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ABC Boom

Updated: Apr 12, 2023

Here’s an unusual combination from Djeco: a dexterity and word game. ABC Boom is designed for primary school children but it’s very playable as a family game or even, with some house rule tweaks, as a game that adults can enjoy.

ABC Boom is played by 2–4 players using a set of 26 wooden letters (one for each letter of the alphabet) plus 14 sticks (rather like small but thick lollysticks). On your turn, you draw a card and that indicates whether you place out a letter or one or two sticks. For the letters, the card shows whether you have free choice of any of the remaining letters or whether you have to choose one of a limited number shown on the card. When you place a letter on the stack that players are collectively building, the rules specify that you have to give a word that uses that letter; place a stick and you need to give a word that uses the (usually two) letters that the stick bridges. Meet the requirements of the card and you win it. Fail – usually because the structure collapses completely or at least one letter or stick falls – and you forfeit the card and one of the cards you’ve previously won. Winner at the end of the game is the player with the most cards.

The rules then are super-simple but, for us, part of the appeal of this game is that they readily lend themselves to modification so that you can make more of a competitive game of it when adults play with their children. For example, you can handicap players in the dexterity element of the game by imposing limitations on how a player places out their letters: say by only allowing them to use two of their fingers. You can, of course, also modify the word requirements. Even playing just with junior school children we house ruled that the words had to begin with the letter used, but you could extend the challenge by requiring the player to spell rather than just say the word. Again, you can handicap older children and adults by limiting them to categories of word (only nouns or only adjectives, for example) or, say, demanding that the words are all species of animal.

As we’ve come to expect from Djeco, the production quality of ABC Boom is faultless. The chunky wooden letters all have a satisfying heft, and it’s a welcome touch that the round letters have very slightly flattened bottoms to better facilitate their stacking. The rules don’t appear to demand that players stand their letters up but we imposed that interpretation (it’s not much of a game if you allow players to just lay the letters flat).

Children and adults alike can have a lot of fun with ABC Boom as a dexterity stacking game but by varying it with simple house rules, you can keep the word aspect both challenging and educational.

(Review by Selwyn Ward)

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