Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Quick Review - WordWright - Kickstarter Preview

Designers: Rachel Pope & Jay Pope
Publisher: Defined Mind
Quick Review - WordWright - Kickstarter Preview

Wordwright isn't a game.  It's a game system.  What's a game system you ask?  Well, it's something that can be used to play a variety of different games.  A standard deck of cards is a game system.  Looney Pyramids are a game system.  Likewise, Wordwright is a game system that consists of a deck of cards (52 cards plus two wilds for a 54 card deck, same as a standard deck of cards) with a whole bunch of word parts printed on them.  These cards can be used to play a whole bunch of different games for anywhere from 1 to 6 or more players.

Wordwright is the brainchild of a sister and brother team based out of Chicago. (Yay for local game designers!)  Rachel and Jay Pope have launched a Kickstarter campaign with the intention of bringing Wordwright to the world.  And it must be something the world wants because it funded within two days!  Congratulations!  You can get your own copy of Wordwright for only $15 ($20 MSRP) on Kickstarter, here:
The cards look great and definitely attract
attention when spread out on a table.
Shortly before the campaign launched Jay Pope contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in reviewing Wordwright for them.  Since the games look both fun and somewhat educational I eagerly said yes.  A few days later I received a small deck of cards in a tuck box and have now played several of the included games a few times.  So what did I think?  Read on...


As I mentioned, Wordwright isn't a game, it's a game system.  The deck consists of 52 word part cards and two wild cards.  Each word part card contains quite a bit of information.  The main area of the card contains the word part, like "trans-", "port", or "-able".  Each card may also contain variations of the word part, like "por", "-ible", "-abil", or "-ibil".  Cards also include the definition of the word part and a value (which can be used for points in some games).  With these tools you can play a myriad of different games.  Some are simpler and more casual, some get pretty competitive.
In addition to the main word part, cards include
variations, definition, and points.

The basic idea behind every Wordwright game is to create words from two or more word parts.  To make a game more challenging set the minimum to three required parts.  Types of games range from solitaire (or cooperative) games where players try to clear the playing field of word part cards before the supply deck runs out to competitive games where players try to be the first to empty their hands by creating word parts.  There are games where players try to race to create words from a shared tableau that refreshes as words are created and games where players see how many words they can create from a static grid of cards.  There are crossword style games and rummy style games.  And the system is open enough to allow for many, many more types of games.
I may not be able to make words from these four cards, but I can
rearrange the cards already played to make new words that
might include these word parts.

Players are encouraged to use a dictionary to see if words they create actually exist (is "retransportability" a legal word?) and in doing so learn the definitions of newly discovered words.  So the games can be somewhat educational, too.  You'll find that after playing a few times you'll get quicker at finding words among the jumble of parts.
Word building with Wordwright is a ton of fun!
Final Thoughts:

I definitely had fun playing games with the Wordwright cards.  I didn't try all of the games, but the ones I did play were light and fun.  The games I played (which are the basic games included with the deck) are pretty traditional styled games with a Wordwright twist.  But I did look at a few others available on the Wordwright web page that seemed a bit more innovative.  There wasn't a lot of depth to the strategy in the games I played, and I'm not sure that there will be in any of the games, but with such an open ended system, who knows what someone will come up with.
Word Pyramid is a solo or coop game where you try to clear
the pyramid of cards before the draw pile is emptied.  You
can only use word parts from the three piles at the bottom or
'exposed' cards from the bottom of the pyramid.  My first word in
this game used "com-tract-tion-s" to make "contractions".

There were a few things that did irk me a bit though.  They didn't really interfere with my enjoyment of the games, but they did leave me scratching my head...  First is the layout of the cards.  Generally it's pretty clean and intuitive.  The graphic design looks great and the critical information on the cards is easy to see whether the cards are set up in a grid, laid out on the table, or held in the hand.  The definitions are easy to read, but not intrusive or distracting from the critical card information.  Each card has the main word part displayed twice, a larger display in the center of the card (which is easily displayed when laid out in a grid) and a smaller display along the side of the card (which is easily displayed when held in the hand). However, these word parts are displayed flipped.  So one is right side up and the other is upside down.  And the word part variants are the same layout as the larger main word part, but upside down compared to the smaller text that is easy to read in the hand.  Most of the time this wasn't an issue, but sometimes I found myself spinning the cards around to read the text easier.  If both the large word part text and the variation text were flipped it would make all the text readable from the same direction, making the cards a bit easier to work with.  It's a minor issue, but one that makes me ponder what the graphic designer was expecting when he or she laid out the cards this way.
I really would have preferred to have all the text 
facing the same way on the cards.

