At Toy Fair, we stopped by Set Enterprises (maker of Set, Five Crowns, and Quiddler) to look at their new game, WordSpiel. WordSpiel, like Quiddler, consists of a large deck of cards — 110 of them — with each card featuring a letter. Unlike Quiddler, the game also comes with a sixty-second timer.

Here’s how it goes: we start with one letter card face-up. Each player gets ten letter cards and on their sixty-second turn, they play a word starting with the last letter(s) shown. So if the ever-growing spiral of cards reads STEP, the next player could play R, I, E, S, T for the word “priest”, and the lineup now looks like STEPRIEST. Then the next player could play R, A, N, D for the word “strand” using the ST at the end the spiral, and we’ve got STEPRIESTRAND.

When it’s not your turn, you can discard up to three cards from your hand, drawing replacements. If the timer goes off — there’s a ten second warning beep — the player has to draw a card and either place it at the end of the spiral or add it to your hand. Get rid of your cards and you win, everyone else gets as many points as they have cards left in their hand.

We played a three-player game and either were able to play cards right away or we realized we had nothing to play, also right away. We never went below forty seconds on the timer — even the ten year old didn’t — and we did have to adjust our hands a bit to find those elusive letter combinations to make something fit. But we never really needed the timer.

Overall a fun, quick game. The rules say the winner is the player with the lowest total score after five rounds, but three rounds was enough for us. I would recommend playing as many rounds as there are people playing.

WordSpiel was released in the past few days, so your store should have it now or shortly. It retails for $13.

Now, it’s my thought that a game deck featuring letters instead of numbers or pips needed something aside from just the rules one uses with the deck to make a game. For instance, there were four other new or re-issued games at Toy Fair we saw that used the same basics: a deck with letter cards. And there was also Quiddler at the same booth.

Playroom Entertainment’s Unspeakable Words also comes with little Cthulhu pawns. It’s one of many “make words with these letter” games, but this game has scoring based on the number of angles in the letter instead of rarity, and allows you to make up words with random letters if you go insane. A re-issue of the game in slightly different box is expected in May at a $25 retail price. Unspeakable Words has 96 letter cards.

PDQ from Gamewright is another re-issue, having been out of print for five years. The game finds itself as part of the small box Port-A-Party line (all games in this line are $10 retail) as just a box of 78 letter cards. Throw three cards down and try to make a word out of them either left-to-right or right-to-left. The letters N K B come out. Did you shout out “unknowable” before someone else called out “broken”? Then you grab those three cards and keep them as points. PDQ will be available in March.

(We wound up playing PDQ with our WordSpiel deck. The girl took the deck to school for after-class game club on Monday and just wound up playing PDQ with it, over and over.)

Tactic Games USA is bringing out Word Rush in June for just $20. Draw one of the fifty topic cards and name a word in that topic that begins with one of the nine letter cards shown. (100 letter cards in Word Rush.) Flip a sand timer and put it on the letter used. Now the next player has to name something that fits the topic starting with one of the eight other letters before the sand timer runs out. If they do, they flip and move the sand timer. So there’s some strategy in how you use the time available in addition to just naming words.

Or maybe you’d like Wordsy from Formal Ferret Games? That’s a reimplementation of Prolix by the same developer, but now uses 60 letter cards instead of chips. In Wordsy, you lay out eight letter cards in two rows, with each column of two cards assigned a point value from 2 to 5. Everyone searches for a single word that uses a lot of the letters shown; the first one to commit a word flips the sand timer, gaining a point to do so. And then, scoring. For the letters in the above photo, the word LEARNING would earn 19 points while the word GARBAGE would earn just 10. Wordsy will be out in June for $20.

You know, that looks like fun. We might give that a play with our WordSpiel deck.

A copy of WordSpiel was provided free for review by Set Enterprises.