Kwyjibo – A Spelling Game

Kwyjibo is similar in style to Apples to Apples and Balderdash, while also incorporating a creative spelling function. Players create nonsense words and then give their words definitions. A best word is selected each round by a judge.

I collaborated with Tim Livingston on Kwyjibo’s creation. You can read his thoughts on the process here.



    • Deck of 454 letter cards (175 consonant cards, 135 vowel cards, 63 prefix cards, 81 suffix cards) for spelling nonsense words.
    • Optional: a pen and paper for recording winning and notable words


    • Each player draws ten letter cards from the deck. They arrange the cards in such a way that they have created a unique word. Players need not use all ten cards, and will receive no particular bonus for doing so. (NOTE: Words that can already be found in the dictionary are NOT acceptable.)
    • Once they have arranged the word, they must devise a definition. When everyone is prepared with both a word and a definition, players present to another player who has been designated as the judge. Presentation progresses alphabetically, (i.e., a player whose word begins with an ‘A’ would go before a player whose word begins with an ‘S’.)
    • The judge selects their favorite word, which is the winner of the round.
    • Players replenish their hands up to ten cards.
    • Play continues until a player has won seven rounds.IMG_2927


Kwyjibo differs from other spelling games in that there are very few single letter cards. Nearly all cards (85%) contain more than one letter. This both adds restrictions to word creation, but also expedites the creation process, as common meanings and roots are more easily discovered. IMG_2926

Kwyjibo has been a rousing success. Several of our prototypers have said they are willing to purchase some future version of the game.

Additionally our prototypers exposed patterns in winning words we did not originally anticipate. For instance, inclusion of word etymology, a word’s pleasant sound, and a word’s ease of frequency of potential use, all contributed to a player’s success. Later definitions also tended to have more success. To compensate, upon the suggestion of a prototyper, we added alphabetical definition presentation.  IMG_2930IMG_2935

In the future iterations I hope to adjust card ratios to better support single deck game play. Currently Tim and I are split on the superiority of single vs. multi deck play. Multi deck play allows players to draw from each of the four card types as they wish, instead of a random assortment of card types in our current version. Adjusting card type ratios to correct for the single deck’s slight skew toward consonant pairings.

Winning Words:

Ewtionaw, n. – the feeling of disgust brought on by hearing a southern accent.
Croucroucroocreyadj. – color resembling a bodily fluid
Enclive, n. – Section of cabinet or drawer designated for a particular type of item
Overclieth adj. – to be into the cleanliness of one’s foot ware above all else.
Deeeeaen n. – a word coming from a dolphin language which is untranslatable, but refers to the feeling one has when returning to the ocean after being held in captivity.
Cloution n. – a hole dug with a key
Nonbritioned adj. – to be reduced to a state of breadlessness
Semigreelable, adj., a person from your past who you remember apathetically
Slolsh, adj. – the state of being both symmetrical and ugly
Irtheapleashed, adj. – the disruption of the sense of satisfaction of being idle while in a swimming pool
Embreaglition, n. – the intense feeling that an eagle is nearby
Insleagrly, adv. – to do something that should be done secretly without regard for secretcy.
Erlyousing, v. (Erlyouse) – to complain about something that has not yet happened
Interchauch, n. – The period of health between two serious illnesses
Skouble, n. – An error made during skeeball.
Wroyg, n. – A person who has been with the group the whole time, but is only noticed after a few hours.
Twoiless, adj. – When a person, normally a girl, appears dressed conservatively and plainly without her normal twee accessories.
Trowstible, adj. – Being prepared to receive someone else’s arms as your own for a party trick
Griesacable, adj. – Something that could benefit from being toned down a notch or two.
Embrow, v. – To add eyebrows, ie: with an eyebrow pencil
Semieaglou-snauoudrimity, adj. – The state of being a work of art which is partly meant to have a (somewhat) political point and and partly to (somewhat) inspire confusion as to its artistic status and merit
Stowsnoush, n. – A wooly, pygmy hippopotamus, indigenous to the mountainous regions of New Zealand
Anti-trolible, adj. – An action which undermines the safety of a bridge
Non-lousitive, adj. – The state of being something that could not go wrong
Semi-shupling, v.  – To partially almost fall down a flight of stairs
Miswhoorous, n. – A circus or carnival on the day after it has rained
Eeea, n. – The sound of things after your ears have popped
Flautrious, adj., one who appears to be keeping a secret while playing the flute

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