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This is an attempt to list the letter-by-letter word games that have been published -- called "letter-by-letter games", or "word-building games", to distinguish them from word games which use whole words, phrases, sentences, etc. Examples of the latter include Taboo, Guestures, Trivial Pursuit, and Charades; all of which can be considered "word games", but are outside the scope of this list. Instead, this list focuses on games in which the basic element is a letter, and words are built up from there. We will also not be listing traditional word games which can be played without special equipment, although many of the games here could also be played without the paraphenalia listed here (typified by Jotto, for example); To include pencil and paper word games would turn this project from a web page into a book! Similarly we will also be avoiding purely electronic word games (such as Jumble) unless they also have a board, card or tile component.
ScrabbleTM is probably the best-known letter-by-letter word game today. Many of the games below were invented to cash in on the popularity of Scrabble; but many of them pre-date it, especially the games using lettered cards and letter-dice which were played in cross-word fashion but without a board or with a plain board devoid of the premium word scores we have come to cherish.
The games currently listed are mostly from the USA with some from other English-speaking lands such as Britain and Australia, but submissions of games from other countries and for play in other languages will be most welcome. (Here's a good list from France that I haven't yet had time to go over individually) We hope to eventually document all aspects of a game, so that if you are going to buy one (on eBay, for example) you'll be able to check here and see just how many tiles or cards there should be before you buy a set with some missing items. We'll also be documenting the rules, when possible, so you can play on an old game whose original rules are lost. (Meanwhile, the Games Cabinet, About.com, D'Antiques, and the AGPC (not online - photocopies by mail only) have a fine selection of rules, and John McLeod has a huge database of rules for card games. The about.com site also has some advice for buyers. As, occassionally, do we.)
This list is not done yet - there have been an astonishing number of such games published. We'll continue to add any new submissions and corrections that are mailed to Graham Toal <email@example.com>.
My thanks to the contributors (listed below), and to anyone else who responds to my plea to fill in either more game titles, comments, or both. Also thanks to external sites we've linked to, which may have a review or an image of a game. To keep the loading time of this page reasonable, I'm not placing any images inline within this page.
The games are in alphabetical order, and are numbered merely so I can easily see how many we've been able to list. If we give a date, it's the oldest date we're aware of; if we give a tile count, it's the highest tile count we're aware of - but beware, games may be older than we know or we may have info from boxes with tiles missing!
I've recently started adding some price guide information, basically just summarizing the prices fetched on eBay for the permanent record, before eBay forgets old sales. These are not to be taken with any authority. Anything you sell is worth what you can get for it. I've seen the very same game sell at times for $10 and other times for $50.
The latest major change to this page is to add some images of the games. A few words of explanation are needed here. The principle source of research for finding uncatalogued games is the online auction site, eBay. When I find a new game, I generally mail the person selling it and ask if I can use the image from their page. Usually they say yes with no strings attached. Occassionally they ask that I link to their auctions, which I'm happy to do in exchange. However most times I don't get an answer at all, which is a little depressing, though certainly understandable because many auction sellers aren't interested in what they sell - they get job lots from a house clearing when someone dies and sell everything off as fast as possible. It's a business. And I wouldn't want to put someone out who was trying to get some work done. So... although in life I'm generally very strict about copyrights and things of that nature, I have in these pages included some graphics from people from whom I have not had explicit permission. In those cases, I generally check their 'other sales' pages first, and if they are a specialist in word games, I'll include a link to it because no matter when you access it you'll probably find a word game. People who have only ever sold one word game however I don't generally link to as the word game will be long gone from the memory of eBay by the time you click on their link. In those cases I may out of politeness include a generic link to eBay, or have no attribution at all. If any ebay advertiser spots one of their scans here and is offended by this appropriation of their images, I will remove it immediately. My common sense feeling is that no-one is likely to object. I know I certainly wouldn't. Now that the page below is starting to get a pretty good coverage of what's available, new games are arriving more slowly than before and I have more time to pursue requests to include images. When I first started this page, I was adding 10 or 20 a day, and it just wasn't possible to track everyone down to ask their permission. On the plus side, we do have quite a lot of good pictures here :-)
So, without further ado, the games:
Quick index: [A] [B] [C] [D] [E] [F] [G] [H] [I] [J] [K] [L] [M] [N] [O] [P] [Q] [R] [S] [T] [U] [V] [W] [X] [Y] [Z]
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org > > We were given a wedding present of the Finnish 'version' of Scrabble > called Alfabet which is played on a 17 x 17 board with x4 Word squares > and 8 letters on racks - maybe that's where your information came from? - > I believe it is a popular game in Scandinavian countries. The tile > distribution is fun when applied to English!! > > Mike O'RourkeI believe this page contains an image of the Alfapet rack.
