is that at the start of each turn the describer has to roll the die, and then slightly different conditions apply. For instance, this side of the die means that the player describing must sit still like a statue:

Sit on your hands! (I also appreciate that the quality of this photo is terrible - Dave's away so these photos were done on my phone)
Sit on your hands! (I also appreciate that the quality of this photo is terrible – Dave’s away so these photos were done on my phone)

The die does make the game slightly more interesting, but can be frustrating if you continually forget to roll or only get that face showing…

 

Winning The Game:

Points are scored how I said above, players pre-determine how many rounds or sections of the deck are going to be played before play starts. Once that number of cards has run out, the game is over, and the winner is the team left with the most points!

 Strategy:

I can’t really figure one for this game, don’t waste your time waving your arms around? Try and partner up with someone who thinks similarly to you, sometimes you get a word that you can make an obscure film or song reference to, to help your partner guess it. But that’s no help if they’ve no idea what you’re on about!

History and Interesting Things:

  1. There was a game show based on Taboo, hosted by Chris Wylde, in 2002.
  2. In 2010, Cassandra Dominguez scored a record of 38 points in a four-round game at the World Board Gamers Convention.
  3. The buzzer for the game featured on the Special Project episode of The Office.
  4. Originally there was a board with the game, like in Tension, but this is no longer in the current editions of the game.

As far as history goes, that’s about it, it was only published in 1989, so not very long ago. It’s been on the radio and appeared in a few different TV shows, but other than that it’s not got much to say for itself.

 To Conclude:

Taboo is a great game, a lot of fun, very light hearted and generally very silly. Like most games, it’s more fun with more people. Also, the fact that the rules explicitly say that you’re allowed to burst into song to help your partner guess a word really appeals to our family.

Scrabble

3 - 5

Number of Players: 2 – 4

Year of Publication: 1948

Creator(s): Alfred Mosher Butts (designer) and C. Leslie Crandall and Michael Graves (artists)

Mostly just because.
Mostly just because.

 Scrabble With A Dyslexic!

The word "dyslexic" is hard for dyslexics...
The word “dyslexic” is hard for dyslexics…

Scrabble is one of the classics of classics. There’s a high chance that you’ve played this game at some point in your life, or, failing that, have seen a copy floating around in your grandparents house that they like to get out at Christmas and encourage everyone to play together. Either way, it’s a fun game to play, especially on teams, and especially especially if there are dyslexics around.

What’s In The Box:

The stuff.
The stuff.
  1. 1 Game Board
  2. 4 Tile Racks
  3. 1 Bag containing 100 Letter Tiles
  4. 1 Pencil and Score Sheet
  5. The Chambers Dictionary (not actually included in the box, or used by anyone I’ve ever met when playing this game)

Playing The Game:

Objective: To have scored the most points by the time one player plays their last tile and there are none remaining in the draw bag.

To determine who plays first each player takes one tile at random from the draw bag, the player with the letter closest to the start of the alphabet is the starting player. From them play proceeds clockwise around the board. All of these tiles are then returned to the bag, and new tiles are drawn. In play order players draw 7 tiles and place them on their tile rack, keeping them out of the sight of the other players.

Once all players have their tiles, player one places a word on the board. All words must be at least two letters long and the first player places their first word across the red Double Word space in the middle of the board. After the first word has been played other players can lay words; new words must either be played through other words, crossword style, or be added on to the end of a word already on the board, for instance by adding an “S”. All words played must be real words, and names (of both places and people) and foreign languages are not considered legitimate words.

Dave was being artistic. Or something.
I don’t really know what was going on with this picture. I assume artistic license has something to do with it…

So you can kind of see what the opening words of a game might look like, even though the angle of that photo is weird as. Once a player has played a word, they then draw the same number of new tiles at random from the Draw Bag as they placed on the board. This can be interesting, because there’s no knowing which letters you’re going to be blessed with next. You can end up with a rack that only contains vowels, or consonants. Which is often not a huge amount of use.

