Masters of the Universe!
Word games have been around since the dawn of time! Or, at least it feels like that with most of us growing up with Scrabble and the noise machine that is Boggle. My folks loved those games. Namely, as they could crush me in them. My mum still can! And they offer a lot of fun for sure. But they are not exactly family-friendly. You need a decent vocabulary to play. And there is no handicap system to level the playing field. So, if you are looking for a more family-friendly word game, this may be the place for you!
Master Word comes from new designer Gerald Cattiaux and brings a fun new approach to this popular genre. Master Word works for all ages and abilities due to the co-operative nature of the game. This is the game I would recommend for younger families with children from five and up looking for a word game.
In Master Word, players are split into two teams. The Seeker and The Guide. Seekers are given a category, such as “animal.” Then, the player who is acting as the guide will look at the back of the card to see the specific answer, the “master word” behind the general category. In this example, "Scorpion." The seekers will then write down words to try and narrow down the search for the master word.
Each player will be given a dry wipe card and a dry wipe pen. On this, each player needs to make a guess they hope will help narrow down their search for the master word. For this example of Scorpion when all you know is that it is an animal of some kind, players may in round one try “Large,” “Africa” and “Scary.” The guide will then give ‘thumbs up’ tokens to indicate how many of the guesses were correct. In this case, two. A Scorpion is indeed Scary and can be found in Africa, but relatively speaking, it is not large. Seekers do not know which guesses were right, they just know how many hit the spot. And this is where the fun comes in.
Out of these three, could something be in Africa and large, but not scary? Giraffe perhaps? How about scary and large but not Africa? A Polar bear? What about scary and Africa, but not large. Hmm, a Spider maybe?
You then move onto the next round, offering more clues, funnelling closer and closer until a player is ready to have a guess. There are three cards with a red border used for this. You don’t want to guess the master word on the normal cards or you will lose. But if you guess right on the red-edged cards then all players win. But remember you only get three guesses! If you are wrong, you only have two more attempts and you could be way off in your thinking.
Players do not want to guess too early or without enough information. But you also don’t want to wait too long if you are playing competitively. This is the master stroke behind the game. You could go on forever. With younger players, don’t worry about getting it wrong round after round. Just have fun with it. But in a more adult environment, you can aim for finding the master word within certain round limits. The rule book suggests four rounds makes you a Master Fox, five to six a bloodhound. And a correct guess within seven classifies you and your team as having an Eagle Eye.
With some minor adult supervision, this works for all ages. The sense of deduction for the group as you edge closer to the master word brings a lot of enjoyment to the table. Not that you need one though A table I mean. This is a very portable game and can be played on the floor, on a footstall chilling on a couch or on a small surface. Unless you do go for many rounds and needs space for the archive of data! But there are only six cards given to each seeker at the start of the game. So really there should only be six rounds. But again, with younger players, you can easily wipe these down and keep going if you haven’t got there yet.
In the guessing phase, players can talk out loud to discuss what they have learnt from previous clues and decide what they will do next. This rule alone opens the game up so much to all players and ages. And it's a fun process. Officially you have 90 seconds for this part of the game, A chance to discuss as a group what you learnt and which words you could now pick. But of course, this can be adapted for younger audiences.
Indeed, Scorpion Masque has recently uploaded more family-friendly rules to their website. Quite simply, there is a Joker the guide can play in the base game. Once per game, the guide can place the thumbs up token directly on the card this is correct, rather than alongside all three. This way the players know for one card at least, which one specifically was correct. In the new family rules, the guide can now place a joker each round, rather than once per game. This certainly helps with younger players or for the first game with new players.
I like word games like this where you can play to a score, or just have fun with the mechanics. You can be flexible with the rules and adapt to the players in your group. But however, you play, you will have a lot of enjoyment with this game. No one will feel left out or left behind, the game doesn’t allow for it.
Players are all involved throughout, but in truth, the guide can feel out of the loop a little at first. But it can be a fun role and suitable for people who don’t have the energy for thinking! But if you rotate this position, rounds are generally quite quick. So, you won’t ever be away from the seeking for long if you so choose. I found with my family, that they wanted to have the role of the guide the most. Even more five- and eight-year-old! Perhaps as it was easier to judge others guesses that come up with some of your own?
As the guide, it's hilarious to listen to your friends talk out loud and debate the thumbs up clues you have given them. Trying to decide if the small, black, scary thing in the desert is a scorpion or snake! The urge to help and or laugh is real! I like the open part of this communication. Many games like this make this part closed which removes some of the shared fun. Here with Master Word it is all laid bare on the table for all to see and enjoy together as a group.