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Part of every Christmas day celebration in my household over the past few years has involved entertaining my young cousin (now 10 years old), and a collection of games has been built up with the intention of doing just this. This year she really wanted to play Nab-It, despite it not being one of our favourites, and her not knowing the rules. Cue a total farce! However it is a very popular game, and being a twist on Scrabble just adds to the appeal to some people, so I have decided to give my views on it.
Nab It is produced by Hasbro games, which is the same company responsible for other family classics such as Boggle and is described as the game of stolen words. However unlike most of their other games, for me this game doesn't really work for some reason. It's a good attempt at an educational title to encourage children to think of words and also to develop strategy, but the game becomes bogged down by far too many rules with the result being confused and interrupted gameplay beset by revisiting the instruction booklet. The game states that it is suitable for ages 8 and above, however I would suggest 10 at the very least due to the complexity of the rules, and to be honest I struggle to keep up at times too!!! The game is available from all good toyshops and retails around the £10-15 mark, but is probably available a little bit cheaper for those who enjoy searching around the Internet.
So what is the idea of the game? Well on the face of it, the game is set up and played in the same general way as Scrabble. A bag of letters for each player is handed out, as well as a grey "bank" tile. This is the first appearance of an unnecessary and complicated aspect of the game and scoring which would take nothing away from the game if it were not included. Each player then takes 5 tiles out of their bag and this represents their hand of letters. Each tile is double sided, with a different letter on each side, and you can use the tile either way around, which does help with your selection of letters and means that you can generally come up with a word the vast majority of the time. The game will need to be played on a hard surface such as a table, as we found the carpeted floor was less than ideal when clipping together the tiles! The youngest player gets to go first and simply makes a word and places it in the middle of the table. Subsequent players then take their turns in sequence, but rather than just making a new word coming off the first one, you have the option to "Nab" a word by stacking/placing one of your letters over an existing one to change its meaning. The word still has to make sense (not an easy concept to explain to a 10 year old!) and you can't change all of the letters of a word in one go. The person who has the highest stacked letter in a word has control of that word and will win a point at the end of the game should it stay like that. If any space has 5 tiles stacked on it, then no more tiles may be stacked here and a point is again collected for this, and the player in control will win any associated words by default. At the end of your turn, you may also add one of your tiles to your grey bank tile; this will count as one point for each one banked at the end of the game too. You then replenish your supply of tiles back up to 5 from your bag, and the game continues in this fashion until all of the letters are used up and then the scores are worked out!
Now don't get me wrong, this isn't an outright bad game, it just doesn't do what it was designed for. As previously mentioned the whole banking a tile each go is really pointless and doesn't add anything to the gameplay, and in a weird way, it sort of discourages the making and using of longer more complex words, as this stunts gameplay later on. For example, in one of the games we played over Christmas, the word adjoin was placed at one point. Now words like this should be encouraged as it's a good word, and has not only used a letter already on the board, but also used up all 5 tiles for that player. However there are now very few things that you can do to this word to make new ones and hence the idea of stacking tiles and "nabbing" words goes out of the window. Shorter three and four letter words are the ideal ones for this game, which can make for some very boring games with players simply stacking one letter at a time, such as "bone - cone - zone - lone - none" which is another example from Christmas day.
In addition the scoring system and trying to figure out who is in control of which word at the end if you have a small board of varying heights of tile is a little complicated, and as with the examples above, the scoring rewards the wrong sort of play, with the person responsible for the 5th tile on none getting a point, but adjoin not gaining any.
Finally and perhaps most importantly for a family game primarily aimed at children is the reaction from my cousin. Although she did persevere with the game and give it a couple of goes, she steadily became less interested in actually playing the game to win, was confused and frustrated with the annoying scoring systems and then more interested in making up silly words with the actual game nothing more than a sideshow. This sealed it for me, if Nab It can't keep the attention span of a 10 year old for more than a few minutes then it really hasn't achieved what Hasbro set out to achieve and because of my own experiences and the reaction from the target audience, I really can't recommend Nab It to anyone.
Thank you for reading this review and it may also appear on Ciao under my same username.