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SPELL SMASHERS

How to spell Scrabble with a D & D

SPELL SMASHERS

How to spell Scrabble with a D & D

As you’d expect from Christopher Chung, the designer of Lanterns, Spell Smashers is a tranquil group experience of making pleasing patterns so that you can KILL MONSTERS with THE POWER OF YOUR MIND. The English language even has a special word for these mind-patterns: ‘words’. Yes, someone finally did the Scrabble/D&D mash-up that nobody’s been waiting for. What’s surprising is not that it exists, but how good it is.

You’re all fantasy adventurers, except the game never really makes that clear. You get a fistful of cards with letters on them, and each turn you make a word. The number of cards in the word gives you the initiative order; the numbers and symbols on each card gives the amount and type of damage you’re going to do.

There are 26 monster tiles, one per letter of the alphabet, but they get paired with modifier cards with cute names and bonuses, so you can fight a vexing bugbear or a calamitous revenant. Doing damage gets you money because hit points are coins, in a mechanic that makes no sense but works really well. Killing a monster gets you its tile, which is worth victory points, but the tile also adds a new permanent letter to your collection, so the [E]lemental is a popular target and the [Z]ombie less so.

If the monster wounds you then you take a wound card for each one. Wound cards have tricky letters or letter combos on them and are harder to play, but you can pay the shaman in town to get rid of them.

The town is where things get a bit unstuck. The second part of each round is spent here, and you can heal wounds, get quests, or buy equipment, potions or ale. It’s meant to be a den of interesting choices but it never becomes that, and it feels over-fiddly.

The core of the game is absolutely solid and if you like word games then there’s plenty to enjoy. It’s not perfect; there are a few weak spots and blind spots. I have a particular quibble with the mix of letter cards, having twice got stuck with two Ws and some useless vowels. I could have spent gold to get rid of them with potions, but if you’ve got a lousy hand then you’re probably short of gold already.

Old-timers may be reminded of the Judge Dredd board game of the 1980s. Like that, Spell Smashers makes little logical sense and isn’t particularly tactical, but it’s a lot of fun. The lack of direct competition means kids can keep up with their parents and there’s enough strategy that, like Scrabble, a clever player has a good chance of beating someone who’s swallowed a dictionary.

JAMES WALLIS

WE SAY

A delightful twist on an old idea, Spell Smashers isn’t elegant but it is smart and fun. If you like word games or hitting monsters for money, you should try it.

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

► Town board

► Five player boards

► Five ready tokens

► Five player aids

► 26 monster tiles

► 84 letter cards

► 24 wound cards

► 24 gear cards

► 29 quest cards

► 36 modifier cards

► Four boss monster cards

► 30 ale tokens

► 15 potion tokens

► 55 coins

► Five monster crests

► Round marker

► Tiebreaker marker

TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED… PAPERBACK

Like the card-drafting word-making game, Spell Smashers brings a new twist to an old formula and wraps it in a great theme.

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About The Best Games of 2019

Must Plays and more in our Best Games of 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Over the next 196 pages discover all of the most positively reviewed games of the year. With a massive 181 games reviewed, this is the definitive “what to play next” guide of 2019! Games reviewed include: Wingspan Copenhagen Hellboy: The Board Game Res Arcana Lifeform Century: A New World Megacity: Oceania Pandemic: Fall of Rome Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Rough Nights & Hard Days Azul: Stained Glass of Sinatra Tapestry Letter Jam Hako Onna Everdell Battle Ravens Dune + Many more!

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