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If you like word games such as Boggle, Scrabble, and UpWords, then give this game a try. My wife and I keep returning to this game for two-person fun.
However, this game is ONLY fun if you follow my modified scoring instructions (given below). If you use the included poker chips as described in the instructions, you will spend most of your time counting points and trading chips.
**MODIFIED SCORING INSTRUCTIONS**
The instructions state that you get points (and chips) EVERY TIME you make a word, and you surrender the points (and chips) when your word is stolen. Why not let each letter ALSO represent its own points? You ONLY get poker chips for points that cannot be taken away. This means that if you score a locked-in word, or bonus points for long words, then you take chips. Then, discard all locked-in words into a discard pile. Your point total is the combined values of your chips PLUS all words in your posession. The end result of the scoring is the same as with the standard rules, but is a LOT easier to keep track of.
What do you get when you combine [page scan/se=0050/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Scrabble, Rummy and Monopoly? Word Thief--a new game that's quickly becoming a hit among gamers with strong vocabulary skills and/or cunning strategy.
Based on the Scrabble concept of giving letters point values, Word Thief allows players to make words using letter cards in their hands. Competitors then can snatch away other players' words to use as their own.
Since it came out four years ago, Word Thief has garnered media acclaim and a series of prestigious industry awards, including Best New Game at the British International Toy Fair, an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award and the highest (three star) award from Toy Testing Council. It's easy to see why. This game is both challenging and fun.
Best New Game at the British International Toy Fair! shouts the box. I was a little surprised, never having heard of Word Thief (Faby Games, Inc., 1994 no designer credited). But one should never pass up a 75% off sale at Barnes and Nobles, right? So I snagged it, hoping that it would be another good word game to add to my collection.
Was I smart to pick up this game? The short answer is that for the price, I got a good deal! Its a fun game, but not so much fun that Ill play it often. Ill tell you a bit more about it.
First, a description of game play
The game is for two to four players. A deck of 108 cards is shuffled. The deck is composed of twenty-six cards of four suits (hearts, diamonds, spades, and clubs), and four jokers. Except for the jokers, each card has a letter and a number on it. The number corresponds to the frequency of the letter (an A is worth 1 point, while a J is worth 8 points). Each player turns over a card, and the player whose card is closest to A goes first. Each player gets seven cards dealt to them. One card is flipped over, and the suit showing on it is considered the trump suit for this game. The first player takes their turn, with each player following clockwise.
On a turn, a player can use any of the cards in their hand to make a word. The word must be able to be found in a standard dictionary. They place the word in front of them, scoring points for that word. Points are kept on a score pad provided, or by taking poker chips equal to the points received (white chips are one point, blue chips are 5 points, and red chips are 20 points). If a word has five letters or more, the player receives five bonus points. A six-letter word gets the player 10 bonus points, and so on. If all the letters of a word are the same suit, the player scores double points, and triple points if they are all from trump suit. A player who uses all the cards in their hand gets another bonus of twenty points.
Not only can a player use cards from their hand, but they can steal words that have been played by previous players. A word cannot be stolen if it is all of the same trump, as it is considered Wordlocked. Otherwise, a word may be stolen, and the letters used to form new words (as long as every letter from the stolen word is used). Whenever a player steals a word, they must add at least one letter from their hand to the word. They may steal a word and break it down into two or more words. The player whose word is stolen loses the points they gained for that word. Players cannot steal their own words, and may only steal one word from other players.
Jokers can count as any letter, but are not worth any points. If a player cannot make a word from their hand, or steal from another player, they lose five points, draw a card, and skip a turn. Otherwise, a player scores points for the word(s) they create and draw cards to replenish their hand to seven cards. When every card from the deck has been dealt, and one player uses all their cards (or no one can make a word), the game is over. All the cards still in players hands are deducted from their scores, and the player with the highest score is the winner!
Some comments on the game:
1). Components. The company that made Wordthief was obviously trying to go for a poker feel, with the different suits and poker chips. Its strange to see a game that actually provides two different ways to score. Using the chips may be more fun, but the included score pad is very nice, and I think that we would use that more often, as its much more convenient to write down numbers than to count out chips. The cards are of extremely high quality, and very easy to read. All cards are printed both ways, so that the letters can be read from either side of the table. Each suit is in a different color, helping to more easily distinguish between them. The box is a smaller type box, but has a plastic insert that holds all the components well, including the poker chips. Good components are found in this game.
2). Rules: The rules are written well on three small pages. However, the company decided to write the rules via bullet points, and wrote a few of the rules out of order, in my opinion. Its not too hard to figure them out. I just think the rules could have been better organized. One thing that did impress me was that on the last page of the rulebook, there is a chart showing the letter distribution of the cards of each suit and the value of each card. There is a card included with the game that also shows the same information. Both of these charts are very convenient and appeal to the people who like to analyze games and count cards. The rules for the game are easy to teach and learn, and a game can be up and running within five minutes.
3). Strategy: We quickly found that its good to form words of one suit, regardless of how big the words were. Not only did that give you double or triple points but the word wouldnt be stolen by anyone else. In the first game we played, I consistently had words that I made stolen by other players, until I ended the game with one word! A bit of frustration could settle in, if the cards a player get arent conducive to this. However, if a sharp eye is kept on words that are played by other players, this can be rectified a bit. Strategy for making words is very similar to the strategy found in Scrabble.
4). Fun Factor: Its great fun to steal an opponents word, and great agony when your words are stolen. I wasnt pleased to have words stolen every turn, but it didnt turn me off from the game; it just made me resolve to steal words back from other opponents. The jokers are incredibly useful, as they can be any letter, any suit, and are often used to help lock up words. Everyone who played the game enjoyed it, and had fun. However, the fun wasnt great enough that everyone asked to play the game that often. Its occasionally asked for, but other word games get more prominence.
5). Education: As with all word games, this one can be used to help teach spelling to children and students. Some people may be put off (or turned on) by the poker theme, but I found that the theme barely touches the play of the game. As with Scrabble and Crossword Pyramids, this is an excellent game to teach spelling.
6). A game is short, ranging from 30 to 45 minutes. Players may wish to play in two rounds, with a different suit from trump each round.
To sum it up, I think the game is fun, and educational. But I dont think its one of the best word games out there. Its a good game, and probably wont be a waste of your money (especially at a 75% off sale). But there are so many other games you could spend your money on, and to buy this before many of them would be a crime. Word Thief is fun, but I think you should pass it up and wait for a better game.