Party games are a dime a dozen these days. Most of them are some take on guessing either words or pop-culture references based on clues given by your teammates. Well, Word Slam is no different in that respect. However, it takes quite a different spin on what clues you can give and gives players a huge amount of variety in terms of difficulty and game length.
Word Slam is a party game for 3-99 players and game length can be adjusted based on the group’s preference. It plays best with at least 6 players.
Word Slam pits two teams against each other, with each team having one person giving clues to help their team guess a hidden word or phrase. What makes Word Slam different from the vast number of similar games out there is that you give clues only by choosing decks of cards with various words on them.
The decks of cards for giving clues are organized by color, which indicates the type of word. Nouns are beige colored, verbs are purple, adjectives are green, and the light blue cards are prepositions and some other modifying words. Each team has an identical set of cards, so you’ll have the same options as the opposing team.
The answer cards also have different colored decks based on their difficulty, ranging from easy as pie to nearly impossible. The length of the game is determined by the number of answer cards you use and the rulebook has suggested lengths based on the number of people playing. But you are really free to adjust as you see fit for your game session.
Once a team successfully guesses a clue, they take the answer card into their score pile and the next player on each team becomes the clue-giver. At the end of the game, the team with the most answer cards wins.
The field of word-based party games is certainly a crowded one. From mass market options like Catchphrase and Taboo to the slightly gamier but suddenly ubiquitous Codenames and ever-present Time’s Up. The key to all of these games is always some form of how are you limiting the person giving the clues. Some games use timed elements while others prohibit the words you can give in some way.
Word Slam’s unique trick here makes it a race against your opponents, rather than the clock. The clue cards allow you to give effectively silent clues to your team. This mechanism works exceptionally well at keeping teams competing against each other while also making it reasonably difficult to give clues. Often the exact word you’d like to use isn’t in the deck so you’ll find yourself making a bit of a stretch to figure out how to convey your message.
While the clue-giving is silent, the answer-guessing is very noisy. Players on both sides will be shouting out potential answers. And you’d be wise to listen carefully as the incorrect guesses of the opposing team can spark ideas and help you figure out the correct answer. Since teams are going after the same clue, the cost of shouting out something isn’t necessarily a free decision. You certainly want to guess if you think you are correct, but you may be giving a clue to others as well.
The best part of Word Slam is how unstructured it really is. Players can come in and out as they please. If someone doesn’t want to take a turn giving clues, it’s no big deal. If someone wants to throw in a harder-difficulty word and see how it goes they certainly can. Want to play for 5 minutes or 5 hours – the game certainly will allow it. For a party, convention, or mixed company type of gathering, Word Slam can happily sit out on the table and be played and left whenever is convenient for the players. You can play it with 4 players or 24 players… so long as you can fit everyone around the table. There’s even a three player variant, although Word Slam really is better with decently large groups.
If there is a knock against Word Slam it is that it presents a unique skill game between experienced and inexperienced players. If you’ve played Word Slam a few times, you know basically what cards exist in the clue-giving decks. Each team has 105 cards, so you’ll likely not know all of them, but knowing that colors, cardinal directions, and words like “not” exist certainly gives you a leg up on a player that is flying blind. A quick look through the decks before starting can go a long way, but there is no substitute for experience.
Despite the number of party games in my collection seemingly increasing endlessly, I think Word Slam is going to stick around awhile. I love the team against team race aspect that doesn’t exist in most games in the genre. It’s dead simple to explain to anyone who hasn’t played before and the fact that we can go as long as we want or stop whenever something else comes up without feeling like we only played half a game is invaluable in a party game.
Word Slam is certainly worth your time and attention if you like Codenames or Time’s Up and are looking for a similar experience that still feels fresh.
Final Score: 4 Stars – Great word game with some unique mechanical elements.
• Hard to give good clues without knowing what is in the decks to begin with.