Gloria Rosenthal
Valley Stream, New York

By now you have given, received, played and enjoyed all the games on last year’s list. I have a positive outlook when it comes to games; I’m positive I’m recommending the best.

The games marked with asterisks are new this year, but I’ve also included a few past favorites, games whose rules are embedded in my brain. There is comfort in that, like greeting old friends at a party.

Age categories are merely a guideline; a game for “8 to adult” can be as challenging to adults as a “12 to adult.” Companies differ in the way they indicate appropriate ages and I’ve followed their lead.

I’ve listed games by price, not preference, but remember lower-priced games can be just as much fun; sometimes it’s the packaging that makes the difference, not the play value. Prices are Suggested Retail Price but discount prices abound and a few good places to seek discounts are Google, Amazon.com and boardgames.com.

Some games are clearly word games but a few made my list because they are so much fun and challenging. Be open-minded.

I researched and played every game for you.

Now it’s your move!

*Linq 10 and up, 4 or more players $29.99
The opening line in the rules states that LINQ is a word-based game that requires both bluffing and brain power to outwit your opponents.” In every hand that’s dealt, two players have identical words on their cards, others have a ? denoting a bluff. The trick is for the paired players to find each other and for other players to find the players who are “Linq-ed.” This is done when all players give one clue word to define the word on his or her card, or a bluffed definition. A designated Scribe keeps scores on a terrific wipe-off Score Board and everything else needed in this game — Clue Board, Guess Sheets, Dry-Erase Makers, pencils, 240 Paired LINQ Cards and 10 bluff cards–are included. This is fully-contained game done up in beautiful style.

*Adversity 3 or more adult players $29.99
They say this game has been known to get a little wild but that’s part of the fun as you try to match real advertising slogans to products. The whackier your match, the more hilarious the game. The rules are loaded with advertising lingo as players try to outwit other “advertising agencies”, and the rules state: If there are products listed that you don’t recognize or understand, you are definitely too young to play this game. Please leave the table now. The game gets a bit complicated with money being made and lost and it can cost $500,000 to hire a SpokesCelebrity but it is money well spent as you must have three such SpokesCelebrities to win the game. If advertising drives you a little nuts, make a game of it.

*Don’t Quote Me 14 to adult, 2 to 5 players (or teams) $29.95
The quality and design of this game will impress you at once and then you will say What? I have to assemble the game board? Yes, you do and it’s an innovative, interlocking pentagon. The goal is for players to identify speakers in Life & Literature, Sports, Leaders, The Arts and Pop Culture. Help is there in the form of hints, but you give up points when using them. Example: knowing who said “A sucker is born every minute” is worth three points, needing the two hints supplied with each quote, in this case Greatest Show and Tom Thumb, reduces it to two points, and going, finally, to multiple choice: Robert Ripley, Charles Ringling, P.T. Barnum, means one point. The beauty of clear, concise rules, brief biographies behind every quote, strategy cards, Double Point spaces on the board and team play combine to make this a game you will never tire of playing. And you may quote me!

*Red-Handed 2 to 6 players, teen to adult $29.95
Can every single question in this game be answered with a color? If you think not, I’ll bet my greenbacks against your blue jeans that I’m not telling a little white lie! Some are easy as in what comes after roses are red? and some are not, but all are fun and challenging. You have to accurately recite the phrase, in many cases, to move on the board. The board might tell you to: Give 1 card to Any Player, or invite you to have Free Choice of Color. But don’t get caught red-handed. All 450 cards are grouped by color and within each group, there are variations. Blue, e.g. takes in purple, navy, hazel and violet. A very big plus in this fast-moving game is that the first player to collect five Score Cards without having a Red-Handed card is the winner, a nice break from elaborate score-keeping. The day you buy and play this game will be a red-letter day, indeed.

*Super Scrabble 2 to 4 players, 8 to adult $29.29
Wow! It’s a big board with the usual complement of double squares, triple squares plus a huge bonus of quadruple letter and words. If a word covers two premium squares the score is doubled and re-doubled (4 times the letter count) and tripled and re-tripled (9 times the letter count). The other bonus is the additional letter distribution of high pointers: two each of Q, X, Z, J, K and 4 blanks. It’s like falling into Scrabble Heaven. Attractive enclosures include the History of Scrabble, Rules of Play and Tips and Ten Ways to Become an Instant Scrabble Game Expert, the last extremely helpful even if you’ve been playing Scrabble for years (and who hasn’t!). You might need a math whiz or calculator to add up these score.

