by Amanda Nettgen
Number of players:
The name “Upwords” is a play on words, and so is the game. Similar to the original Scrabble game, the Upwords game has the distinction of making word play that much more interesting and competitive by allowing you to stack tiles on top of tiles, forming new words.
The game and gameplay
The basic gameplay of Upwords is almost identical to that of other word-making games. You grab a rack, choose seven tiles to adorn it and select a random tile (hopefully the one that is closest to A) to determine who goes first.
The starting player must build a valid word (no gibberish) of at least two letters in length up or down on the board. Unlike Scrabble, there’s no star to mandate where you must start forming words (there also aren’t any special spaces like Triple Word Score, unfortunately). The contender then draws from the tile collection to restore his rack back to seven.
The next player can either stack some tiles on top of what has already been laid down, branch off and design a new word, pass, or exchange a tile. If a participant chooses to stack, he must retain at least one of the original letters in his new word, for obvious reasons (anybody could just lay down whatever and never actually build “up” from something).Don’t try to be slick and put an A on top of an A and expect extra points, or attempt to build
the next Empire State building (tiles have a height limit of five). And forget just adding an S to a somebody else’s word to make it plural.
Scoring can be confusing. A player is awarded two points per bottom row letter, but this point value is demoted to one as soon as any additional tiles are stacked ("corrupting" the original word I guess, as you’d think modifying a word would be worth more, not less).
When stacking starts, count all tiles involved as individual point units. If you’re capable of forming big words, using all of your tiles in one go is your best bet – 20 bonus points are given for this accomplishment.
Illegal words are your typical proper nouns, hyphens, apostrophes and abbreviations. And you’re allowed to spell "taco" but not "hola", so dust off that dictionary to be sure.
The game ends when your group comes to some kind of impasse: somebody’s out of tiles or no one can make a noun, verb, or adjective. Apply minus five points on the score pad for each person’s leftovers (tiles, not bad meatloaf).
Pros and cons
Upwords is like the Scrabble sequel, and that’s a good thing. It’s a solid idea and plays pretty fast. There’s even a solo play option.
The things that are wrong with Upwords include: the lack of a tile shaker bag (hello, Ziploc!), the semi-confusing scoring style and the absence of any extra spark.
The UpWords Game is basic, but it works. It will be a welcome edition for any word game lover.