I have fond memories of playing Taboo with family and friends at gatherings probably 10 years ago. If you aren’t familiar, in Taboo you try to get your team to guess a word without saying the other words on the card. The other team would have someone sit next to you with a buzzer and press the big red button if you messed up and said something illegal. Nothing was more fun than BUZZZZZZZing! in someone’s ear.
Today we are looking at Trapwords, a similar word game with a bit more depth, but no buzzer included. Trapwords is a party style game for 4-8 players split into two teams. It plays in about 45 minutes.
In Trapwords, teams will take turns having one player give clues for a hidden word, trying to get their team to successfully guess the answer. However, before the clue-giving begins, the other teams look at the word and sets some “traps,” listing words that the clue giver is not allowed to give. The catch, of course, is that the person giving the clues doesn’t have any idea what they can—or can’t—say.
There is a small board used to track progress towards the final challenge where a team must defeat the game’s monster to ultimately be crowned victorious. Each round you are able to dodge traps and get your team to guess the word, you’ll move closer to the monster. If either team advances, the monster moves a space closer to the players to make sure the game continues to move along even if everyone happens to be really bad at word games.
Some rooms will have curses that will affect the first team to arrive in that room, giving them some kind of additional challenge for the next round. The monster works in a similar way, giving teams that are pulling ahead just a little bit of an extra challenge.
When a team successfully guesses their clue in the room with the monster, they win. If both teams start in the room with the monster, they will both get a chance to defeat them and if both teams do, the victory is shared. If you aren’t a fan of ties (and who is?) you can time the final round and if both teams guess successfully, the team that did so in the least amount of time wins.
When I first heard about Trapwords, the idea of playing Taboo where you don’t know what is allowed and what isn’t sounded like it would be right up my alley.
Trapwords comes with 50 cards with 16 words each on them. If you use the black books to reveal the word, you’ll see something with a generic fantasy theme. The beige-colored books can be really anything at all. There is plenty of variety and you are unlikely to come across the same words very often even after dozens of playthroughs.
The real kicker is what kind of clues you can give. The lists of things you can’t say are extensive: proper nouns, rhyming words, abbreviations, etc. The hardest one to follow if you can’t give examples of the thing you are trying to guess—Earth and Jupiter would be illegal for planet, for instance.
The problem, however, is that it just hasn’t been as exciting to play as it would seem. The first issue is one of logistics. If you have four players on a team and you are trying to, as a group, decide on what words to use as a trap for your opponents, it is difficult to discuss it openly with them sitting 3 feet away from you on the opposite side of the table. We resorted to a lot of writing things down and crossing them out—even texting each other at one point. I love the quasi-psychological decisions in deciding if you set a really obvious word as a trap or not—thinking they will assume it’s likely a trap and they won’t say it anyway. It’s just not as fun when you can’t talk about such things with your team.
My other issue with Trapwords has been one difficulty. It was often pretty easy. Really easy. Say the word is “mountain”. There are lots of clues you can give: “a big pointy landmass,” “skiing destination,” “the subject of topographical maps,” to name a few. Your team is limited to 5 guesses, but you can give infinite clues so long as you don’t hit a trap or run out of time. I suppose that is the intention of the game, it’s more about trap-setting and guessing than about clever clue-giving.
Yet spending a few minutes trying to set the best traps and having the other team guess the word in 2 seconds feels incredibly unsatisfying for everyone involved. It’s possible we aren’t clever enough with our traps, but when you are limited to 3-7 words and the clue-giving team has all of the English language to choose from, it can be a crapshoot. You can use higher-numbered room tiles, allowing more traps to be laid throughout the game to ramp up the difficulty a bit if you’d like.
I can appreciate the desire to try something different and there is certainly some good times to be had playing Trapwords. But it all feels a little too slow to really be a party game. Rather than shouting out answers and clues and generally being social, Trapwords focuses on whispers and secret texting between teams. While that may appeal to some folks, it misses the mark for me.
Final Score: 3 Stars – A unique take on word games that just didn’t fully come together.
• A little bit more rules overhead than most party games.
• Communicating secretly with your team is difficult but necessary.
• Avoiding traps and successfully guessing clues can be unsatisfyingly quick and easy.