Word games have moved on a bit from the days of Boggle, WBG picks our top five on the market right now. What are your favourites?

Do you remember how annoying the noise was when anyone shook the boggle box? The soundtrack of word games in the 90’s! I also recall how dumb it made me feel as a teenager watching my family outscore me game after game. It’s a fun little activity, don’t get me wrong. And it certainly helps with vocabulary. But essentially, it’s people sat in silence around a table, writing short words down on a piece of scrap paper. Often making the lesser players feel left out. So, good for couples and like minded friends, but less so for families. 

I enjoy Banagrams and Scrabble but again, there is an age and intellect advantage here. And both games play in relative silence. I love Codenames and Just One, but I’m fairly sure most of you know about these by now and they are relatively silent games too. I do like a bit more noise myself, just not from shaking letter cubes in a plastic box. I am looking more for laugher with my word games!

So, I set about playing as many examples of this genre as I could to find my top five word games that work for any gaming group, can be explained easily, generate a lot of interaction and fun, and where possible, can be played in comfort without a table. Let’s start with a new one.

 

Master Word – Best for Younger families

Age range - 5 and up

Does it need a table - No, just a central area to focus on.

Fun factor - High

Social factor - High

Educational elements - High

This game comes from new designer Gerald Cattiaux, is published by Scorpion Masque and distributed in the UK by the awesome folks at Coiledspring games. The game works for all ages and abilities due to the co-operative nature of the game and I would recommend this as the best game on this list for younger families from five and up.

In Master Word, seekers are given a category, such as “animal.” One player acts as the guide and will know the full answer, in this example, "Scorpion." The seekers will then write down words to try and narrow down the search for the master word. Perhaps trying in round one, “Large,” “Africa” and “Scary.” The guide will then give ‘thumbs up’ tokens to indicate how many of the guesses were correct. In this case, two. Seekers do not know which guesses were right, they just know how many hit the spot. And this is where the fun comes in.

Out of these three, could something be in Africa and large, but not scary? Giraffe perhaps? How about scary and large but not Africa? A Polar bear? What about scary and Africa, but not large. Hmm, a Spider maybe?

You then move onto the next round, offering more clues, funnelling closer and closer until a player is ready to have a guess. There are three cards with a red border used for this. You don’t want to guess on the normal cards or you will lose.  But if you guess right on the red edged cards then all players win. If you are wrong, no matter, you have two more attempts.

With some minor adult supervision, this works for all ages, and the sense of deduction for the group as you edge closer to the master word, brings a lot of enjoyment to the table. Not that you need one! In the guessing phase, players can talk out loud to discuss what they have learnt from previous clues and decide what they will do next. This rule alone opens the game up so much to all players and ages. And it's a really fun process. 

I like word games like this where you can play to a score, or just have fun with the mechanics. You can be flexible with the rules and adapt to the players in your group. But however, you play, you will have a lot of enjoyment with this game. No one will feel left out or left behind, the game doesn’t allow for it.

Players are all involved throughout, but the Guide can feel out of the loop a little at first. But if you rotate this position, you will find often players will want to have this role the most. It's hilarious to listen to your friends talk out loud and debate the thumbs up clues you have given them. Trying to decide if the small, black, scary thing in the desert is a scorpion or snake! The urge to help/laugh is real! 

 

Haiclue – Best for multi-generational team play.

Age range - 7 and up

Does it need a table - No, just something for each player to lean on.  

Fun factor - High

Social factor - High

Educational elements - High

This game is the first outing from Tiger Board Games and designer Will Leaf. It seems to have gone under the radar due somewhat, but the game is solid and deserves its place in my top five for its seamless game play and original mechanics. I would recommend this game as the best one for multi-generational team play.

At the start of the game, there will be four words in the centre of the table, all assigned to a certain symbol. Players then pick from a deck of symbol cards to see which word is allocated to them. Players then pick from 15 random randomly assigned word tiles to try and give a clue that would lead the other players to their assigned word. You can pick as many words as you like for your clues, but you have to use at least two. Could you direct your friends to “lamp” with “bight,” “lobby” and “main” perhaps? Sounds tricky, but if their other options are “temper,” “crawl” and “shoe,” then “lamp” may be the most obvious choice.

This is done simultaneously. Players are all picking their clues for their key word at the same time. Players then read out their clues in turn, and all players pick which word they think that player was trying to direct them towards. One of the reasons I love this game is everyone is playing together, all the time. There is no down time at all. It can work in pairs or solo, from two people up to12. 

This game works for all ages, especially when you play in pairs. I would highly recommend trying this in a two on two situation with an adult and child on each team. It creates a lovely balance. I have played this successfully with my seven-year-old, who really enjoyed the guessing part of the game. It helped with his logic, vocabulary and concentration. I saw a strong learning curve from him as we played this game more often. No table is needed, just a book or tray to put your words on. You can sit back, relax and play for as long as you like. Haiclue offers a lot of flexibility and will be played for years in my family.

