Review: Choice Words

choice-wordsMy first introduction to Choice Words, and designer Bob Kamp, was when he reached out to me, offering to send me the game to review. I’d only played Qwirkle among MindWare’s games, and Choice Words didn’t even have a BoardGameGeek page at this point – suffice to say, I had no idea what to expect. It seems like a variation of classic games like Scattergories, but was there more to it than that? Here’s a reminder of my scoring categories:

Components – Does the game look nice? Are the bits worth the money? Do they add to the game?
Accessibility – How easy is the game to teach, or to feel like you know what you are doing?
Depth – Does the gameplay allow for deeper strategies, or does the game play itself?
Theme – Does the game give a sense of immersion? Can you imagine  the setting described in the game?
Fun – Is the game actually enjoyable? Do you find yourself smiling, laughing, or having some sense of satisfaction when it’s over?


Components: There’s really not too much in the box – 400 cards (okay, admittedly, that’s a lot of cards), a timer, and some paper. Before you go thinking that this is a game that is somewhat pointless to purchase, as you could just make it at home, Bob made some good points in our interview as to why that might not be a good idea (lots of effort went into picking those 400 cards). My main complaint is that the scratch pads are far too small, and there are no pencils included (but mostly, bigger paper, and more of it). For $24.95 MSRP, though, not too much to complain about – that’s about normal for party games.


choice-words-cardsAccessibility:  Though the game isn’t yet up on BGG, the rules are here and there’s more information here. The rules are extremely straightforward: on your turn, you pick Match Play or Scratch Play. Match Play involves trying to write down the same words for three fill-in-the-blank phrases as everyone else, while Scratch Play is using a particular word in phrases that other people hopefully aren’t thinking of. Scoring in each category is pretty simple, and you play until someone gets a certain score (or until whenever, like most party games).


Depth: Obviously, this is a party game, one where you’re simply writing down a bunch of words and phrases. However, I was surprised by how tricky this game can be. Sometimes I would have a really long list of phrases, yet not get many points because at least one other person would always have those, and other players would come up with stuff that I really felt should have been obvious (but it’s hard to think under pressure!). Discussing what we came up with really was far more interesting than I thought it would be going in, and the meta-game during Match Play was sometimes very funny. We had a situation where two players had decided on two different answers, and both switched to the other due to thinking of the other person, so they still didn’t match like they wanted! Playing the game is certainly not difficult, and it’s a party game through-and-through, but there was more bite (well, maybe just a nip) than I expected.


I should also mention that in order to keep things simple, the game has a “two-player objection rule” where if two players say something shouldn’t count, that ends the discussion right then and there. That keeps things moving along, but it’s obviously a rule that can be abused. Bob’s answer was “don’t play with jerks,” and I mostly agree with him, but it’s nice when games have failsafes for awkward situations (like playing with new people). That’s my only complaint here though.


Theme: Let’s think of this as “immersion” (maybe I should change the name). The discussions that came up were enough to keep us interested and thinking about the phrases at hand, but there were a few times where one of us would just get stuck on a word before time was out, and that was a bit of a bummer that kind of took you out of the experience for a minute. Other than that, though, the nature of the challenge was interesting enough to keep us engaged with it.


Fun: While this is a party game, and it generated some laughter, it wasn’t the snorting-your-drink-through-your-nose kind of laughter generated by games like Telestrations or Time’s Up!. This was more of a thinky, interesting way to play with language – perhaps the best way to describe it would be Dixit with words and phrases instead of pictures and phrases. If that sounds appealing to you (especially you language nerds), then there’s a lot of fun to be had here, but I could definitely see some folks not liking it for exactly that reason.


Choice Words is a pleasant twist on classic language-related party games. It’s got a streamlined, simple ruleset, an interesting framework, and the possibility for some fun discussion and even a few laughs. If you’ve enjoyed other language games, you’re likely to enjoy this one too.




3 out of 5

2 comments to Review: Choice Words

  • Gerri

    Our family likes to play board games, and we have a group of friends we get together with regularly to play board games or cards. When I heard about this new game I bought three copies for Christmas gifts. I gave one each to my sibling’s families and one to our friends.

    I wasn’t sure what to expect but it turned out to be a hit with all of them. We played it with family over the holidays and players ranged in age from 9 to 50+. I was a little worried the younger kids would have trouble keeping up but not at all. Once they got the hang of it they liked it and came up with very creative answers. They even requested we play it again the next day.

    With the older crowd, there were two guys in the group who really didn’t want to play. Their preference leans more toward card games. But we persuaded them to try it. They did and one of them ended up winning. They both said they enjoyed it–and were surprised by how much they did. I later heard from the friend to which I gave the game that her teenage daughter was playing it with her friends and they also liked it.

    It really is interesting to see the creative ideas that come out of playing it. It’s definitely a conversation starter but with a fast pace. I also agree with Bob’s comments (below) that one appeal of this game is that everyone’s always playing.

    The quality of Mindware games is very high. There are no cheap or flimsy parts, and you definitely feel like all of the details have been carefully vetted.

    I have no hesitation recommending this game. Having played it with diverse groups of players, all to good reviews, I’d say it is a winner!

    • Derek Thompson

      Gerri, thanks for the comments! I liked the game too. I expect Bob and/or MindWare to contact you soon for more quotes! 😉

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