Kiitos is apparently the Finnish word for 'thank you', and it's what you're expected to say in this game when other players complete your words and help you to score points. As it's probably not a word you'll find in your English dictionary, however, it's not one that would be a legal play in this intriguing word game from Ludogix.
Kiitos is played with a deck of 72 cards representing at least one copy of each letter of the alphabet, except that there's no Q. There are eight E's, six I's and just one copy each of J, K, V, W, X, Y and Z. There are 2-5 copies of other letters. The 2-4 players are each dealt a hand of eight cards and the first player lays down a card and announces their target word. The word must start with that letter and must be at least four letters long. If the next player has the next letter in that word, they must play it, and play continues in this way until the word is complete, at which point the player who set the target word says 'Kiitos' and takes all the cards face up into their score pile; each card will count as a positive point when scoring. If a player doesn't have the next letter in the target word, they can play a different letter and set a new target word. If that word is subsequently completed, it is the player who specified it that will score the points. Of course, it may very well be the case that you don't have the next letter for the target word and you have no letters suitable to be played to set a new target word. When that happens, you take the cards that have been played, flip them face down and add them to your score pile where they will represent negative points. Players all draw back up to a hand of eight cards and play continues with a new target word started by whoever picked up the cards.
The rules therefore are simple and intuitive but don't let that fool you: in Kiitos, Matthew Thredgold has designed a remarkably clever strategy game. In choosing a target word, you can play the odds based on your knowledge of the letter distribution and the cards that you know have already been played. Players have to 'follow suit' and play the next letter in a target word if they have it and ideally you want the target word completed so that you score positive points. Failing that, however, you'll want other players to take the hit for being unable to make a legal play so that they have to pick up negative points. Curiously, in our ultra-competitive Board's Eye View plays, we found broader vocabularies tended to result in runs of longer words that were eventually impossible to complete, so that final scores were frequently all negative! If you find that too disheartening, we recommend flipping the scoring rule card so that positive points count double.
Kiitos is a game that you'll replay time and again. It plays well at all player counts but we especially enjoyed it as a strategic head-to-head two-player tussle. The compact box includes cards to record 'challenges' (another negative point if the target word you set isn't in the dictionary but a negative point for the challenger if it turns out that it is) and 'seasoning cards' that introduce optional rule changes; for example, to be allowed to immediately complete a word when setting it as the target. Each of these optional rules shakes the game up enough to force canny players to have to change their strategy.
If you like word games, this is a must buy! Kiitos from us to the designer and publisher!