Imaginiff . . . 3 to 8 players, 12 and up $27.95
Imaginiff has been tickling players for several years. Even players of three different generations can actually play together and all have fun. With its erasable marker you write the names of eight people on the board, naming present players, absent friends or even famous people. The object is to guess how these people would react in certain situations. The situations are imaginative. Let’s say, for example, that a roll of the die selects Susie, and the card picked asks if she were a 1950s movie, which would she be? From the six choices on the card, everyone, knowing Susie bleaches her hair, picks Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Players with the most popular answers move their tokens on the board. Everyone loves it (except maybe Susie who thought her bleached hair was a secret!).

*One-Two-Punch 2 to 6 players, teen to adult $26.95
All right, I said some games were not technically word games but this is so much fun, and so amazing, I had to include it. Besides, if a question is: Phrase meaning the whole shebang, and the player has to come up with the whole nine yards that’s wordy enough for me. The amazing part is that 500 questions have numbers in their answers. The game card categories are: 1 liners (proverbs, nursery rhymes, popular sayings), 2 for the show (TV, movies), Knock 3 times (books and music), 4 Score (sports, games, history, government), 9 to 5 (things that may be part of your everyday life). The game board has a variety of spaces that indicate the question category or give a free roll of the dice and even lets a player steal tiles (which are won along the way) from an opponent. I’m reconsidering. This is definitely a word game!

*Proclaim! 4 to 10 players, 12 to adult $24.95
The short version: Players take turns giving up to 3 clues that will lead others to guess the Proclaim! word. But wait! This is tricky. The clue giver doesn’t want opponents to guess it right away as the fewer clues needed, the more points they’ll score. So the clue giver wants to be slightly ambiguous to make it tougher, but not so tough as to make it impossible, for if nobody guesses the word, the clue giver must move back three spaces on the board. Clues are restricted to one word or a combination of a blank and one word (e.g. clue for method could be system or Blank acting). The 240 cards yield 960 words. Also included are 3 dice used for scoring, 30-second timer, scoring cards, game pieces and a game board with special Proclaim! spaces and a Proclaim! pit. I’ve clued you in, now go play!

*Best Sellers 2-8 players, ages 9 to 99 $24.95
This is a combination word game and a class in creative writing. First, a player picks three cards, two cards reveal letters and the third is an illustrated “book cover”, which becomes the theme for a very short story. All players have two minutes to create that story based on the book cover’s picture, title and theme, while using as many words as possible starting with either of the two letters already picked. One point is scored for every word beginning with the designated letters and when time is up, each player reads his or her story and announces the number of points earned. What is especially appealing is the wide, often amusing, variety of stories evoked. The Editor (chosen in advance) adds the total to the score sheet and awards the book card to the player with the most points. The game is beautifully packaged to look like a book, a novel idea.

*Read ’em 2 or more players, 10 and up $24.95
If you think a “words person” can’t switch allegiance to become an ardent poker player, then you haven’t met Read ’em, a fascinating card game. Regular poker players have to get used to new suits, crowns, anchors and stars. The rest of the terminology is familiar to them, and will soon be to wordy converts. All the intricacies of poker are here: flush, four of a kind, full house, three of a kind, two pairs, one pair, and wild cards. Even if you’ve never played poker before you will quickly learn how to play Five Card Draw, Seven Card Stud and how to bet, call, raise or fold. And you will do all this while putting letters together to make better words than your opponents. The end of the game is easy to see: one player has all the chips, or other players have quit. Shuffle those cards and start dealing.

*Smarty Party 3 to 8 players, 10 and up $24.95
1) Can you name the Rooms in the game Clue? That is one of the challenges in Smarty Party, and how cool is it for one game to bring up another? And how cool is it to have two of each color token so every player has one to put on the comical board, and one to keep as a reminder of his or her color? There are many more innovative features of this game; a pair of Smarty Pants that goes from one player to another when questions are answered correctly (and benefits the player who ends up with it). The questions on the 100 List cards are fun (as above) and challenging as in 2) Most common words in written English. Answer 1: dining room, study, ballroom? and 2: the, of, to, in?. We are not that smart, we put the card into the cleverly designed list holder and the answers showed up. With all that plus a timer, chips and wagering rules, you have everything you need to have your own Smarty Party!

