2 Chits, 4 Giggles
It must take a long time to get to Earth when you happen to come from beyond the stars, but two and a half years is a 'fhtagn' joke!
Like many others, after seeing this game played on Wil Weaton's Tabletop I couldn't wait to get my itchy fingers on a copy, but the game had a very limited run and was sold out everywhere, only selling on auction sites for amounts of money that even an Elder God would splutter at. Thankfully Playroom Entertainment began a Kickstarter for a second print run back in 2015. This was one of the first games I ever backed, and I praised Cthulhu that I would finally get the game for myself. Delivery had been estimated for the summer of 2015... Time it seems must work differently when you come from another dimension.
The years rolled by and the apology emails kept coming. I had begun to give up hope that I'd ever get this game but eventually Cthulhu and his buddies finally made it, delivered by one of the Elder God's cultists (cunningly disguised as my postman) I was so excited when this game finally arrived, my face lit up when I opened the box to see the happy little Cthulhu staring back at me, and I played Unspeakable Words that very night at our Chits & Giggles board game pop up in Greenwich.
For those who haven't been following the game like a lunatic, it's a rather simple word game. Every player starts with five adorable Cthulhu sanity minis and a hand of seven cards. Each card has a letter on it and a score based on the number of angles that letter has.
On your turn you play a word from your hand (usually scrabble rules apply, no pronouns, no acronyms, etc) and then you count up their total score for all the letters. Then they roll the insanity die (a D20) and must score equal to or above their word score to stay sane. If ever you roll a twenty, you pass your insanity roll no matter your score. This is a fun mechanic that means playing high scoring words is risky as you increase the chance of losing your mind! My favourite thing about the game is that if you get down to your last sanity point, the rules of spelling go out the window and you can begin speaking the language of the elder gods, meaning that you can use any letters you want to create your own words. If you like, you can add a meaning for the word as an extra bit of fun.
"What the heck is Figfkjd?"
"Figfkjd is that horrible feeling you get that you left the gas on. That'll be nineteen points please."
However, If you fail your insanity when you've already gone mad then your mind snaps and you are out of the game. The game is over when a player reaches a total score of one hundred or if every one else at the table has died of madness. So was it worth the wait?
Definitely! It's a great take on a word game that even people who don't usually like scrabble or Bananagrams will enjoy. I love that it is more dangerous to score those long words. Unspeakable Words is not as strategic as other word games. Mostly, you'll try and mitigate the randomness of the letters you are dealt and the punishing rolls on the insanity die.
"Why do I keep rolling a 1???"
"I guess Cthulhu hates you..."
The theme works really well in this game, and going insane is where a lot of the fun is found. Quite why we are shouting words like 'hat' and 'poke' at the Elder Gods is tricky to explain but I guess it's all part of the descent into madness which this game is all about.
The only negative I can see with this game is if a player gets a bad run of rolls, they may be out of the game quite early. I'm never a fan of this but there is a way to house rule this, so that you only score half points on your garbled words when your mind finally snaps.
I haven't felt the thrill of getting a game to the table in a while but Unspeakable Words gave me that back. The game lived up to the hype and I can't wait to have another go. Aside from the long wait and excitement of playing the game, it stands up on its own merits as a great party word game with a fun Cthulhu twist. I think you'd be mad not to play it.
Review by David Murcut