Updated: Apr 19
The Board’s Eye View review team includes several word game enthusiasts so we’re always excited to try a new word game, especially if it has the promise of a novel twist. The twist in Christian Giove’s design is that Artipia’s WordCraft combines a word game with scoring that uses an area control mechanic. The game also incorporates a pasted-on theme about potions and ingredients: this explains the background artwork from Kuo Yang but it is entirely irrelevant to the gameplay.
There is a card for each of the 26 letters of the alphabet (albeit that Q counts also as Qu). These each have a points value and they are divided into colour-coded groups. Shuffling the letter cards for each group, you lay out two cards from J, K, Q, V, X, Z (each worth 6 points); two cards from B, F, G, P, W, Y (each worth 5 points); three from C, D, L, M, U (each worth 4 points); three from H, N, R, S, T (each worth 3 points); and two from A, E, I, O (each worth 2 points). The 2–4 players each initially have 18 cubes and, on your turn you make a word of any length using any of the letters in the display. You then place a cube out on each letter you’ve used in the word; and if you use a letter more than once, you place the corresponding number of cubes on that letter.
In addition, there will be four ‘achievement’ cards available. These let you claim bonus points for words above a certain length or, for example, a word that starts and ends with a letter of the indicated colour. If your word meets the criteria for any of these, you can place a cube on that card too.
The game is played over three rounds, and a round ends when any player is left with two or fewer cubes. That player scores a 2-point bonus and all other players get one last turn. The letter cards are then scored, with the player who has the most cubes on a letter scoring its points value. Letter cards are shuffled and replaced each round and the achievement cards are scored only at the end of the third round.
This all makes for an intuitively easy to play word game where the area control scoring means canny players will want to focus on using particular letters rather than necessarily going for the longest or most elaborate word. Tho’ you get a 2-point bonus from ending a round, there’s often more advantage to being the last player as that position can make it easier to snatch an area control victory for a letter.
WordCraft plays quickly and it’s a game that’s quickly earned its place in our go-to repertoire of games to play both with seasoned gamers and with non-gamers whose board game experience hasn’t previously wandered beyond Scrabble (Hasbro). We don’t usually bemoan the lack of a scorepad but you should note that the game doesn’t come with one so you’ll need a pen and paper to keep score for each round.