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Upwords Board Game Review

I’ve been a fan of Scrabble for as long as I can remember, and when Words With Friends and other such games landed on Facebook and the Android and iOS marketplaces, I grabbed onto them and played them to death. But let’s face it – it’s an old concept that can get dull pretty quickly, so I’m always on the lookout for interesting new, word game experiences. Enter Upwords, which has been around for a little while now, but has been solely owned by Spin Master for the last few, and has recently recieved a re-release. Do we like this Scrabble-esque title? Let’s hop in!

How to Play

blankAfter determining the starting player, each person selects 7 tiles to begin the game with. Going turn-by-turn, players use the letters in their possession to create words on the board. Sounds familiar, right? While there are a variety of rules to consider when playing words, the crux of it all is that words must be horizontal or vertical, and must be found in the dictionary. Players can place new tiles adjacent to others to create new words, or place on top of other words to change that words into something new.

Here are further restrictions to understand:

Restrictions on words are as follows:

No words that are always capitalized, No hyphenated words, No words requiring an apostrophe, No abbreviations or symbols, No prefixes or suffixes which cannot stand alone, No foreign words unless they are in the dictionary

The 2008 edition included a new rule: Players may not pluralize a word simply by adding an S at its end. However, such a play is allowed if the S is part of another complete word that is played onto the board in the same turn. This rule is intended to prevent players from capitalizing on one another’s words without changing them or playing new ones.

Restrictions on stacking tiles are as follows:

No stack may be more than five tiles high, No tile may be stacked directly onto a duplicate of itself, At least one tile or stack must be left unchanged; a player may not cover every letter in a word on a single turn.

Does it Change Enough to Replace Scrabble?

I fully believe that you will never replace a classic game of Scrabble, but over the past few weeks, we have been brining Upwords to the table more often than all of our other board games, which is saying something. We currently have a collection of our 150 different board games, and to have one dominate our board game table this often is pretty impressive. What I like about it, however, is how easy it is to play and teach. Anyone with a grasp of the English language could sit down and quickly learn the ins and outs of this title. How closely players pay attention to what’s going on, and how quickly they can piece word puzzles together in their heads will ultimately decide who will be the most successful.

Simply playing words Scrabble style won’t help you either, as you only get two points per letter. Where you can really gain points is by stacking, as you will get 2 points for your original title, plus an additional point for every tile in the stack. It’s fun to push your luck, setting yourself up for a big point score later in the game, and hoping others don’t build on what you are planning for future turns. This gives the game a very risk-and-reward feel, which is both thrilling, and at times, incredibly frustrating.

For word fans and hardcore Scrabble lovers, Upwords is an easy recommendation. It will provide a brief reprise from the daily Scrabble grind, and get you thinking in new ways. While easy to understand, Upwords can be very difficult to master, which means each game will provide new opportunities to learn and improve. From our vantage point, this is a fantastically priced addition to any board game collection!


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blank Adam Roffel has only been writing about video games for a short time, but has honed his skills completing a Master's Degree. He loves Nintendo, and almost anything they have released...even Tomodachi Life.

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Twitter: @AdamRoffel