The other minor issue I had with the cards was the choices of word parts that were included in the game.  I understand that not every word part can be included, and there will hopefully be expansion or booster packs in the future with more word parts (I think theme packs would be cool), but some of the choices for the base game left me scratching my head.  Some word parts seemed redundant, like including both "com-" with variations of "con-" and "come-" and a separate card for "con-" with variations of "com-" and "cone-".  Other repetitive cards include "in" and "im" as well as "er" and "or".  Yet some other obvious word parts seemed to be missing, like "mut" or "mate" when both "mot" and "mit" are included.  Again, this didn't really detract from my ability to play the games, or my enjoyment of them, but it did leave me pondering.  Hopefully the game does well enough for some additional decks to become available!
Some word parts have overlapping variations.
Others seem to have variations or entire cards
that seem conspicuous in their absence.

Anyway, Wordwright is a fun platform for creating and playing a variety of different games.  There are already several decent games available, and likely more coming. If you like words and word games this is definitely a good one to have. There is a lot of potential in the deck and it's different from pretty much anything else out there because you're working with word parts rather than individual letters. Plus, the variety of game options, very small size, and simple theme make this easy to take with just about anywhere and pull out with anyone. It's very convenient, accessible, and provides several game options in one small, great looking package. Wordwright is definitely worth $15 (on Kickstarter, $20 MSRP) for a fun, flexible word game system.

So be sure to check out the Wordwirght Kickstarter campaign today!  It runs through December 28, 2015.

Preliminary Rating: 7.5/10

This review is of a prototype game.  Components and rules are not final and are subject to change.

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GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games.  Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play).  I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game.  Quick Reviews will only get a single rating of 1-10 (low-high) based on my first impressions of the game during my first few times playing.  Hopefully I'll get more chances to play the game and will be able to give it a full review soon.


  1. Thanks for a nice review of Wordwright, George. We may disagree a bit on the numerical ranking (come on, it's a little closer to a 9.9), but you really nailed the concept, and we're sure you'll love it more and more as we get more of our game variations up to be played, and players start creating and sharing their own. The games really grow on players the more they keep playing different games and building words in this unique way.

    I thought I'd give a couple responses to your head scratches:

    Flipped word part on side -- We made that decision so that when a card is in play for the group, whatever direction a player is looking at it, it will still be readable. In Word Scramble, there may be several players gathered around the set, and the player(s) in front would have an advantage in not having to read upside down. The upside-down side label offsets that advantage, as a player can scan those labels (right side-up to them). In Criss-Crosswords, cards are laid out and words can go in different directions (forwards or backwards) and having that upside-down option simplifies readability... If the word isn't formed right in one direction, it will be formed correctly in the other direction. So you look at either the center or the edge to read the word. I can understand the confusion your group had, but this hasn't been a big problem in playtests in our experience.

    Word part choices -- Yes, you're right, Wordwright (like any other game) can't include everything and still be playable. We went through dozens (if not hundreds) of set revisions finding the parts that worked best together. It's quite a juggling act. At the end of the day, we needed to stick with a manageable set of cards (we had 100+ card sets previously) for it to work well across a lot of games. So, certain word parts had to be cut (even if they worked nearly as well as others). The reasons for duplicates or slight variations is that we went through and collected data on the words you could make with a set, and then adjusted the frequency of that part occurring within a 52 card deck (similar to 12 "e" tiles and 1 "z" tile in a Scrabble set). Why 52? As a lifelong player of standard deck card games, a deck of 52 playing cards will always be the most elegant equipment in gaming to me, and I think that count serves Wordwright well. Wordwright can't be exhaustive and still be playable, but this set is very solid, offering around 1,000 valid word combinations. And yes, we do hope to offer expansions in the future to allow for customizable decks and new gaming possibilities.

    Anyway, thanks again, George. We hope you'll enjoy Wordwright for years to come.

    Jay Pope
    Defined Mind

    1. Jay,

      Thanks for your responses! As I mentioned in the review, the issues I listed were very minor and didn't detract from my enjoyment of the game. With the text flipping, the games I played were on a larger table and we sat positioned so that everyone was able to read the cards pretty much right side up. But I can see where some the cards would be easier to read in multiple alignments for some games. And I totally get that a lot of statistics and testing went into deciding on these specific word parts. Obviously everything can't be included or the deck would be too huge. And there are plenty of word parts to make plenty of words. I can't wait to see what other kids of games some expansions can allow. In our emails you mentioned the possibility of a deckbuilder that uses words. I just want to say that's an awesome idea! Thanks again, and good luck with the rest of the campaign!