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Wordsmith

Roll the dice, collect building pieces, and use them to shape letters and in turn spell out words, in this real-time game that has you racing to be the first to make six words.

Wordsmith brings a unique twist to a classic genre. But how exactly does it play and how well does it work?

Gameplay

There are four types of colored pieces. You can use these pieces to form any letter in the alphabet. The game has one way it considers ‘correct’ for forming each letter and each side of the box shows how to make the letters, so that players can refer to it throughout the game.

Each player takes a score sheet and pencil at the start. You play three rounds. At the start of each round, the four dice are rolled twice. Each side of the dice shows a color that corresponds to one of the colored pieces, and each player takes the colored pieces that match what was rolled. This way everyone starts with the same beginning pool of pieces.

Gameplay is simultaneous. Players attempt to shape their colored pieces into letters that spell words. When you spell a word you announce it, then everyone stops to confirm it before going back to building. You then write the word on your score sheet and go back to using your pieces to build a new word. Once a word has been claimed that round it cannot be used by another player. Valid words can use apostrophes and hyphens, but cannot use the exact same letters as a word you have previously claimed.

At any time you can choose to roll a die and claim the colored piece shown on the result, adding it to your roll (two sides roll wild which let you choose any piece to claim). Your word does not have to contain all the pieces in your pool.  However, any pieces not used after you announce a word, are discarded. You must mark on your score sheet each time you discard a piece. You may discard the first six without penalty, but each one afterwards will cost you a point and you may not discard more than twelve during a round.

Once a player has come up with six words, each other player may attempt to create one final word (but may not roll the die) then everyone earns one point for each letter in the words they came up with (and take away points where applicable for discarded pieces) and return all letter pieces to the box before starting the next round with a new starting pool of pieces. The player with the most points at the end of three rounds wins the game.

Wordsmith Components

Review

Wordsmith is a unique twist to standard word games, with the tactile building of words adding a satisfying extra layer to the game that also increases your options each turn. You are not bound to any one letter; you have multiple pieces and can mix and match them, giving you more freedom than is usually standard in word games.

The process by which you create the letters may take a little time to get the hang of, as you keep checking back with the box to see which pieces are required for each specific letter, but printing the letters along each side of the box is a clever design and players will grow more familiar with the letters as they play.

Wordsmith has a curious mix of mechanics — from the word elements, to the push-your-luck aspect of adding to your pool while risking the discard penalties, to the real-time aspect of racing to be the first to complete six words. The real-time aspect is fun, but is going to make the game a little more difficult for players of varying word skill level, as you can end up only completing a few of your words when your opponent ends the round. However, there is a rule variant that does away with the real-time aspect (though it slightly alters the rules) and there are in fact a couple of other fun rule variants to try out.

All the elements work together to form a fun combination and a fresh take on the genre. Wordsmith is not going to be for everyone, and it won’t even be for all word game fans. But it adds an extra dimension to finding the perfect word using a fun tactile mechanism.

Pros: Original letter building mechanism, press your luck element, rule variants

Cons: Real time aspect increases word skill disparity

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.