The Wordle board game is a dull, uninspired imitation of the popular online game, right? A present was Wordle. The free-to-play word game that only gave one problem each day was surreptitiously released around the time of the COVID-19 epidemic, and it took it around 200 days to reach a critical mass. It gained popularity in December 2021, when participants covered shared text threads and social media with green and gold tiles. Because of the game’s ease of use and modest but intriguing challenge, we were able to share a very important cultural experience. At least we could all agree that Wednesday’s double-L word problem was a big pain in the ass. We may not have agreed on when or how to reopen our public schools, but at least we could acknowledge that it was a true pain.
Wordle: The Party Game squeezes that teeny-tiny bit of happiness into an approximately 8-by-10-inch cardboard box, puts a barcode on the back, and ships it off to store shelves all over the globe. It is an exact replication of the online experience for two to four players, except the anonymity of keeping your mistakes to yourself. With a bag of colored tiles and a “host” who moves about the room, it’s like hangman but with real-time feedback on your predictions. It’s absurd to dordle refer to it as a party game. It’s about as entertaining as taking an exam.
Mind you, there is nothing technically wrong with this game. Right down to the kerning between the letters in its font, it flawlessly replicates the feeling of playing the original game. It comes with sturdy tiny sideboards resembling tablets, respectable dry-erase pens, and a paper cover to keep your work private. Even a helpful list of terms, from ABATE to YEARN, is provided to assist hosts who run out of ideas when it comes time to lead the group into the subsequent round of guesses.
However, the design hardly improves the experience. I had anticipated that the much-hyped team-play variation would at least liven things up. But it has no team-based gameplay at all. If you have more than four people, it advises. “Team up!” seeming to be a concession to the lack of materials in the box. The design or the bits only just barely support the “quick” mode and the “timed” mode. Simply go faster, the instruction manual advises, suggesting a winner-takes-all point system for the first and a 60- or 90-second timed round for the second. There is no sand timer included at all.
The $19.99 product just seems uninspired overall. Perhaps for this reason, no one designer has claimed to be its creator.
Of course, guessing games are nothing new. By tracing the roots of the genre back more than a century to Bulls and Cows, a number-guessing game. That is so ancient that it is now technically in the public domain, Kyle Orland of Ars Technica made that brutally evident in July. Jotto changed the format in 1955 by substituting words for numbers, resulting in what. In hindsight, may be considered a two-player version of Wordle.
However, the fact that guessing games provide a fertile environment for invention is the reason they have been around for more than a century. Modern favourites in the category include Codenames, an evocative guessing game. That promotes parallel thinking and scales well—even with parties of eight or more (now on sale for $12.99). One of Polygon’s 22 top contemporary board games, Decrypto (now $24.99), takes things a step further by including numerous linked phrases.
It also includes a humorous standee that conceals words from the other side by using a red filter. On the other hand, The Mind (now $9.74) strips the guessing game genre down to its basic necessities. While still resembling both a tarot reading and an electroshock treatment session à la Ghostbusters. If you look around your grandparents’ home long enough. I can almost guarantee that you’ll find a copy of Mastermind there. The complete with all of its gorgeous hefty plastic pieces to spread out on the table.
This may have been a chance to leverage Wordle’s core functionality to build something unique. A tabletop experience that makes sense only when played that combines well-known game concepts. As a foundation to build something even more complex and thrilling. You can practically hear the echoes of a conflict between Hasbro’s designers and marketers occurring. Somewhere in a boardroom, maybe in a stream of text messages that everyone has access to. Someone suggests, “We could build something amazing with this.” The marketing staff responds with “no” and a thumbs-down emoji. Simply package the game and get it on the stores in time for Christmas the next year.