Splotch 8 A 16 N 14 B 4 O 16 C 6 P 4 D 8 Q 2 E 24 R 12 F 4 S 14 G 4 T 20 H 10 U 6 I 14 V 2 J 2 W 4 K 2 X 2 L 8 Y 4 M 4 Z 2[SA2]
B D A U T CAB PASS T ATOM CORE KEEN [Not too shabby for 1932!]"Proper names, abbreviations and foreign words are not allowed. Players may use the dictionary as a means of settling disputes. If a word is querstioned and is not found in the dictionary, the player must take back the word and lose his next turn. If the questioned word is in the dictionary, the one who disputed it must lose his next turn."
(see also Donald Sauter's page on Crossword Anagrams)
I believe the following is the point scale:
See Funagain Games.
240 letter tiles. Words must be formed before you can place tiles on bingo cards. Timer, simultaneous play. [SOS]
Volume VI in the "Big Little Card Game" series. 47 cards, 2 1/2" x 1 5/8" (i.e. small format). Scores on cards as for game below. Includes Free Letter card. May be only 47 cards? 48? Small pink box. Includes instruction sheet.
Common crossword card game style with no special rule variants. 96 cards. Letter scores are: A 8 B 4 C 6 D 4 E 8 F 2 G 2 H 6 I 8 J 2 K 6 L 6 M 6 N 6 O 6 P 6 Q 2 R 6 S 6 T 6 U 6 V 4 W 6 X 1 Y 2 Z 1 "Free Letter" 0
Card distribution is: A 6 B 3 C 4 D 3 E 8 F 2 G 3 H 3 I 5 J 4 K 2 L 4 M 4 N 4 O 5 P 3 Q 2 R 5 S 5 T 5 U 4 V 2 W 3 X 1 Y 2 Z 2 "Free Letter" 3
This is basically the same as Waddington's Lexicon, below. The game was originally published in Britain, and so the US sets (with a 1937 copyright date on the manuals) boast "Over 4,000,000 LEXICON Sold in England"! I believe that these were published for many years after 1937 so collectors should note that the date on the manual (the only date anywhere in the set) may be misleading.
This game comes in two boxes, one red and one blue. They are otherwise identical. The cards are also in red or blue. I believe there are some games that you can play with two sets together but I don't have any info about rules for these.
The distributions of cards are: A 4 B 1 C 2 D 1 E 5 F 1 G 2 H 2 I 3 J 1 K 1 L 3 M 2 N 2 O 3 P 1 Q 1 R 3 S 3 T 3 U 2 V 1 W 2 X 1 Y 1 Z 1 Master (wildcard) 2.
The cards also have point values, like Scrabble tiles: A 10 B 2 C 8 D 6 E 10 F 2 G 4 H 8 I 10 J 6 K 8 L 8 M 8 N 8 O 8 P 8 Q 4 R 8 S 8 T 8 U 8 V 6 W 8 X 2 Y 4 Z 2 Master (wildcard) 15.
The 1939 box has slightly different artwork from later boxes, recognisable from the thinner font face on the box. Manual and cards look the same. [SOS] [GT]
Contains directions, board, 119 tiles, 2 joker tiles, 4 wooden racks, score pad and 4 letter distribution cards. Another approximate Scrabble rip-off.
Game #5010. Scrabble lookalike, but sufficiently different board layout to avoid a lawsuit. There is no copyright and no date on the box. Rules are printed inside the box lid. Very similar to Skip-a-cross in quality - cardboard board, cardboard tiles. The letters have no point values. Letter frequencies: A 9 B 3 C 3 D 5 E 12 F 4 G 2 H 4 I 9 J 2 K 2 L 4 M 4 N 7 O 9 P 2 Q 1 R 7 S 6 T 8 U 6 V 1 W 1 X 1 Y 3 Z 1 Blanks 4 (Total 120). Mild deviation from Scrabble: instead of playing on the center square to start, you must place three tiles over the center square and its adjoining neighbors. Scoring: 1) 5 points for each letter played, 10 points on own color square [Each player chooses one of the four colors before playing (red, green, blue and yellow)], 5 times dice throw on any cross square, 10 times dice throw on cross square of own color. 2) Any word over 5 letters gives player 50 points bonus (i.e. he must place in one turn at least 5 letters) 3) Letters left in rack at end of game count 5 points against score. 4) Challenges count 25 points for or against according to findings in dictionary. [GT]
Paper in special holders (4) form crossword frames. Letters are drawn one at a time, and all players fill their own in at the same time, one letter at a time. Try to have the most words when the puzzle is full. Incl. 4 pencils and score sheets. Instructions on underside of box.
Crypto hidden word board game. Included in this game is the board, 52 letter cards and 7 clue cards.