However, there is a rule that allows a player to forfeit a turn to change all of their tiles, to do this the player must wait until it’s their turn, and then exchange their whole rack for fresh tiles from the Draw Bag. Play then immediately passes to  the next player. This is a good rule that can allow you do something about getting rid of a rack that looks like this:

Had I chosen to do so, that rule would've allowed me to replace these tiles with new ones from the Draw Bag
Had I chosen to do so, that rule would’ve allowed me to replace these tiles with new ones from the Draw Bag

Play continues in this way, with one player keeping track of score until one player plays their last tile after the Draw Bag has been emptied. To score a player has to take into account both the value of the letter tiles played (the number on the bottom right hand corner of the tile), and whether or not the word has been played over any double/triple word/letter score tiles on the board. If it has then you must increase the score of that word for that player accordingly. If a player plays a word that changes a word already on the board, for example playing a word that starts with “S” and adding the required S onto the end of a word already existing on the board, the player adds up to total for the word they have changed, as well as the word they played, to be the score for that turn.

A generally accepted method of keeping score is to draw out columns on your score sheet with the initial or name of each player at the top of a column, you then keep a running total going in the columns so you can see exactly where each player’s at throughout the game, like this:

Our score sheet.
Our score sheet. As per the norm, I lost.

Strategy:

The best kind of strategy for this game is to look out for the bonus point spaces on the board, because there’s no point in making an absolutely fantastic word that lets you play lots of your letters but doesn’t get you any extra points if it then creates easy access to a double/triple word/letter tile that another player can use to score some ridiculous amount of points. Other than that this is really a “be as imaginative as possible” kind of game, where the weirder the words you play are, the better the game gets.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. The game was invented by an American out-of-work architect called Alfred Mosher Butts in 1938. He created the game by combining features of anagrams and crosswords.
  2. It was originally called LEXIKO and then CRISS CROSS WORDS before becoming Scrabble.
  3. Although everyone thinks of this game as a word game, it’s actually fundamentally a number game, to create the game a series of painstaking letter-frequency calculations were needed to determine how many times each letter should appear in the game.
  4. The game was rejected by many games manufacturers, until Butts met James Brunot who loved the game.
  5. Between Butts and Brunot they refined the rules of the game and came up with the name Scrabble which means “to grope frantically”.
  6. The game was trade marked in 1948.
  7. To produce the game the Brunot’s rented an abandoned schoolhouse in Dodgington, Connecticut, where, asissted by friends, they turned out 12 games an hour, stamping letters onto the wooden tiles one by one.
  8. As with many games the game lost money in its first year, but, over a few years, the game steadily grew in popularity, until the president of MACYS came across the game on holiday and ordered some for his store. Soon after this it became a must-have, and Brunot realized that they could no longer produce the games fast enough to meet demand. They licensed Selchow & Righter to produce the game until, in 1972, they purchased the trademark from Brunot.
  9. Selchow & Righter were bought by COLECO in 1986, but when they declared bankruptcy in 1989 the trademark was bought by Hasbro, the largest games manufacturer in America.
  10. The game is now found in one in every three American houses.

To Conclude:

A very good game, although only rated 3 out of 5, this isn’t a reflection on how much I like the game, more of a reflection on how accessible it is for everyone. For instance, although it’s a great game for everyone in that it can be very fun and silly, it’s an unbelievably challenging game for anyone with literacy difficulties, as well as occasionally being very frustrating due to the random selection of tiles. That said, it’s a game everyone should play a few times, even if it’s just to discover that your friends know words that they didn’t know they knew so you can argue over whether or not they’re allowed on the board.

 

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas My True Love Gave To Me…

…A Twelve-Player Game and I Introduced Him to Some Men in White Coats! – Boggle…A Million Points if You can Score a Twelve Letter Word in It.

Twelve Booglers Boogling!
Twelve Bogglers Boggling!

