Wednesday Words: Are You Game?

I am outnumbered in my family!  Living with three boys, I am often sucked into playing a strategy board game in which I feel like I’m plotting a geometry equation or preparing for the next World War.  If the choice was left to me, we would play word games A LOT!  I know I’m not the only one out there with this predilection.   

Why are word games so engaging?   As I’ve said, language is rich.  Word games rely on the ability to rearrange letters to make a word or to know definitions of obscure words or to describe a word without using any form of it.  The desire to communicate with another player or simply play around with words themselves drives the success of these games. 

Here are a few of my own favorites:

Scrabble – The quintessential word game in my opinion, but that may stem from my grandmother’s insistence that we play the game every time we visited her.  She kept her Scrabble set out on a Lazy Susan on her dining room table, ready to go whenever guests graced her home.  The game involves using seven letter tiles to form words and then placing them on a checkered board.  Scoring is determined by the value of the letter (e.g., E=1, K=5, Z=10) and bonus points available on certain board squares (e.g., Double Letter or Triple Word scores).  I’ve played everything from “at” to “myriad” and in between.   

Apples to Apples – I was first introduced to this board game at a couples’ retreat.  There are two piles of cards – one with adjectives and one with nouns.  An adjective is thrown out each round, and players compete to throw out a noun card which best describes the adjective played.  For instance, “Notorious” might be met with cards saying “Lizzie Borden,” “Richard Nixon,” “Aliens,” and “My Mother-in-Law.”  A judge in each round chooses his favorite, and the player whose card won gets a point. 

The pace and enjoyment of this game depends entirely upon the knowledge, quick-wittedness, creativity, and fun-factor of your players.  I’ve played with overly serious people and counted the minutes (no, seconds) until we were done, and I’ve played with loose and fabulous friends that made me fall off my chair with laughter.  Anyway, it’s a great game for a large group of friends, and my family enjoys the Apples to Apples Jr. version (for 9 yrs+) as well. 

Catchphrase – I have only played the electronic version of this game.  Sitting in a circle with all the players, you divide up into teams (every other player is how we’ve done it), and try to guess a word described by the person holding the Catchphrase contraption.  Meanwhile, the clock is ticking . . . literally.  When the time is up and the buzzer goes off, whichever team is holding the game gives a point to the other team.  It’s like Password or Taboo in that you are describing a word provided, but the race against the clock and the randomness of the buzzer keep the game moving.  It’s always a kick when I’ve played this one with a group of women.  It’s particularly fun to have people hurriedly trying to explain, gesture, and yell to get someone to guess correctly! 

Hangman – No board needed!  Who hasn’t played this one?  It’s a perennial favorite.  And it should be.  It’s fun for both sides.  Choose a word, draw the gallows, and if the other player can’t guess it, you hang ‘em high.  Or try to guess a word by throwing out letters before you get hung.  It’s the perfect waiting-room activity for you and your child.  And you can vary it to teach names or words you want others to learn.  For instance, studying mythology?  Use Hangman to have a group of students guess the Greek god you’re thinking of.  I can recall hours of playing Hangman as a child with my sisters and friends, and I’m still tickled when someone sits next to me and draws it on a piece of paper. 

What word games do you enjoy playing?  Do you have any new or obscure recommendations?  As I look at my short list, I realize I need to add to my repertoire! 

Now back to my family playing word games.  Lest you think that I am merely attempting to sway the stakes in my favor, my logic-minded, non-talkative husband beats me in Scrabble almost every time.  In fact, the first time I pulled the box out, I blabbed on and on about how I had played so many times growing up.  I was sure I would defeat him so badly that he might actually cry.  Instead, he played a word with all seven letters on the Triple Word Score, cinching a landslide victory that smarts to this day. 

But the fun is in the playing!  I’ll be back at it again soon.  How about you?