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[Review] 25 Words or Less

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Joined: 03/23/2011

Do you realize that whatever you are asked to do when it comes to words, it seems easier to do the opposite? When I had to write a 1,000 word paper on the subject of being good in school as a child, I was trying to stretch the amount of words with 900 to go! Even in college, I struggled to “fluff” papers, filling them up with words to reach required word counts or page counts. And yet, when I am confronted with 25 Words or Less (Winning Moves Games, 1996 - Bruce Sterten), I find it just as hard to be succinct in my wordage. Here, I want to say all the words I can, but I am limited! Will no one let me do what I want?

But hey, despite the annoyances it gives me - 25 Words or Less is an excellent party game. As long as players keep it moving, it can provide quite a bit of entertainment, and people will realize that they don’t have to say near as many words in conversational English as they thought. A good auctioning system combined with a fun word-guessing game, make 25 Words or Less a top party game. One great aspect of the game is that it can support a good amount of players, and can be taught in about 2 minutes (high requirements for good party games) - and therefore 25 Words or Less often comes with me when I travel to parties, etc.

The concept of the game is extremely simple. All players are divided into two teams, which do not have to be even, but must have at least two players each. A game board is set in the middle of the table, which basically has a ring of circles - each numbered “0” through “25”. Nineteen cards are taken from the box of cards and placed face down in the middle of the board, as well as a one-minute sand timer. Players are ready for each round - with one person per team taking the role of clue-giver each round. Before starting, players should decide what set of words on the cards they will use - black or blue.

To start each round, the clue-givers will study the five words on the top card of the pile in the color everyone has chosen. An example of five words is: oil, landmark, pet, New York, and rummy. Starting with one of the players, they bid how many words they think that they can get their team to guess the answers in. The bidding starts at twenty-five clue words and gets progressively lower. Whichever player drops out first becomes the judge, and puts the timer on the circle that matches the last number bid. The judge then flips the timer, and the clue-giver begins giving clues to his teammates, trying to get them to guess the five words on the card. When giving clues...
- The clue-giver can try to get their teammates to guess the words in any order.
- The judge moves the timer on one space for every word the clue-giver says.
- The clue-giver may use only words, not actions or other things.
- The words used may not say “sounds like”, etc., or use parts of the word in their clue.
- If the timer runs out before all five words are guessed, the round ends with the judge’s team getting the card as an award.
- If the clue-giver uses more words than he bid (the timer passes zero), then the round ends with the judge’s team getting the card as an award.
- If the clue-giver’s team guesses the five words before time runs out, then the clue-giver’s team gets the card as an award.

After one of the teams wins the card, the next round begins, and rounds continue thus; until one of the teams wins ten cards. At this point, the game ends - with that team being the winner!

Some comments on the game...

1.) Components: The cards are nice, although I would have used different colors than were used - the blue and black are too similar. One also wonders why they didn’t print the words on both sides, to better utilize space. The board, while not entirely necessary is certainly nice, and it really does help with the counting of the words. The cards are stored in a little box, which along with the board and the timer, fit into a cardboard insert in a nicely decorated (and self-proclaiming) box. The box is seriously much bigger than is necessary, but it is sturdy, and American games like big boxes, I guess.

2.) Rules: The rules are written on a sheet of laminated card stock, and are written simply, with even a few examples. Of course, as this is a party game, simplicity is the key - and makes sense. I found that the game is quite easy to teach, and very few rule arguments came up.

3.) Arguments: We had some disagreement over what words could and could not be said. Could you say the same word over and over? How do you let your listeners know when you go to a different word? Can you tell someone if they are close to a word (i.e. “play” instead of “playwright”). None of these are answered in the rules, so we made up house rules for them - but it would have been nice to have some official clarification. It’s not always bad to elaborate in the rulebook.

4.) Fun Factor: The game is extremely fun, with a majority of the fun happening in the bidding phase. As long as it is kept flowing smoothly, the whole game can happen quickly, and everybody has a blast. It’s especially hilarious to watch someone bid their way all the way down to 12 words, and then realize that it took six words to get people to guess the first clue. At the same time, it’s amazing to see someone bid down to ten words, and still get their team to guess all the words! This fun really makes the game worth it.

5.) Auctions: The auctions could go really slow, if players don’t keep a handle on things. It’s possible, and not necessarily mandated against by the rules, for a player to sit there, thinking slowly over exactly how many words they need to give out as clues. This could take a long while, and makes auctions slow and BORING. We just instituted a house rule, that gives players about 10 seconds to make their bid, or else they automatically drop out. This encourages people to bid faster.

I recommend this game - it’s not a GAMES Magazine Game of the Year for nothing. There are party games that I enjoy more, but this one is amongst my most popular. It’s a pleasure to play this game, as it has one of the hallmarks of a good party game - that you have fun, even when it’s not your turn. It would have been nice if the rules were clearer - but hey, some simple house rules can solve that problem. If you’re a party game fan, then this is an excellent addition to your collection. I’ve also had great success using it while traveling - it even works fairly well on a bus. For this reason, I have to give this game a thumbs up.

Tom Vasel

[Review] 25 Words or Less

Thanks for another great review, Tom. I recently played 25 words or Less with my parents for the first time in a few years and enjoyed it quite a bit. It took us a few rounds (okay, 10) before we really figured out what we were capable of. Mabye it's because my dad and I are rather competitive so we often bid down to 7 or 8 and we kept losing (imagine that). The timer was a little rough, an extra 30 seconds would have been better, but nobody makes 1:30 timers I guess.

[Review] 25 Words or Less

but nobody makes 1:30 timers I guess.

not so!

Check out that 90 second timer.

[Review] 25 Words or Less

Check out those bad boys! Funny, I carry lots of Koplow stuff in my store, even their 1 minute timer, guess I've never seen their catalog beyond the dice pages. Thanks, super.


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