The Final Word

If the title suggests a game about epitaphs, last gasps or arguments, Faye Klein's The Final Word may surprise you. It's a word game, or rather a tool kit of word games playable using the letter cards in the box and a straightforward overarching ruleset.

The Final Word comprises a deck of 120 letter cards. Distribution is broadly similar to that calculated by Alfred Mosher Butts for the 100 letters in Scrabble (the extra 20 letters in The Final Word are one more each E, H, N, T, U, W & Y, two more L, P & S and three more A, C & R; there's one less I & M than in Scrabble). The letter cards each have an assigned value in the range of 1-4, broadly corresponding to that letter's relative frequency of use in the English language.

The core rules have all players drawing and replenishing a hand of 10 cards and they specify that all words must have a minimum of three letters. The rules suggest agreeing in advance on a dictionary to use as arbiter of disputes. If you lay a word that is successfully challenged (ie: it's not in the agreed dictionary), you lose your turn, but players are likewise penalised by losing a turn if they make an incorrect challenge - so there's scope here for push-your-luck play. Using these basic rules, The Final Word suggests three different 1-6 player games and two 2-6 player games.

Last Man Standing can be played with or without scoring. Players must lay words that start with the last letter of the word played by the previous player. Played solitaire, this makes for an excellent word variant of Patience.

Split Run and Real Value both involve players overlaying letters on a previously played word in order to create one or more new words. These games are scored, so that, in Split Run, players receive the total value of all words affected on their turn (ie: not merely the value of the letters they have laid). This is similar to tacking on a letter at the front or back of a word in Scrabble (eg: adding an S to turn QUIRE into SQUIRE) except that the change you make can be to any letter in the word (so you can play an A to change SQUIRE to SQUARE to score for the new word). Again, this is very playable as a solitaire game, tho' there's little challenge here to merely exhausting the deck: you'll want to keep score and challenge yourself to beat your previous best.

In Leftovers, players combine one or more of the letters in their hand with one or more letters in the previously played word. You score for letters not used by the next player. The novel scoring system in this game makes for quite a tense contest; tho' we found this particular game to be much better as a two-player head-to-head challenge than with more players. If you play with three or more, then it's a huge advantage to be followed next in turn order by a weak player.

Turnover, which can also be played solitaire, requires the player to make a word that uses the letter randomly turned over from the draw deck. You can either use the letters in the word previously played or the letters in your hand, and you score for the letters you use.

If you like word games, you'll get a lot of fun from the suite of games playable with The Final Word. It's just unfortunate that the cards aren't better quality. They have sharp corners, which make them especially vulnerable to wear. We'd have just liked to have seen them cut with rounded corners, which would have made them hardier.

If you have difficulty getting hold of The Final Word at your local games store, you can order it direct from Faye Klein Design.

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