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WORDSMITH, from HEIDELBÄR, is a game designed by Bill Eberle, Greg Olotka and Peter Olotka based on Jack Kittredge's 'Runes' from Eon Products.

Pieces:  20 x Blue    40 x Red    20 x Green    40 x Yellow  and 4 Dice - each with One Green, One Blue, 2 red and 2 Yellow sides.

 The pieces from RUNES are the same 4 shapes as in WORDSMITH, the exception being they are only Red & White whereas the latest pieces are four-colours - Red, Blue, Yellow, Green

Just how it required three gaming brains to come up with this fun but very simple game which is almost a duplicate of an early game (1981) is hard to envisage, but credit where credit's due and all that, so my compliments to the designing trio.

 

At the beginning all players are given a similar set of 8 pieces from which they have to make a word by creating letters as shown on the sides of the box - the letter shapes have to be correctly assembled for them to count. Thus the small Green U-Shape cannot be used as a U unless each upward column is extended by adding a short Yellow Straight, nor can the U-shape be turned on its side to make a C. The 8 pieces are used by the players to get used to creating letters from them and making words from those letters. Once every player is used to making the correct shapes from their pieces the actual game can begin.

Put the pieces back into their correct tray sections and decide who is going to roll the dice; all four dice are rolled twice. On the first roll every player takes pieces from the sections according to the result of the dice. The picture from the rules book (also shown on this page, below)  shows how a typical roll may go for the Setup. After the second roll all players should have 8 pieces the same as each other, that is a rule written in heavy bold text. The continuing rules of the game then go on to say that the Green and Blue 'star' dice results can also be used as 'Wilds' meaning you can take any piece you want if you roll Blue or Green. This, because of the solid text previously mentioned, has to count only after the initial setup and not during it - this isn't made exactly clear, but if it does count during Setup then the players may well not begin with the exact same set of pieces.

 

The Challenge is to create SIX words. There is no time limit, though finishing a word early has more than a couple of advantages. One is that no one else can have the same word as you, another is that while the other players continue trying to make words you can be looking for your next word, (only in the pieces you have used for your word - not from excess unused pieces) and in fact continuing to write words down as you find them, always discarding the unused pieces and marking them off as usual. You may also continue to use the die to gain pieces. 

At any time (up to the declaration of the first word) players may roll a die and collect the piece they rolled from the tray - using Blues & Greens as Wilds as previously explained. Players may object to the validity of a word. When someone finishes their word the other players may continue trying to make their words for this round. Although there is no time limit sent, during this period they may not roll the dice to gain other pieces.

When all players have declared their word, they are written on their personal score sheets. All unused pieces are returned to their respective containers and a box on the scoresheet is checked off for every piece. The first 6 pieces on the list are blank the next six and add a Bonus of one point for each of these unchecked at the end of the game (thus it is possible, but unlikely, that players can gain up to 6 bonus points. Everytime a player completes a word the other players (even the one who is currently allowed to roll the die) then have to play the game as described - the player who claimed the word rolling the die if they want to the others not being able to.

When you make a word you score one point for each letter, the number of pieces used have no affect on the letter's value. Thus CAT equals 3 points, CATS equals 4 points and CAT'S equals 5 points - the small straight Yellow pieces can be used as Hyphens and Apostrophes. But you cannot make CAT (for example) score it and then simply add an apostrophe or an S to make your next word. All pieces not used in the word have to be discarded and then the word itself, after scoring, must be seen to be jumbled up into single pieces again; then you can re-assemble them, you just have to be seen to be starting afresh.

 

When one player has completed 6 words the other players are allowed to continue, without using the die, the other players are allowed to complete one word only from the pieces they have, discarding unused pieces as usual.

  

WORDSMITH is quietly amusing, rather frustrating, and fun for a family who like playing and laughing together. I must point out that after the first couple of games it did get a little sameish as far as the words made - everyone seems to begin with the same few three or four letter words. The designers have added a couple of variants to combat this, such as Secret Play and Word by Word, and we came up with our own variations whereby players start with different pieces, obtained from personal die rolls (2 rolls = 8 pieces, 3 rolls =12 pieces and 4 rolls = 16 pieces). Of course these deplete the supplies quicker but you also get a lot of different and longer Words, thus more fun for all. Yes, to answer your question, the Bonus boxes are filled throughout almost every game, so rarely are bonus scores added in.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015