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Last Word – Word Game or Party Game?

“What shall we play tonight?”

It was a Saturday night and a few of us were sitting around, just killing some time.  The Super Bowl is in town, and thus many of my group is staying in rather than battling with the crazy sport fans and excess traffic.  So there we sat, attempting to find something to amuse ourselves with.  Upon digging through the pile of “still needs to be reviewed” games, we found Last Word.

Last Word is a party game produced by Buffalo Games.  However, oddly, it’s a party game that can be played with as few as two players.  Our first few games we had three players.

Once I read through the rules, some debate broke out among us custodians of the Game Paradise Library.  Was this really a party game?  Or should this be filed as a word game?  You see, this is a game about coming up with words that fit a category and start with a given letter.  The person who spits out the “Last Word” before the buzzer goes off is the winner of the round and receives a point. Clearly this has elements of both, and thus the debate still rages on.  I started out the debate on the “it’s a party game” side of the fence, but my mind has been swayed.

As I said, the first night we played with three players.  The game was fun and fast paced.  We got a lot of giggles about some of our answers which spanned everything from the predictable, to the absurd, and even to the more ‘adult’.  The scores were all close, and when I lost, I demanded a rematch.  Given that the game only took us maybe 20 minutes, a rematch wasn’t a huge time investment.  After our second game, we all agreed that on the next game we needed to try it with some fresh blood and more players.

So our usual game night rolled around and I pulled Last Word back out.  “Oooooo, what’s that one about?”, came the calls from my players.  So I gave a brief synopsis of the game and suffixed it with “It’s really good, I think you guys are really going to enjoy it!”.  With that, I ended up with seven players for our game.

We all crowded around my table and I gave a more detailed explanation of the rules.  There really aren’t that many rules, so it didn’t take long, and we were off.

The first thing I noticed was it is a lot more difficult to figure out who said legitimate answers, and who said it last, when you have a cacophony of seven voices.  One of our friends who didn’t play ended up standing there watching us, and playing referee for timing disputes. Even with a referee there were some disagreements about who was last, and who had valid answers.  Then there were the similar answers….

“Italian Foods that begin with the letter G!”

“Gorgonzola Chicken.”

“Gorgonzola Cheese!”

*BZZZZ!*

“Wait, you can’t just use Gorgonzola again with a different suffix.”

“Sure I can.  It doesn’t say I can’t!”

Things went on like that for a while.  I actually had one player who quit halfway through because she felt ganged up on because votes on whether a word was legal or the timing of it never seemed to go her way.  Also the fun, quick, 20 minute game now seemed to be a thing of the past with the game creeping closer to an hour long.  When the game was finally over I asked my players, “So what did you all think?”  Groans and shrugs filled the table.  It was clear that this one was going to go on a shelf for a while.

So is this a word game, or a party game?  As I said, my mind was changed.  To me, this is a word game.  Why?  Because the cornerstone of a party game, in my mind, is the number of people you can play it with.  This was a fun game with three, but with seven (and the game theoretically supports eight), the game was unwieldy and all the fun was sucked out of it.  So “not fun with a large group” knocks it right out of the running for a party game, and lands it firmly in the realm of “word game”.

Having played it in both a small group, and a large group, I don’t think this game is “bad”.  I just think it has a very limited player size range.  This game really needs at least 3 (so you can democratically resolve disputes), but I think would become unwieldy with more than four.  If evaluated as a 3-4 player word game, it’s fun and faced paced and I would totally play it again.  But as an 8 person party game, this game can go back on the shelf.  It simply wasn’t enjoyable with that many people.

This entry was posted by The_Null_Entry on Wednesday, February 1st, 2012 at 8:22 am and is filed under Board Game Reviews, Party Games, Word Games .
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