 

Letter Jam – Best for groups of six.

Age range -13 and up

Does it need a table - Ideally

Fun factor - High

Social factor - High

Educational elements - High

 

Like all games on this list, this game can be taught in under 5 minutes and is highly accessible to all ages. Although, Letter Jam has a slightly older recommended age of 10 and up as you do play in a little more isolation from the other players, compared to the other games on this list. As such, adult help is harder to give and you do need to have some understanding of spelling to be successful. It does also require some spelling based deduction. As such, I recommend this as the best game to play with teenagers and up, and in a group of six.

The rule book isn’t the best in my opinion, but the game is simple. All players have a single letter in front of them and they can see each players letter apart from their own. The aim of the game is to guess your own letter. You need to attempt this 5 times. Your 5 letters will make a word collectively, so this can help in the later rounds. If you have already guessed your letters to include a C, R, A and an S, and are unsure if the last one is an H or T, then you can use what you have already deduced to help you. Maybe your word is "CRASH?"

The way you guess is by other players making words with the letters they can see in front of them. You will then hear that word and see which letters from other players they have used. You will then be able to make a guess as to what your letter is as they may have used your letter in their word. Sounds simple when written down like this. But you cannot always make a word with the letters in front of you, or indeed with all the letters, and there may be some doubling up of some letters. So sometimes you miss certain peoples letters out or have to use a wild that doesn’t help anyone. The game is elegantly timed with a central flower card with depleting tokens that represnet the rounds and the game flows beautifully. 

This does create a sense of panic for some players, and it can be harder for some people to give clues, which can lead to one player often having far less clues for their own letters. But the game does have a smart mechanic that forces all players to give clues at certain points, keeping everyone involved.

This game is advertised as 2-6 but really shines in a six. The dummy players used on lower counts work, but are a little frustrating. I personally would only advise for this one if you can pay regularly in a six.  But if this is you, then do not delay. In a six this game is nothing short of brilliant.

 

Decrypto – Best for 2v2 or pub group play.

Age range - 8 and up

Does it need a table - No

Fun factor - High

Social factor - High

Educational elements - High

I have written about the mechanics here, so I am going to get straight into why it is on this list. Decrypto is hands down the best party game out there in my opinion. And based purely on fun, this is right up there as one of the best games all round! It is that good. In fact, I put in my my current top 3 games.  I would recommend this game to anyone!

This game scales so well. And works in so many different environments. I love it in a four, with two couples playing against each other, chilled at home resting on the coach. You don’t need a table or central focal point. Just to be able to see and hear the other players. I love the competitive nature this brings out between couples. The game always starts light and breezy. But quickly evolves into a must win experience as players find themselvesheavilly invested in the game.

This game is a perfect pub game too. In a 2v2 or a 4v4, either way this game works equally well. It is portable enough to be taken to a pub, and small enough to work on a small pub table. The game is also light enough to work in this environment. You can pause whenever you like, have a chat about something else. Get a drink in. Then go back to the next round.

However and wherever you play though. You will have fun. This tops the BGG rankings for a reason. It is an absolute must have for me.

 

Anomia – Best for people looking to be creative.

Age range - 8 and up

Does it need a table - Yes, small

Fun factor - High

Social factor - High

Educational elements - Medium

 

Anomia is a funny one for me. It has a bad name and the box art does little to advertise the fun that can be had inside. But don’t be fooled. Anomia is a brilliant game that can bring a lot of joy to any gaming group. It has so much flexibility and as such, I would recommend this to anyone who wants a word game based sand box style environment, where they can create many different games from the tools provided.

Anomia plays very quickly and can be explained in less time than it takes to finish this sentance. Play a card, say a word that is associated with that card. Done.

The game has rules within it that work with 3-6 people, but I have played solo and in a two with minor changes. You may have seen an online version of this that I played during my Instagram lives for my 24-hour board game marathon for Dementia UK. I mixed this game with two other party games into a quick-fire challenge and had a lot of fun with this. And this is one of the huge benefits I see in Anomia. In the box is just a lot of cards. All with various words on. You can use these cards for many different games of you own making, not just the one detailed here.

The game in the box as explained by the rules is excellent. Don’t get me wrong. It's just with these tools you can do so much more as well. This game has been criticised for being stressful, and I get that. But some minor rules tweaks will get rid of that for any player who doesn’t want to be as competitive or play to a time pressure. For example. Pick 20 cards, run through them yourself jotting down your answer. Then have another player try and find alternative answers, not knowing what you have originally gone for. But you telling them if they pick one you had for that card. The opposite to family fortunes in a way. And this is just a thought I had here as a typed this. There is so much you can do with these these cards that I would have to say this is a must have game for any collection. 

 

Want some family friendly word based fun?

Top 5 Family Word Games

Click the affiliate link below to help support What Board Game

contact me.

© 2020 Jim Gamer Hope you enjoy the ride! Don't forget, all links and shopping carts are affiliate links and help support the site if you purchase through them if your cookies are enabled. Thanks for your support.