No inventor is credited in my edition of the game, however Elliot Rudell has e-mailed me claiming to be the man, and I see that Boardgame Geek confirms this. It is published by MB (Milton Bradley) Games, 1985, as well as by Hasbro, Parker and MB Spellen.
This is a word game for two to four players. The board is an 8x8 grid of raised squares, onto which fit the sixty-four letter tiles, and each tile is shaped so that other tiles can stack on top. The game comes with little racks so that each player can prop up his tiles in front of him, and perhaps keep them secret from the other players, but the game works fine without these.
Upwords resembles Scrabble in a few ways. Each player has seven letters and tries to place these down on the board to make words that link up with other words on the grid, like a crossword puzzle, so that they score as many points as possible. The board is smaller, and so the game is quicker, and it doesn't have all those tedious "triple word scores" and "double letter scores" that slow Scrabble down.
The biggest difference from Scrabble is that once a word has been placed, any player may then alter it to another word, by placing tiles over some of the letters. For example, the word CAT could have an H placed over it to make HAT, or an H over the C and an E on the end to make HATE. If a player can alter two words at once, he scores both, so if the word CAT were already played, then an H could be placed over the C, and then A, R, and P added to make both HAT and HARP. The potential for clever play is quite great and most games include in them some turn in which a player makes three interesting words all at once to score a lot of points.
Awkward tiles such as J, X, Z, and Qu must be got rid of fairly quickly, because few opportunities to play them will arise, and all tiles unplayed at the end of the game score against the player holding them. There is only one of each of these letters. More common letters like N and T have four tiles with them on, and there are 8 with E on them. Very oddly, there is only one tile with the letter C on it. That the board has sixty-four squares on it presumably inspired the designer to have sixty-four tiles, but this is perhaps not the ideal number, and I personally would have included about three or four Cs. There are only two Hs as well, which limits the number of words using SH, CH and TH rather a lot. Nevertheless, the total number of tiles is about right, as the board gets crowded enough to make playing a challenge, but not so crowded that it becomes a great frustration.
As stacks of tiles get higher, they get worth more points. This means that sometimes it can be worth playing a simple word on a tall stack of tiles rather than a more clever word elsewhere. All word games will reward some gamesmanship however. Players with better vocabularies will have an advantage regardless of such tactics. When a stack is five tiles high, it cannot be added to, which is an important rule which stops the game becoming dominated by a couple of huge stacks.
One tactic is to place down a word that is so unusual, that it is very difficult to transform it into anything else. This is a good ploy with four players, but can backfire with only two. The game works very well indeed with two players. With four, each player will have far fewer turns before the game is over, and so luck plays a much greater part, as a single high-scoring turn is so much more important. Also, it is more fun to have more turns, so I would recommend this more as two-player game than as a three or four-player one.
Upwords is quicker and less fussy than Scrabble. Each tile is worth the same as every other tile, regardless of the letter on it, and there are no bonus squares on the board, so players will not spend an age trying to find a way to get a Z on a triple letter score. Since players can use existing words so much more readily to make their words, they are likely to play many more interesting words than in Scrabble because in that other game, a player will usually use just one letter already on the board, and have to do the rest with what he has, which might not be easy if his tiles are J K G U F T Q.
Tip: use a chess clock (or two, if you have 3 or four players), and give each player thirteen minutes (from experience I have found this to be about right). This way, players will not take ages over every turn, checking the dictionary, and searching for a play that might make another point or two. It makes the game much more exciting and quick if each turn is against the clock. Once a player's time is up, he can add no more tiles, while other players carry on having turns until their time is up too. In a two-player game, a player should score his turn before pressing his button on the clock.
Suggested house rules:
1. I found it annoying that the rules gave no extra points for long words, and that very often a shorter word on a taller stack got a lot more points. To counter this, and reward cleverness, I suggest that the following bonuses be given to players who make long words. If a player puts down a long word, he gets the bonus. If another player later converts the word with more letters, a bonus is only scored if the new word is longer.
|Length of word||Bonus|
If a player uses all seven of his tiles, he gets the twenty-point bonus instead of the above bonuses.
2. Sometimes the board becomes clogged, and it is next to impossible to add new words that fit onto existing ones. Fitting words onto existing ones is part of the challenge of the game, and so creating words that do not link on to others should score less, but this tactic should be allowed. For one thing, it opens up the board and gets the game going again. I suggest that it be allowed to place words that do not link to any other words already played. When this is done, each tile is worth just one point, so it is an act of desperation.