Word games

Yesterday I mentioned some of the games that Mrs. Happy and I play at home. There are a couple of other games we play on the road and away from home, generally while we’re in the car or on the train. Today, I thought I’d share those games, and hopefully they can provide entertainment for others as well.

Word Mastermind

This is a take on the traditional game Mastermind that usually involves colored pegs or numerical digits.

  1. Both players agree upon a number (we usually use 5), and one player (hereafter referred to as P1) thinks of a word with that many letters.
  2. Player 2 (P2) thinks of a word with the designated number of letters and says it out loud.
  3. P1 compares P2′s word with his own, then tells P2 how many letters the two words have in common and how many letters hold the same position in each word. For example, if P1 is thinking of WITCH and P2 says TINGE, P1 mentally compares them both, finds that both words contain a T and an I and that the I is the second letter in both words. He then tells P2, “There are two letters in common, and one is in the right position.”
  4. P2 makes note of the information and guesses again with another word. P1 compares the new word with the word he chose at the beginning and tells P2 the results of the comparison. For example, if P2 guesses GREAT, P1 would then say, “One letter in common, none in the right position.”
  5. Players repeat the process until P2 guesses the word correctly.

We generally disallow plural words ending in S. A game might go something like this:

P2: Uh, let’s see…how about SPEED.
P1: None in common, none in the right position.
P1: Two and zero.
P1: Three and three.
P1: Four and four.
P1: Well played.
(It actually never goes that quickly, but hopefully you get the idea.)

You can set a limit on the number of guesses, or just play until P2 finds the correct word. You can also try a variation in which both players pick a word, then take turns trying to guess each other’s word. That method has the advantage of providing a clear-cut method for determining a winner.

Race to the Finish

This game requires a little more strategy and forethought.

  1. P1 and P2 (this can be played with as many players as you like, but it gets a little hairy if you have more than four) agree on a number, usually no less than five.
  2. P1 thinks of a word containing a number of letters equal to or greater than the agreed upon number, then tells P2 only the first letter of the word.
  3. P2 thinks of a word of sufficient length that begins with the letter spoken
    by P1. P2 then tells P1 the second letter of that word. P2′s word need not
    be the same as P1′s.
  4. P1 thinks of a word of sufficient length that begins with the two letters the players have chosen. P1 then tells P2 the third letter of that word.
  5. The two players continue taking turns adding a letter to the letters already spoken until one of them adds a letter that forms a complete word containing a number of letters equal to or greater than the agreed upon number. The player who does that wins.

That sounds confusing when written out, but in practice it’s fairly simple. Here’s a typical game in which the two players have agreed to build a word of at least five letters:

P1: A. (thinking of the word ABSTAIN)
P2: B. (thinking of ABJECT)
P1: S. (thinking, “Aha! This is working out!”)
P2: O. (forced to abandon ABJECT, considers ABSOLUTE)
P1: L. (thinking, “Crap, ABSTAIN doesn’t work now. I’ll go for ABSOLVE.”)
P2: U. (“ABSOLUTE has eight letters. That would give me the win.”)
P1: T. (“Crap again. The only word that starts with ABSOLU is ABSOLUTE. I’m gonna lose.”)
P2: E. ABSOLUTE. I win!

It’s important to note that players cannot just throw out random letters. They must always be able to complete the word using the letters they have played. At any time, P1 may give up and challenge P2 to complete the word using the last letter played by P2, and vice versa of course.

Both of these games pass the time and stimulate the mind. Try ‘em out.

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