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WORDSY, published by Gil Hova's Formal Ferret Games is an exceptionally clever game of long words for 1-6 players who are masters of both the dictionary and the thesaurus. 

Players can challenge other player's words if they feel they are incorrect in which case a dictionary can be consulted.


It takes a while to get your head around WORDSY as it is so different in many ways from other Word Games but the main one is that you are allowed to (actually you have to because of the vowel situation) use letters that are not in the display when creating your words. There are rules as to the words you can create, no Proper nouns, contractions or hyphenations, nor may you use derivations of words used in previous rounds, but basically you can create any word you want to.

This is an example from the rules book where you have these letters: QG above the 5, NS over the 4, ML above the 3 and GD over the 2; the Q being a Rare (+2) card. They use the word "Misquoting" which would be spelled out as MiSQuotiNG, the capitals being the letters from the display: you score 3(M)+4(S)+5+2(Q with bonus)+4(N) and 5(G) = 23 points. Multiplication would have been a longer word; 14 letters against 10, but it would score only 3(M)+3(L)+4(N) = 10 points as it uses only 3 letters from the display: MuLtiplicatioN  it only scores the L once. 


WORDSY is packaged in a box that literally makes it look like an expensively elite book; it contains a Score Pad, 6 Pencils, 1 Sandtimer and a deck of 60 Letter cards that contain NO vowels: 44 Common Letters and 16 Rare Letters (these are slightly different in colour and contain a Positive Bonus); there are also 4 Column cards (5,4,3,& 2) and a Flip/Solo card. What it doesn't contain, and what is really required is a brain and a great commanding knowledge of the English language. The idea of the game is to score the most points by finding the longest and highest scoring words using at least some of the letters displayed on the 4 column 8-card grid which is why you need the aforementioned brain etc.


The setup is quick, place the number cards in descending order in a Row and then shuffle the Letter cards and place two face up above each number making sure that there are never more than TWO rare cards in the display. Once the display is complete the play is simultaneous and all players can write down their words on their own scoresheets as they think of them. At first there is no rush but once a player has written down a word they grab the timer, flip it over to start the sand running, thus giving the remaining players just 30 seconds to write down their words, always keep your words secret until final disclosure at the end of each Round. Being the first to write a word down may give you an additional bonus but a higher scoring word written during the 30 seconds can steal that bonus away. Fast is good but taking those extra few seconds to think may be better in the long run.

After seven rounds you should have written seven words of which you pick the best 5 but also keep any bonuses the discarded 2 words may have accumulated. Then the scoring begins and although this is a mite convoluted it is highly imaginative. It takes a little getting used to but it is a very important part of the game, not only because it produces the player's scores but because it is the way in which the scoring is regulated that is present in your mind whilst you are conducting your cerebral search for long positive words. You can use any letters you like in your word but you only score for those on the display and the points scored depend which column the letter is in, and if there is only one of that letter and you use it twice or more in your word you only score it the once.

At the end of each round the rightmost 4 letters are discarded and the left 4 letters slid across to replace them and 4 new letters added to the display, remembering the two Rare card rule. 

Throughout the rules booklet there are a few words the author has used as examples: Assiduously, Predominantly, Satisfactory, Misquoting and Baccalaureates along with Absolvent, Somnambulent, Trashing, Crabby, Poltergeist, Bedraggled and Plagiarized. Of these I have probably used two, maybe three of them in the last year, and that's with writing a myriad pages and news articles almost every one of those 365 days, and one I had never heard of so I had to look at a dictionary to find its meaning.

To give you another example I this time shuffled the deck of cards and removed 6 tiles, just as an experiment to see if the game would play any different, maybe a little easier, faster or slower if less letters were in play, just so that when teaching others you could get your points over quicker. These letters were C.H.L.R.T.T. I know the game uses 8 letters. Immediately I see CHaRLoTTe but of course that's a proper noun being the name of a city and a girl. So I mentally scrabbled (hope Gil doesn't mind me using this word) the words around and came up with T.H.R.T.C.L. and I also see THeoRy, THeaTRiCaL and THeoRetiCaL. But to train your mind to work better whilst playing you have to get away from the obvious track using, like I have in all of those examples, the easy "TH" because they are the first in line. So look to start your words using any of the letters: CHaTTeL for example, short but using 5 of the 6 letters, LyCanTHRope also uses 5 letters but you cannot use it because it is a noun.
Just as a complete obscure aside I also saw an initialism using the letters drawn "Tottenham Hotspur Rule The Champions League" but that's nothing to do with this game and only a dream in the fantasy football world I sometimes occupy.

Formal Ferret reckon it's for 10 year olds and higher but to play it at its ultimate you need players who are of the University Challenge mentality. It isn't a game that I would bring to the table for a family game night but it might make a good television daytime quiz show for the academically minded. With my memory being on the wane I find I cannot think of long or high scoring words quick enough for WORDSY which really frustrates me because I used to be really good at word games like Scrabble, Big Boggle and Rummikub and now I often struggle to do a simple Crossword or Word Book Puzzle. This makes WORDSY more of a struggle for me but at the same time playing it is helping me keep my brain actively thinking. It is therefore in my opinion not only an interesting and intriguing game, but also one which may have beneficial health possibilities.



© Chris Baylis 2011-2015