21 October 2006

Gift for a Word Person: Word Sweep

Sometime last year my writing-group friend Steve came up to me after a meeting and said something like, "I have a feeling you might be a word person. Are you?"

I said, "I subscribe to two online word newsletters and think The New Yorker and The Atlantic went downhill when they stopped printing puzzles. Why do you ask?"

"I've got a board game for you to try."

Now when Steve said a board game, he didn't mean a game he'd bought off the shelf. He meant a game that he'd invented himself and was developing with the Intellinitiative Game Company and Merriam-Webster's. Steve wasn't just looking for another word person; he was looking for a word guinea pig.

So of course I said I'd try his game. And I was bundled away to a lab and locked in a room with a big mirror along one wall, forced to play round after round of...

No, of course not. Steve had me and a bunch of other nice people over to his house to try out the game. I like to think our feedback helped improve it a little, but it's so beautifully simple in concept that there wasn't a lot of room or need for improvement.

Now Steve's game has come onto the market, and it's called Merriam-Webster's Word Sweep. You can buy it through eToys, Target, Barnes & Noble, and other right-thinking retailers. Playing is simple: you're given a letter and definitions for three words beginning with that letter. Those words come one after another in a Merriam-Webster's dictionary. It's up to you to figure out what they are.

There are a few additional rules governing harder and easier word series, moving around the board, point-stealing, and so on. The rules are also written to let kids and adults compete against each other fairly, and I can attest that that worked. I can also attest that being a word person makes Word Sweep more fun, but it doesn't make it easy.

This page offers a sneak preview of the game. And here's a story on Steve's creative process from his local newspaper.


Anonymous said...

That one sounds right up my alley. Now to find someone willing to actually play it with me . . .

Still, it could be a good after-hours activity at next spring's NE SCBWI conference.

J. L. Bell said...

Steve's an SCBWI member, but he usually attends the Midyear in NYC instead of the New England regional. Maybe this opportunity will smoke him out!

Anonymous said...

That sounds like a wonderful family Christmas present -- thanks for the post.

Will see if it's available at any right-thinking *Canadian* retailers...