Thursday, June 18, 2020

Word Chain is tiny but you create the replay value

I just learned that Word Chain has had an official, extended version released. (Thank you for the weekly emails, PnP Arcade) And I do intend to take a look at it but I decided that this was a good excuse to look back at the original version from the 2019 9-Card contest.

Word Chain is a word game that consists of one score track card and eight double-sided rule cards. It can be played as a competitive game, a cooperative game or as a solitaire game. Word Chain exists in  that nebulous world between word games and party games.

As you might have gathered, there’s a variety of ways to play the game but here’s the core concept. Each card face has two rules on it (handily marked one and two) Starting with a two-syllable word that the active player picks, you draw two cards and you have to come up with a new word that follows the two rules. All of the rules relate to the active word, like starting or ending with the same letter and so on. The new word becomes the active word and you draw two more cards. And so on. Thus, the words chain together.

What makes Word Chain work is that the game just gives you a framework and you provide the content. Between the arbitrariness of the word selection and the sufficient randomly selection of the rules, it would be hard to create a formula to ‘solve’ the game, which gives it a lot of replay value, particularly for nine cards. 

Of course, you’re not into words or vocabulary, Word Chain is a non-starter. I’d say even more so than Scrabble or Boggle which at least give you specific letters to work with. But word is in the name so you have been warned.

I have looked at a lot of PnP micro games and some of them have fit into the world of party games, one way or another. Sometimes, the value of those games is primarily that they are tiny and portable. A party game that fits into a wallet is genuinely useful.

But Word Chain is actually a clever enough game that I am prepared to argue that the gameplay itself overshadows the fact that it’s tiny. It’s an interesting challenge. It’s not amazing or the best word/party game I’ve ever played but it feels bigger than nine cards with legitimate replay value. Word Play is a game I enjoy enough to suggest and share.

I am curious to see what the expanded game is like. It doesn’t look like it’s that much bigger. I’m curious to see if a little more is better or if nine cards was the right size after all.

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