Tim & I developed Kwyjibo in February as part of our unit on spelling games. It’s a spelling game where players create nonsense words and then give them definitions. We decided to revisit it because we thought it had potential and we were encouraged by our professor, Allison Parrish, to develop it more. Kwyjibo is not yet perfected, but we have taken steps to bring it closer to a game we hope to kickstart this summer, after working with a designer, and contacting a printer.
Kwyjibo requires two decks to play. A deck of letter combinations, classified as vowels, consonants, prefixes, and suffixes. A second deck of prompt cards is also required. Prompt cards include phrases like “The next exercise craze” which create categories within which players create words. You can download a printable version here.
Kwyjibo is best played with 3 to 6 players.
To begin each players draw 7 cards from the letter combination deck. With these cards they will create nonsense words. 1 player each round take a turn as a judge. A judge draws a card from the prompt deck and reads the prompt aloud. Players then begin to create a word with their cards. They may use as many of their cards as they like. After a suitable amount of time as passed (usually about 1 minute, but this is at the judges discretion), players read their words aloud and give the word a definition. Players should not be held to the proper or common English pronunciation of the word. Players read their words in alphabetical order (this may be used strategically to get a preferred read order). After all words have been read and definitions given, the judge selects what they believe to be the best word. The player who created the best word receives the prompt card; players discard the cards the used, and draw back up to 7 cards. The round repeats; the role of judge moves to the left. The first player to earn 7 prompt cards wins the game!
Judges may use any criteria to select which ever word they deem the best word. In our experience several metrics have been most helpful, and most frequently cited by judges.
Among these are(in no particular order):
1. Creativity of Definition
2. Usability of the Word
3. Pleasantness of Word Pronunciation
4. Interpretation of the Prompt
In the event that a judge is unable to choose a winner, the judge may invoke the tie breaker rule. In this instance the tied players create another word for the same prompt with their remaining letter cards. In the event players have no cards remaining in their hand they may draw back up to 4 cards.
Fewer people played the final version of this game than we would have preferred, but many contributed feedback throughout our refinement process and inspired our refined judging criteria. Through the several months our friends have played this game, they have mostly complained about the design of the cards, something we have not yet been able to fix. Many of the more experienced players were concerned the prompt cards would limit their creativity. They instead found that the prompt cards made the game more accessible, and that they did not hinder game play. We could still see advanced players choosing to play without prompt cards.
You can watch us play Kwyjibo here!