FReNeTiC is a word game based on the Period Table of the elements. It is a game that easily can play for two or more players. In the style of Boggle, gamers use a combination of letters to make unique words, hoping to score for words that no one else has made. Points are scored according to the value of the tiles used. The letters are only those found within the Periodic Table and the points are determined by the Atomic Number (and position) of the elements. Most games take about 30 minutes and FReNeTiC is suitable for children age 10 years or older.
Each element is represented by a tile with element name, symbol and atomic number. Gallium, Ga is in position 31. Tellurium (Te) is worth 52 points. The board is the complete Periodic Table from Hydrogen, H(1) through to Oganesson, Og(118). Everyone has heard of Carbon, C(6) but most of the elements will be completely unknown to everyone except professors of chemistry.
Initially, just eight tiles are drawn from a bag and placed on the board. In just 45 seconds, players jot down as many words as possible, hoping to spot unique combinations. This is a very short time. It is possible that the tiles drawn make word play impossible, but usually, with a little lateral thought, one or two words are created. Tiles may be used more than once (unlike Boggle). Words like GaTe would score 31+52=83. GaGa would score 31+31=62. Some elements are more difficult to use. When you creat a word using one of these tiles the score is doubles. COg would score 2x(6+118)=2x124=248.
In the next round (and subsequent turns) just four elements are added to the board. Players use these, and previous tiles to continue to make new words, scoring points at the end of each round. Any duplicate words shared by players are forfeit. The game ends when one player has reached 1000 points (or whatever target is set).
The bag also contains four tiles with the FReNeTiC logo. These are wild tiles and can be used just once to represent any symbol. These tiles score the same as the tile it is replacing. Once used this tile is returned to the bag.
There are actually 13 elements whose names can be spelt during the game. The element Iron can be made with Iridium (Ir), Oxygen (O) and Nitrogen (N). Any player managing to spell one of these elements receives their own FReNeTiC tile to be used later in the game.
Thoughts about FReNeTiC
When we were given the FReNeTiC game by a friend it came with a warning, “Have it! I just can’t get on with it!” At first we were a little sceptical but within two games we started to “get our eye in”.
The board is a clear, well-made representation of the Periodic Table. The font and colours are easy on the eye. Care has been taken to ensure the special 13 elements are recognisable. Similarly, the “tricky” spaces and awkward letter combos are easy to see. The 118 tiles are made of thick card with similar font and printing as the main board. Groups of elements have similar chemical properties and these tiles are all coloured appropriately. This means that for students and school children learning chemistry, there is also a strong educational slant to the game. Understanding and recognising the different parts of the Periodic Table is essential for science and chemistry at school.
All of the played tiles align nicely on the board. This means that to see the letters and make words, it might be better to have all of the players facing the board in one direction rather than sitting around the table. That said, perhaps that is a good excuse to use to explain why some people find this game quite hard.
Unlike Boggle, nearly every element is a two word letter combination. Both letters must be used, and in that order, and without separating them. This is the challenge of FReNeTiC. I am still struggling to think of any English word that contains the pair of letters Zr (Zirconium). The tiles drawn from the bag will limit what can be made. This game does require players to plan ahead. Whilst the initial turn (with eight tiles drawn) might yield only a few words, often you might recognise other words that would be possible if different element tiles are taken in later turns.
Forty-five seconds is not long to start reviewing all tile combinations. This is where frantic scouring of the board comes to the fore. Occasionally, absolutely no words are possible after the first 8 or 12 tiles. There seem to be few vowels in the Periodic Table. However, with each turn, as the number of tiles increases so the possibilities improve greatly. The first two turns will seem slow but by turn three (and beyond) 45 seconds will not seem long enough.
The scoring for the first few words is usually very low. Most turns only allow two tiles to be used to make a four letter word. Later in the game more adventurous words are found. This will allow players in last place to make up ground.
We have found that previous word skills seem to have little or no bearing on the outcome in FReNeTiC. One of our children who really does not enjoy Boggle always seems to wipe the floor with us in this game. He is able to see combinations that others always overlook.
After several games, there is a danger that some words can keep coming up. For experienced players, that knowledge can put them at an advantage. For example if the Protactinium (Pa) tile is drawn that will allow PaPa scoring 91+91=182 immediately. That said, there are about 10,000 possible words that can be made with the Periodic Table tiles. I am sure it takes a certain personality to try and remember every possible letter combination
FReNeTiC is a well-made game. It is both fun and educational. Most games will be very different due to the tile drawing mechanic. The use of the 45 second timer ensures each turn is quick and does not feel dull or laboured. There is plenty of replayability, perhaps two or three games back to back, and then saving FReNeTiC for another outing after a few months. If you enjoy word games, challenges, and have a slightly scientific interest too, then FReNeTiC would be a good addition to any family game collection.