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[Review] Anagramania

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Joined: 03/23/2011

For years, my wife could never understand how I could get addicted to a computer game, spending hours upon hours playing the same game. That was before I started downloading the free games off the internet, where she happily found the same addiction, playing games such as Bejeweled and Collapse! The game that entangled her more than any other game, however, was TextTwist - a game where one races to unscramble a group of letters into words. Knowing her fondness for this sort of thing, I had high expectations for her enjoyment of Anagramania (Karmel Games, 2003 - designer unaccredited), a game about - you guessed it - anagrams.

After playing the game, I have to admit that I enjoyed myself, as well as those I played with, but only because we are big fans of word games of this sort. If you despise word games such as Scrabble and Crossword Pyramids, then Anagramania would probably also irk you. If, however, you are a fan of puzzles, and word exercises, then Anagramania would be right up your alley. The level of the anagrams and clues provided in the game were fairly impressive, and it was an excellent exercise for us, trying to figure them out.

To play the game, a board is set up in the middle of the table - consisting of six tracks, each with thirteen spaces, leading to a center “win” space. Each player puts a pawn of their color on the start space of their track, and takes a long envelope marked “clues”. A one-minute timer is placed in the middle of the board, and each player is also given a pencil (provided with the game). The game comes with twenty-four sets of clue sheets. One set is distributed to the players, which they place secretly into their clue envelope. An answer sheet matching the set number is placed into an answer envelope - also secretly. The game is ready to begin.

In each round, all players simultaneously pull their clue sheet out of their envelope about half an inch, revealing the first clue. Each clue is a sentence, which serves a dual purpose. The sentence provides a clue to the answer, as well as has a highlighted word or words that serve as an anagram for the word. For example, the clue might be “A chef reacts when asked to provide food service,” with the word ‘reacts’ in bold print. The answer would be “caters”, which is an anagram of reacts, as well as fitting the sentence. All players quickly try to solve the anagram, writing the answer down in the answer space provided on the clue sheet. The first person to do so then inverts the timer, giving the other players only one minute to try and correctly answer the problem. After the timer runs out, the answer sheet is pulled out slightly to reveal the answer, which is compared to the players’ responses. The first player to answer moves two spaces forward on their track if they are correct (or they can move forward only one - moving someone else backwards one), and one space backwards if they are incorrect. All other players move one forward if correct, one backwards if incorrect, and not at all if they didn’t write down an answer. Play then proceeds to the next clue.

The game continues until one player’s pawn reaches the middle of the board, in which case they win, or until all twenty clues are used - in which case the player whose pawn is furthest on the track wins!

Some comments on the game...

1.) Components: I received an email from the company, notifying me that the components would improve, but I didn’t really have a problem with them in the first place. The board, of course, is superfluous, as it is entirely unnecessary - one could easily keep track of the score on paper instead. Still, it’s a nice touch - I just think that if they went to all the trouble to including a board, it could have been decorated nicely. The pawns and timer are useful and functional, and I’m glad to say that pencils were included (all games should include pencils if required). The answer sheets are quite large, but this really helps during the game, because it’s rather difficult to accidentally pull your sheet out too far. The sheets slide well in the envelopes, and everything fits well in a cardboard insert in a sturdy blue box.

2.) Rules: The rules are printed on four pages, and were very clear on how the anagrams should be solved. I already am a puzzle fan, so anagrams were second nature to me, but even those new to the game could easily understand - because several clue examples were given, with detailed instructions as to how the answer would be reached. The game itself is fairly simple, and easy to explain to new players.

3.) Scrabble Syndrome: One reason some people don’t like Scrabble is that a superior “Wordsmith” will do better than a novice. Some people are good with words - and they will almost invariably do better in games such as this. The same is true for Anagramania, because those who have a hard time with anagrams may not like the game. I thought it was a pretty neat idea to have the sentence provide a clue for the anagram. I found that method often helped me solve the clues faster than just the straight anagrams. Either way, I noticed that people who were naturals to anagrams (did well at games such as TextTwist) did far better than those who didn’t. The game will certainly have a distinct following.

4.) Difficulty: I was impressed with the level of the clues. They were occasionally hard, but none of them were massive brain burners. Kids would have a hard time, but a Junior pack of clues can be ordered through the website - and Karmel Games has notified me that a Junior edition of the game is to be released shortly. For those who think that the game isn’t hard enough, Advanced and Expert clue packs will be available. I saw an example of an expert clue, and my eyes rolled up into my head and I almost lost unconsciousness. However, some people probably thrive on that level of masochism, so if you’re one of those - this expansion pack is for you!

5.) Replayability: The game can be played twenty-four times, which is surely enough for the average person - it will most assuredly be enough for me. But, like I said previously, if you absolutely must have more - then expansion clue packs can be picked up from the website.

6.) Fun Factor: I enjoyed the game, as did my wife and other people who like anagrams. Others were not impressed, but then again, these were the same people who don’t like Scrabble and such games. It’s definitely the most fun anagram board game I’ve ever played (that really doesn’t mean much), but frankly - I did enjoy it - in a quiet way.

7.) BGDF: Here, the company is aiming for a niche market - but a large one - look at the popularity of TextTwixt. I think this game, if marketed well, would sell quite a few copies - we'll just have to wait and see. The box was a little boring - I think if the game could be considered "boring" by some, you must make every effort to combat that.

If you like anagrams, TextTwist, Scrabble, or word puzzles, and want to have a quiet, fun time with others, testing your word skills against theirs, then Anagramania is for you. The price is fair, the components are well done, and the game play runs very smoothly. With the optional packets making the game easier or harder, depending on one’s ability, the game should fit into a lot of circles. This game certainly isn’t for everyone - but for those who enjoy word puzzles, especially anagrams - this is a fine game, one you will enjoy.

Tom Vasel

“Real men play board games.”

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