Solving the code is your 'CUE' to excitement and challenge in this stimulating word game! CUE is a fascinating game for 2,3, or 4 players based on the solving of secret codes or cryptograms. Includes: 10 master code cards, a large plastic "Master Code Breaker," 5 Special dice, a dice cup, blank pad of paper, instructions, and a code book containing 200 phrases in secret code and their solutions. [From an eBay ad]
The game contains a six-sided die, with the numbers 1-4 occupying four of the sides and an asterisk (*) on the other two sides. Upon rolling the die, the clue-giver correlates the number on the die to the number on the game card. There are five words on each card. If you roll a 1, the word will be a person. If you roll a 2, the word will be a place. If you roll a 3, the word will be a thing. If you roll a 4, the word will be an event. If you roll an asterisk, you can choose to try the asterisk word (generally much harder but worth more points) or you can choose to do any of the words, one through four. Once the word is decided, you are free to tell your partner or team how many words it is and whether the answer is a proper noun. The clue-giver then rolls four 12-sided dice, which have a letter on each side (except one side on two of the dice, which contain an asterisk for a wildcard letter). The object now is to get your team or partner to say the word on the card using clue words that begin only with the letters you rolled. And you can use each letter only once. For instance, if the word is apple, and you roll A, T, F, and W, you can say, "Fruit William Tell Arrowed." Then you must be silent and allow your team to guess. No other clues or pantamime is allowed. The clue-giver can re-roll the dice twice more, giving new clues with new letters. If the next roll is D, J, R, and P, the clue-giver could say "Johnny planted red delicious." But the clue giver doesn't need to use all of the letters. Once the team guesses, the clue-giver MUST ROLL AGAIN. Only one guess per roll, or three guesses total. The team gets two minutes. It is a very challenging game that tests your vocabulary and diction skills.
8 points for a "one-on-one" (one-word clue, correct answer).
4 points for getting it on the first turn (with more than one word as a = clue)
3 points on the second turn
2 points on the third
2 bonus points if it was the asterisk word
I'm not sure how many spaces are on the board, but it's a very simple layout. The first one around wins. There are also squares where both (or all) teams get to guess at the clue-giver's clues, but we have never played with them, so I'm not really sure how they work. Anyway, it's a great game, and VERY addictive. It just so happens that, as far as I'm concerned, my brother owns the only copy known to man. I NEED a copy of the game. [JT] (I'll pass any offers on to Jim who contributed this review! - GT. By the way this doesn't strictly match our criteria for inclusion, but then there are a few others such as "Chain Letters" that are borderline as well. It was such a good review I thought I'd include it anyway)
(Armand Jammot is the originator of "Countdown")
in this French game you uncover your opponents letters by a complex process of triangulation (on a hex grid). See also the French game Bataille de Mots Croises and the English game Decypher.
"The word game where your logic and deduction lead to your opponent's destruction! For word game lovers and strategists alike! Combine the skills of deduction and logic to outwit your opponent and win!" Two players, ages 8+. Two sets of letter tiles and a board that consists of four 5x5 grids separated by a screen (two grids per player). You apparently fill your grid (like a crossword?) and try to deduce the contents of your opponent's grid. Sounds like a cross between Scrabble and Battleship. [DUT]
See the French games Bataille de Mots Croises and Decrypto.
See Funagain Games.
Matthew Gray informs me: The Reiner Knizia game "Diabolo" was just republished in the US under the name "My Word!" and "My Word! Junior" by Out of the Box games.
May be more of a children's education toy than a game.
This is a box of 63 small wood tiles that have the letters of the alphabet on them and a small number up in the corner. I have no idea how this is played, but looks like some sort of Scrabble or word game/domino mix. Box says Diamino, Marque & Modele Deposes-Brevete. SGDG France & Etranger. Made in France. Box is 7" long, 3 1/4" wide and about 1" tall.
[From an ebay advertisement]
"Chinese Diamino". An attempt to make a crossword game on a hex grid. Has 12 wild-cards to make it easier. Read about it at web.avo.fr.
As the editor of this review says, "What a lack of imagination!". Has a few small rules that make it different enough from Scrabble to avoid a lawsuit, but why bother?
Made in Portland, Oregon. 180 letters, bag, dictionary. 4 tile racks, score pads, note pads, rules. Find highest scoring word from a draw of 10 letters.
Players use wands with a gummy end to dig out words from a pile of letters. Money and cards feature the Monopoly Man. Gummy wands liable to dry up with age. [AS] [GT]
378 letter tiles, many cards with a subject printed on each. Deal out subject cards, players simply dig into the common pile of letter tiles, spelling words relating to their subject. [SOS]
Variation on Scrabble Word Cubes. 23 word cube dice, timer and instructions.
I believe the following is the point scale: