Upwords – Spin Master Games – Review

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If you like vocabulary / spelling word games, Upwords absolutely belongs in your collection. 

Joseph Summa

MeepleGamers

6/10

Publisher: Spin Master Games


Designer: Elliot Rudell


Game Type: Word Game


Game Type: Hand Management


Game Type: Tile Placement


Initial Year of Release: 1982


Age Range: 8+


Expected Playtime: 90


Number of Players: 2-4

Upwords - Spin Master Games - Review 1

Theme and What is it?


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6/10

The theme is Scrabble.  Not just for words and spelling.  But because Upwords is basically a no bonus Scrabble board with Scrabble rules and a twist.  The twist?  You can go upwards when spelling a word over existing tiles provided the board still reads valid words all directions.  

Upwords - Spin Master Games - Review 2
Upwords - Spin Master Games - Review 3

Gameplay Mechanics


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7/10

So the gameplay is just Scrabble like with spelling overtop of what exists.  Is that it?  Well, the scoring has changed a bit and there have to be limits.  Five tiles high is the maximum for a spot and then it is stuck.  Scoring is pretty easy, the number of tiles (including vertically stacked ones) on the word (s) you have made with your play.  This means if you change a letter that intersects another word you will score all tiles originally in that word again as well as the overlapping letter stack twice since they are part of both words.  Good times.

Upwords - Spin Master Games - Review 4

Initial Impressions


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6/10

Upwords feels like a classic board game rather than a complicated modern creation.  This is a good thing when pulling in non-gamers who haven’t experienced the new age of gaming yet.  You can get them to play a twist on something familiar and then take them a little further with another game after.  Word Domination would be a good place to go next but Upwords prepares them for the journey into modern gaming.  

Upwords - Spin Master Games - Review 5

Game Build Quality


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4/10

The board works perfectly for the job.  The tiles stack nicely.  Overall, the quality will not win any awards for surprising brilliance.  But there are two problems.  You will see in the images above and below what a “C” and “U” and what a “N” and “Z” look like side by side.  They are too similar.  You can tell the difference if you try hard and have been warned.  But more than once in our first game someone had placed a tile on their board and had been thinking it was one thing for a while until they drew another and went “DOH! That was a C the whole time.”  

Upwords - Spin Master Games - Review 6

Artistic Direction


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6/10

Hmm, what artwork?  I suppose the box has some imagery.  It is just emphasizing the turning of one word into another into another over and over by putting images of those things stacked on top of each other.  Solid play on the game concept.  

Upwords - Spin Master Games - Review 7

Fun Factor


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5/10

You just drew the perfect set of tiles for a massive play covering several parts of the main line of the board and hitting several crossing words.  You stand to score several words all at once.  But will the one tile stack that is already at 4 get taken to 5 and ruin your epic planning?  Try not to look too tense while your players are doing their thing.  Because, inevitably you will be crying as your plan explodes in your face.  Some of us like this!  Some of us want to go home and sulk.

Upwords - Spin Master Games - Review 8

Age Range & Weight


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9/10

8+ is fair.  The game is easy to teach even to someone who has never played Scrabble.  Vocabulary skill helps and spelling is rather critical…  But it becomes a teaching opportunity for a younger player and a bit of an embareassment when someone needs to google how to spell embarrassment because their first attempt looks like what I just did there.  Oops.

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Conclusions


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6/10

Is Upwords a game to have in your collection?  That should be an easy answer.  If you like vocabulary / spelling word games, Upwords absolutely belongs in your collection.  If you have spelling buff friends you need to lure over for a game night, this will be great bait to get them in the door and keep them there for the follow up gamers game. It is that easy to decide.

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