Nomen – The word Chain Game: Review
It is fair to say that everyone has likely played a few word chain games in their life. For those who have never called them this way, “Word chain games” are games in which players come up with words that adhere to a specific set of requirements. The most commons ones are to begin with a certain letter or to belong to a category or to contain a specific combination of letters (a double letter, three vowels...) This is likely the most common game you have played when you were kids to kill the time during a long trip. In my case the choice was always among these games or “I spy with my little eye”.....
“Nomen – The word Chain Game” is a great adaptation of these very common types of game into a boardgame. In this case, the developers tried to offer a scalable experience to challenge both children and adults by providing a very interesting set of rules and components. Let's have a look together into the box to know more....
What's That Word.... Oh Yes, “Components”
Nomen is a very portable game that comes in a very sturdy and colourful box. I know you should never judge a game from the box but it is always pleasant to see nicely designed ones.
Inside the box all the components are provided ready to play so that there is nothing to punch. I think this is a nifty touch considering this is a family game suitable to be played with 8 years old players.
Among the components, players will find a lot of cardboard tokens with a green or red background, one spinning wheel for the categories, a small hourglass, 4 erasable boards and markers, 4 player tokens and one scoreboard. All the components other than the hourglass are made of thick cardboard and they are of good size and quality. I found the eraser board to be difficult to clean and to remain stained after a few games. This is a bit of a shame overall but nothing that you can sort by using normal pens and paper.
Interestingly, the rules are also printed on a board half the size of the box and made of same thick cardboard of the tokens. I found this choice quite interesting as it likely allows younger players to easily check the rules without the risk of them tearing the rulebook apart. Unfortunately, the size chosen resulted in no diagrams or pictures being added to the rulebook potentially limiting its accessibility. Don't get me wrong, there is no issue for adults to quickly pick up the game as Nomen's rules are pretty simple, but I would have preferred the designer had used a board of the size of the box to allow for a few images to be included.
How Do You Spell “Gameplay”?
The setup of Nomen the word chain game is very quick as everyone just need to receive a board and a token of their chosen colour and a erasable marker. Once everyone is ready the game will proceed in rounds until one player gets to 100 points.
At the beginning of each round one of the players will pick a letter card (green tokens) and an activity card (red token). The aim of the round is to write as many words as possible which start
with the same letter picked for this round and which meet the requirements on the activity card. Some of the activity cards can be as simple as “nouns” or “adjectives” but other can be much complex including “Words containing at least 4 vowels” or “Words of at least 3 syllables”. Obviously it is acceptable to take out the most complex ones or to not have any activity card at all to simplify the game for younger players.
At the start of each round a player spins the wheel to determine the category which the words must belong to and flips the hourglass to start the countdown. As you may expect, some of the categories are trickier then others and the one minute timer can fly by very quickly.
One key aspect of the round is to make sure your opponents will not peak at your words as the scoring depends on how many players wrote the same words. In fact, once all the sand passed and the round over, players will call their words one at the time scoring 3 points for every “original” word (not written by any other player) and 1 point for any word written by two or more players. Before calculating the scoring, players can also play a token to double their points if they feel they came up with a great list of words.
Once the scoring completed, another round starts unless someone has reached 100 points or more.
Is “Antidisestablishmentarianism” A Real Word? – Final Thoughts
Word chains games are in general really useful teaching tools for both beginner and experienced readers. The overall purpose of these games is to improve players' ability in mastering vocabulary and words in a funny and creative way. They also help to improve the spelling.
Nomen – The Word chain Game perfectly succeeds in creating a very enjoyable experience for both adults and young players while pushing everyone to use and improve their vocabulary. With respect to other similar games, I loved the introduction of the activity cards and of the spinning wheel as they create a much bigger challenge by limiting consistently the words that can be scored. In a recent round for example we had to think of nouns with 4 vowels starting with “H” and belonging to “Flora and Fauna”. I felt great that I got at least “Hippopotamus” while my wife came up with four or five animals including “Hammerhead Shark.”....
Overall, I think Nomen is a great family game that can be easily played to have fun and when you don't have a lot of time. The components provided allow only for 4 players but there is nothing preventing to use a normal piece of paper and a pen to allow for any number of players. In this case obviously the scoring may be a bit less rewarding leading to much longer games. The other aspect to consider is the game balance when playing with children. In this case, it is probably best if adults use the activity cards while younger players ignore them as otherwise the competition may be a bit unfair. If there is a player particularly skilled in one area, in my personal case both my wife and I have scientific degrees, you can increase the score for the other players in each round the Science category comes up.