*LetterFlip 2 players, 10 to adult $19.99
We can’t resist, we have to say we “flipped” over LetterFlip. Each cleverly constructed “letterflipper” tray holds the full alphabet and the firm plastic letters are flipped up at start of play and flipped down when each is called. Players try to guess each other’s words from cards that have 3, 4, 5 and 6-letter words to be guessed, in turn. When incorrect letters are called they are flipped down while correct letters remain standing, and tracking tabs on the letters are pulled up to indicate how many times that letter appears in the word. A window on the side of the letterflipper shows the current word (hidden from the other player). There are standard and advanced cards and a suggestion for junior play. Everything needed to play is contained in a travel-worthy package; no board or table needed, no pencil and paper for scoring. Guesses play an important role, too. If, for example, letters f and n have already been called correct, your immediate thought will be fun!

*Like Minds 4 or more adult players $19.99
This game contains a brain (to be grabbed by a player as the game progresses). But before that, all the players’ brains will be perking as they try to write a list for the category their teammates are doing at the same time. An example of categories will start you thinking even as you read this: famous cats, types of stores in a mall, shades of green, and my personal favorite, things teenagers do in their spare time. Other games have this challenge but Like Minds goes further. A die will tell how many matches teammates must make in order to move ahead on the board. Another innovation we’ve never seen before: teammates are each moving a marker, trying to get the markers to meet in the brain space in the middle of the board. The game includes the board, category cards, dice, dice cup, brain, movers, folders (to hide your list as you write) and writing pads.

*Spelldown! 2 to 4 players, 6 and up $19.99
Don’t be put off by the age range; this game is fun for all. Spelldown is in a 10″ x 10″ wooden box with a convenient slide-off cover. The four sides of the box have identical wooden letters, not removable, but flippable to an up/down position. The letters (B, C, D, F, G, H, L, N, W, Y) are down as the game begins. The dice contain vowels on one, consonants on the other and the object is to make a word using BOTH letters showing up on the dice combined with any letter or letters on your side. When you call out your word, you pull up the letters you’ve used. The object is to get all letters standing and the first player with all ten letters upright is the winner. But wait! If you can’t make a word, you flip all letters down and if an opponent rolls two red letters, he or she chooses a player to do likewise. It’s a fast moving game that is ever changing.

*Thingamajig 3 or more adult players $19.95
The “Thingamajig” is a terrific electronic gadget that houses thousands of words to be defined. I just pressed the red button a few times and up came: copper, oboe, dustpan, and bundle, so you can see the range of words. The object, of course, is for the “Definer” to give an unrestricted definition that “can be as long or as short as the Definer wishes.” When we played we changed the rules to limit the clue to no more than six words. Scoring is done with Thingamachips (included). All players coming up with the correct words receive one Thingamachip and the Definer gets one chip for each correct answer with an atypical exception. If all the players guess correctly the Definer gets nothing so it is wise to be slightly ambiguous in defining the word without going too far off.

Pocket Quickword 2 or more players, 10 to adult $16.00
Full size Quickword has been entertaining and enchanting word buffs for many years, with its clever device of combining word skills, logic, and general knowledge. This new Pocket Quickword includes cards, die, spinner, score pad and a magnetic surface for game play and is a great travel companion. It also contains a quote: “Quickword is the champagne of word games; it has a sparkle and zest to keep brains bubbling.” Author of the quote? Gloria Rosenthal, President, World of Words.

Encore For two teams, 8 and up $14.99
The rules say: “For anyone old enough to remember the words to the songs they loved.” And that’s what this delightful game is all about. But knowing titles is not enough: you or a teammate must sing at least six words from any song containing one of the 5 words on the card. The Sing Off Word is determined by the roll of the die, taking you to a colored space on the board. Example: I have a card in my hand with the word “Who”, and I wish you could hear me singing: Who?stole my heart away/who makes me dream all day. A Category Space on the board will lead you to the category space on the card. Let’s say it’s TIMES OF DAY SONGS (It’s 3 o’clock in the morning … ) Now it’s your turn; gather some players and challenge them to a Sing-Off that includes a Grand Finale.

*Word Rummy 2 to 4 players, 7 and up $11.99
Here players are dealt seven cards and take turns putting down one word of 3 or more letters. During his or her turn, a player may steal an opponent’s word by adding one or more letters to it, making a new word. The new letters must change the previous word’s meaning, so forget about adding an s and stealing the word. Play continues as each player discards cards and draws from the stack to build back to seven cards. You will need to refer to the rules for scoring as 3 letters score 1, 4 score 2 and so on, with words over 12 letters scoring a high 25. A few more scoring rules: Q, X, Y and Z bring 2 points, but also subtract the same number when left over in your hand (all other “leftovers” subtract one point). It’s easy to learn and a good, fast-moving game.

Gloria Rosenthal visits Toy Fair every year to find new games for The Wonderful World of Words, an annual program she conducts at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York.?November 4-6, 2005 will mark the program’s 24th consecutive year.

 

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