The Rules:

Boggle is a brilliant quick game for any number of players, all you need is a piece of paper and pencil to play. Before you start players must decide on the number of rounds that are going to be played, and the time allowance for each round. The timer that comes with the game is two minutes, and, although the timer for our copy doesn’t work properly any more, we still play to that, using someone’s phone as a timer. However, if you also have to do this, having the vibrate function on when you set the timer is a bad idea, as we found out when playing with Aunt Jean. The first time the timer went off and started vibrating on the table, it made such a strange sound that I was almost responsible for giving her a heart attack!
To play, one player shakes up the cube containing the dice, until they’re all flat, showing one face up. Then another player flips (or starts) the timer, and you have two minutes to make as many words as possible from the letters you can see. These words must be at least three letters long, and the letters must be connected either horizontally, vertically or diagonally. You cannot use the same letter twice in one word. When the timer goes off, one player reads out their list of words, any word that any of the other players has also written down is crossed off and doesn’t get you any points. When everyone’s checked their lists, you score. Three and four letter words are worth 1 point each, any word with more letters is given one extra point for each subsequent letter, i.e. 5 letters = 2 points etc.
After you’ve played through the appointed number of rounds the player with the most points overall wins.

For Christmas?

A great game for fans of Scrabble or similar games, not so much fun for dyslexics (like Dave) who get overexcited when they score two points in a round, mostly with three letter words. However, it’s a fantastic game because it can be played super-quickly with any number of people, you could challenge yourself and whoever you’re playing with to find the longest or silliest words possible, making it a superb game for any occasion!

Happy Twelfth and last day of Christmas and a Happy Epiphany too … For those who celebrate that kind of thing!

Word Games!

2 - 5

Number of Players: 2-4

Year of Publication: 1981

Creator(s): Elliot Rudell (Designer) and artists are unknown

These are definitely not my brother’s forte, what with him being very dyslexic and all. However, I like them enough that they warrant their own post, even if it is going to be pretty short (and sadly without any pictures). I was considering writing about Scrabble, but then I realized two things; A) That’s boring by itself and, B) We have acquired a much more interesting word game recently that I can write about. SO, I shall only be writing about Scrabble in conjunction with Up Words!

I had no idea of the existence of this game until a friend of ours took it upon herself to make us a copy using squares of foam to write letters on, and brought it to our house. For this we, (or at least I) am very grateful. I have since learnt that the game was developed by an American, with the aim of helping people to improve their English.

Now, rules and such:

As with Scrabble, each player takes seven tiles at random to begin. Player one then places a two-or-more letter word at the centre of the board. It is advisable to have a pad handy for keeping score, and a dictionary, if you’re the type who likes to challenge people about the words they make. Personally, I think it’s more interesting to play without a dictionary as you then test each others knowledge of the actual words as well as their spelling ability. Words must read either right to left, left to right, top to bottom or bottom to top. They cannot read diagonally. Tiles can be placed on top of other tiles to change the word, but the height cannot reach above 5 tiles high. When words are built on top of other words at least one tiles from the original word must remain uncovered, and words cannot be created by adding letters such as “S” to the end.

Points:

Points are counted per word made, rather than per tile, as in Scrabble. If only one level of tiles is used for the whole word, each tiles is worth two points, i.e. the word “back” would be worth 8 points. If a tile is placed on top of another tile to change a word then all tiles, including the one that has been covered up, are worth one point, i.e. the word “flap” has a “C” placed over it, so it becomes “clap” and the word is worth 5 points. Two bonus points are given for a single-stack word using the “Qu” tile and you receive 2 bonus points if you use all 7 of your tiles in the same turn. Multiple word scores are counted separately, including repeated tiles.

Illegal Words:

Words are considered “illegal” for the following reasons:

  • If it is misspelled
  • If it is a proper pronoun, for example, someone’s name
  • If it is foreign
  • If it includes a symbol or apostrophe

Winning the Game:

A winner is declared when either the tiles run out, or there are no more available moves. Five points are deducted for any remaining tiles and the person with the highest score, wins.

This has been a very short post, I hope you’ll forgive me for it, it’s more like a filler-post this week. We’ve fallen behind a bit due to a deficit of time in which to play any game that takes longer than half an hour. Hopefully though we’re a little better organised now and can start putting up some more in-depth posts!
I read about the rules for Up Words here.