Product Type: Hasbro board games
Newest Review: ... game, but perhaps this is just my children and others would gain far more pleasure from it. However Hasbro have addressed this as ... more
Scrabble with a twist
Member Name: MelissaRuth
Advantages: Intellectually stimulating. Different to other word games. Fun
Disadvantages: Perhaps not exciting enough for modern day children. Expensive.
I've always enjoyed scrabble and the original basis and principles of this game are similar. However, an extra dimension has been added; as well as placing words in 2D on the board you are also able to build words upwards by stacking the game tiles, making this a 3D game, which I find really enhances the enjoyment that I'd normally gain from playing scrabble.
Upwords was for sale on Amazon for £7.99 over Christmas, but now it appears that they only have old versions for sale for a staggeringly expensive £18 or a travel version for £10. Ebay currently has bids in for about £10. It comes in a square box, measuring 27 x 27 x 5cm, so is not too large to store away. It is produced by Hasbro who manufacture a large number of games.
Inside the box you will find a white plastic board, just slightly smaller than the box. This is divided into a grid of 100 small squares with a raised edge around each square. Four red stickers will need to be placed into the four central squares and these mark the starting point for game play and also four rubber feet which need to be attached to the base of the board to stop it either sliding across or scratching the playing surfaces. Additionally a packet of grey letter tiles is included, but you will need to find a container for them to be stored in once opened - not a great problem as a self sealing food bag does the job well enough. These tiles are just the same construction as those found in scrabble, but only have a letter printed on them and not a scoring number. They slot neatly over the raised grid and therefore don't slide out of place during play. The number of each letters is proportionate to their popularity in the English language, hence there are 8 Es, 6 Ss and thank goodness only one of the pesky Z and X, that I'm sure we all struggle to use when playing word games. One nice touch which makes the game a little easier for children is that 'QU' is one tile so you're not stuck with the Q if you haven't been lucky enough to draw a U as well. The final items in the box are four red plastic stands, again just like those in scrabble, on which the tiles are placed once allocated to each player. You'll also need to grab yourself a pencil and piece of paper for scoring as these are not included.
Between two and four players can play this game. Each player takes a stand and randomly selects seven tiles. We leave ours in the bag and pick tiles without looking, which seems to work fine, but the official guidance is that all tiles should be placed face down on the table prior to playing, to prevent any foul play and avoidance of the less popular letters, I guess. The next step is for each player to draw one tile to see who will have the first opportunity to create a word on the board. The person choosing the closest letter to the beginning of the alphabet goes first. Now finally the game can begin as the first player creates the first word using his selection of letters and places it straddling the one of the central squares, either horizontally or vertically, but in 2D. The aim of the game is for the players to then alternate play in a clockwise direction, building words that interlock with each other until all of the tiles have been used up. Initially we tend to find that we play in a 2 dimensional way and the first three or four turns for each player will be very much as per scrabble as complete new words score higher (more of this later). The board has far fewer squares than scrabble however, so quickly it becomes crowded and then 'stacking' of tiles and the fun begins. A player can change an existing word by placing one or more of their letters on top of letters already in play to create a new word, for example, CLIP can be changed to FLIP on one turn and then later it may be changed again to FLOP. The pieces are designed to stack neatly on top of each other and a pile of up to five tiles is permitted before that square is considered to be out of action. One slight problem that we've found is that you can inadvertently knock a tile off of a stack and it will fall into an empty square trapped between other pieces and either long nails or a knife are needed to edge it back out of the place.
I really enjoy this added dimension of play and it makes the game far more interesting. It can be as simple as changing one letter, making it suitable for children or can become as complex and challenging as needed to match the intellectual abilities of the players, as you can strive to change a greater number of letters or even to change the linking letter to create two new words, something that I don't think that I've ever managed to achieve. It should therefore be a very versatile game. It is recommended for ages 8 and above. My daughter managed well at age 9 when she was given it and I could imagine that as long as you can still visually see the layout, have reasonable dexterity in the fingers, and have retained a relatively normal cognitive level of functioning, it would be suitable for the very oldest of players. The intellectual challenge that it offers would certainly help with brain training and keeping the mind active and stimulated for older people and it also offers a good social outlet, as I always find that as well as playing the game a lot of social chit chat also goes on. Maybe if I concentrated more and chatted less I'd score better in the game, perhaps that's where I go wrong!
Onto scoring then. The game again deviates from scrabble when it comes to scoring. It can look quite complicated when first reading the instruction leaflet that comes with the game, but it is actually very simple when you get used to it. When a 2D word is created two points are gained for each tile included in the new word, so for example if a word contains four letters, 8 points will be scored. When stacking is used to create a 3D word one point is gained for each tile in that word, but each tile in the stack is included, so if the stack is 5 tiles high then that square earns 5 points. Those nasty J, QU, V, X and Zs gain the player an extra 2 points when they finally manage to create a word using them, so as well as feeling chuffed that you've managed to get rid of them from your stand, you also get bonus points. If two new words are created on a go as can happen if you're clever, then each word is scored separately. I find that this method of scoring is easier than scrabble and more manageable for children and it makes it fun trying to create stacks as high as possible. It is when we're trying to count the height of a stack that tiles do tend to knock off however so you need to be a bit careful. The winner is the player with the highest score when all of the tiles have been used, but be warned 5 points must be deducted for every tile that has not found a home on the board.
The game is most fun if lots of words are created that have the potential to be changed. Often shorter words are better for this and it can become a little frustrating if you've created an impressive long word initially, such as 'plunge' that I made early on in the last game that I played and then realise that there doesn't seem to be any way to change it and it sits there unchanged, boring and wasting squares throughout the rest of the game. Again this should make it easier for children who generally play with shorter words in traditional scrabble.
I think that this game should appeal to a wide audience and is a great tool to aid with a child's language development and spelling, if only you can persuade them that word games are a fun thing to do in their free time. Probably the greatest appeal though should be for adults who enjoy other types of word games and fancy a bit of variety. It should be able to provide a challenge to all but the most hardened scrabble players, as although it doesn't have the skill needed to maximise the use of triple letter scores etc, it can still be a very academic game. It is adaptable to play at the highest and lowest of skill levels. Personally I would love to give it five stars, but as I struggle to get my teenagers to play, I will downgrade it to four, as it obviously doesn't have enough appeal to tempt them away from their 'far more exciting' electronic gadgets. I find this very sad that they don't share my love of a simple stimulating game, but perhaps this is just my children and others would gain far more pleasure from it. However Hasbro have addressed this as they have created an electronic version, but at a whopping £40 plus I will stick with the hands on version. For those with limited dexterity however, this could be an excellent source of stimulation. I haven't played this though so cannot comment further.
Summary: A word game similar to scrabble, but with an exciting 3D twist.