Trapwords is a brand new word based party game from publisher Czech Games Edition. Designed by Jan Březina, Martin Hrabálek and Michal Požárek, with art from Régis Torres, the game is built for 4 – 8 players whom are divided into two teams. Putting a spin on the old classic of Taboo, opposing teams will pick the trapwords throughout the fantasy dungeon. However, is this a positive reinvention or should it have been left alone? Let’s find out!
At the start of the game, as evenly as possible, the players need to split into two teams. A dungeon is then formed out of 5 tiles, from tiles labelled 1 to 7 – some being returned to the box. In a non-learning game a curse card is placed into the second and the fourth dungeon rooms, face down thus unrevealed. The word deck is shuffled and word choosing books placed within reach. After placing the team standees in the lowest numbered room, a boss monster standee is added into the furthest room, with a power card matching the monster put on show at the end of the dungeon, reminding everyone what to expect!
In regular word guessing games a team is given a word to describe within a time limit, with a list of words they cannot say – otherwise they fail the turn. Trapwords does much of the same but flips the concept of what players cannot say on its head. Not only does the opposition team get to choose the words you cannot say, these words are also unknown to the clue giver. This creates an incredible dynamic where the player giving clues must blindly tiptoe their way through a clue, hoping not to say a single trapword.
This is done by the non-guessing team taking the top most word card and placing it into a word choosing book. This has a cut out window, which highlights one of the words on the card. Based on the number of the room the guessing team is in, the non-guessing team gets to choose that number of trapwords. For example, for the room labelled 4 they can write down as many words as they want but must choose only 4 to be trapwords. Passing the book over to the guessing teams clue giver the timer is flipped and they can start to give clues.
There are multiple ways to lose as the guessing team: running out of time, the clue giver saying one of the trapwords or going over a five guess limit. This is without the curses or monster powers which inevitably make it harder. If any of the failure events happen the team doesn’t move forward a room and play moves to the other team, while successful teams would move onto the next room. If in a round both teams fail at guessing their word then the monster moves one room closer!
Curses are only revealed once a team reaches a room featuring a curse card. Flipping over the card the extent of the impact is unveiled. Ranging from petrification, where the clue giver must stop speaking after the teams first guess, to flood, where the clue-giver must say the whole clue using only one breath, these mostly make it harder for the team. While equally affecting the teams if both are in the room, curses also work as a catch up mechanic if one team has got ahead. This is because, only for the first round after being revealed do curses impact play.
The game progresses with teams getting further into the dungeon or the monster charging towards the teams. Lasting a maximum of 8 rounds, the final round will see either both teams successfully defeat the monster, only one team be victorious or both teams sadly lose. Like curses the monster effects will look to challenge the teams. For example, one of the demon’s cards allows the opposing team write two words per line, doubling the difficulty for the clue-giver, while one of the dragon cards means the team gets only a single guess! These naturally make each game different and some feel much closer to impossible than others.
While the main game is extremely family friendly there are a few elements that creep in to lessen this. Firstly, some of the monster cards, such as the aforementioned dragon card, significantly ramp up the difficulty. Secondly, while the majority of the curse cards add a fun element to being the clue giver the card feeblemind, where you must only use nouns, is bound to trip younger players up, and some adults too! It is almost worth selecting a few you’re sure the group would interact with well, then shuffle and draw from only those cards during setup.
50 word cards are included in the box. This might sound like a low card count but they are all double sided and feature 8 words on each side, totalling 800 included words. On top of the loose fantasy theme of battling through a dungeon there are two types of words, fantasy and non-fantasy. While gamers may enjoy the fantasy words such as tavern, cape and demon having non-fantasy words enables others to be more comfortable with getting involved, with things like toaster or skyscraper cropping up.
Trapwords is a fun twist on classic word guessing games like Taboo. Unfortunately, the fantasy theme doesn’t add much to the mix Conversely, the gameplay elements that are introduced in the form of curse and monster cards make each game feel a little different. Being able to write the words that trip up your opponent is enjoyable, due to trying to work out how they’d ideally describe something. This is made brilliant by keeping the trapwords secret. Without a doubt Trapwords has earnt it’s space on my gaming shelf and with Christmas not too far away I’m sure it’ll hit the table a lot more when family come to visit.
[Editor’s Note: Trapwords was provided to us, at Essen Spiel 2018, by the publisher for the review.]