Today I’m going to take a look at the latest game from Exploding Kittens, A Little Wordy, a two-player word game with a clever twist.
I have to admit that up until now I have not been a big fan of the various games from Exploding Kittens. Every one of their previous releases has been light silly party games, not the kind of games I generally enjoy. So when I received a press release for A Little Wordy, a significantly heavier two-player only game, I was curious to check it out.
Disclosure: Thanks to Exploding Kittens for sending me a copy of A Little Wordy to check out. Some links in this post are affiliate links. Using these links doesn’t cost you anything extra and it helps support this blog and podcast. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
What do you get with A Little Wordy the most recent Exploding Kittens game?
A Little Wordy was designed by Matthew Inman who most of you probably know better as The Oatmeal. He’s also the artist for this game, which makes sense since The Otameal’s claim to fame is his very popular webcomic. Matthew is also the designer of Exploding Kittens, You’ve Got Crabs, Throw Throw Burrito and other silly, take that style party games all of which have been released under the Exploding Kittens brand.
So I was surprised to learn that the latest game from Matthew isn’t a party game at all but rather a two-player, strategic word game.
A Little Wordy is being published as a Target exclusive with an MSRP of $15 USD. A single round of A Little Wordy can be as short as five minutes with most games ending in under fifteen minutes.
In A Little Wordy players receive a random mix of consonants and vowels and use those letters to form their secret word. They then hand all of their tiles to their opponent. Players will, in turn, use clue cards to try to guess the opponent’s secret word from the letters now in front of them. Each clue card has a different value depending on the amount of information that clue can provide. The goal is to guess your opponent’s word using a lower total clue value than they use to guess yours. For a look at what you get with this new word game be sure to check out our A Little Wordy Unboxing Video on YouTube.
Overall I was impressed by the component quality in A Little Wordy. I especially like the player screens, the amount of room they have and how they fold up to hide your secret word during play. The dry erase markers worked like a dream on them as well.
The clue cards are of excellent quality and feel like good quality playing cards. The art on them is cute and very typical of The Oatmeal. Each card has a clever pun for a name.
What I don’t like about the clues is how small the text on them is. This text describes what each clue does when used. There’s no way you can read these from across the table. There aren’t very many cards and I realize that after only a handful of games you will probably memorize what each of these does, but for the first few games, we found that we had to keep picking up the clues and reading them.
My biggest complaint about the components really shouldn’t be a complaint at all. The problem here is with me and the fact that I’m spoiled. When I hear tile-based word game I immediately think of games like Scrabble, Upwords and Bananagrams. All of these games feature tiles that are made of either plastic, wood or bakelite. When I saw that cardboard chits are used at letter titles in A Little Wordy I have to admit that I was both surprised and disappointed.
I will say that I took a good look at the cardboard used for these letter tiles and I don’t think you will have to worry much about wear and tear. The tiles are thick with many very condensed layers. That said you may want to consider using coin capsules or varnish to protect them if you expect to play this game a lot.
Finally, I just want to thank Exploding Kittens for a nice large fold-out rulebook that uses a nice big font. They could have easily gone with a small booklet and smaller font to better fit the box and my ageing eyes appreciate the pamphlet style rules that they went with.
How do you play A Little Wordy from The Oatmeal?
To start a game of A Little Wordy, each player takes a player screen and a dry erase marker. You each draw seven consonant tiles from the consonant bag and four vowels from the vowel bag and place the tiles behind your screen so the other player can’t see what you are doing.
Eight clue cards are drawn randomly and placed face up between you. Four of these come from the Vanilla clue deck and four come from the Spicy clue deck. Note that the Spicy deck doesn’t indicate NSFW in this case (as it has in other Exploding Kitten Games), but rather a set of more complicated clues, some of which require some give and take thus helping both you and your opponent.
The game includes six different Vanilla clues and ten different Spicy clues, which means there is a very solid amount of variety and replayability.
Next, rearrange the letters behind your screen to spell a word. This word can be anywhere from one to eleven letters long (yes you can use one-letter words in A Little Wordy) and cannot be a proper noun. Exploding Kittens even has a web-based dictionary for determining if a word is valid or not.
Once you have decided on a Secret Word, you write it down at the top of your player screen and then fold up the screen covering the word. This leaves a worksheet area still open for the next part of the game.
Once each player has written down their Secret Word you swap letter tiles with each other.
Starting with a randomly determined first player you now try to guess each other’s Secret Word using the clue cards you drew earlier.
Each turn you can either choose one clue card to use or try to guess your opponent’s word.
Each clue card has a value on the top of it which is the number of berry tokens you will have to give your opponent if you use that clue. The clues vary greatly. Some examples include:
Vanilla Clues in A Little Wordy:
Dinowlsaur, First Letter – Your opponent tells you the first letter of their Secret Word. Worth four berries.
Manatweet, Relative Word Length – Build a valid word from the tiles in front of you. Your opponent tells you whether it is longer, shorter, or the same length as their Secret Word. Worth one berry.
Bow & Sparrow, Letter Strike – Choose a letter from the set of tiles in front of you. Your opponent tells you if that letter is in their Secret Word. Worth two berries.
Spicy Clues in A Little Wordy:
Toucommunist, Let’s Share – Choose a letter that is in both sets of tiles. You and your opponent tell each other how many times that letter appears in each of your Secret Words. This can’t be used if your opponent has already correctly guessed your Secret Word. Worth one berry.
Emperor Drenguin, Burn the Copies – Choose a letter that appears at least twice in the set of tiles in front of you. Your opponent tells you how many times that letter is in their Secret Word. Worth two berries.
Yolo Dodo, Rhyme Time – Your opponent says a valid word that rhymes with their Secret Word. If no rhyming word exists they have to make one up. This is the strongest clue card, worth five berries.
While trying to figure out the opponent’s Secret Word you may want to use the worksheet part of your player board. Along with this, the letter tiles are two-sided with just the A Little Wordy bird on the back, so you can flip over tiles you have determined can’t be in your opponent’s Secret Word.
Instead of using a clue, you can choose to guess your opponent’s word. If you are right and you currently have more berries than your opponent, you win! If you guess their word but have fewer berries than them, your opponent continues to take turns and you will continue to earn berries. If at any point you end up with more berries than they have, you win. If they manage to guess your word while they still have more berries they win.
An incorrect guess will earn the opponent two berries. Due to this, it can be more cost-effective to guess words than use clues if you have correctly narrowed things down to only a small handful of words.
That’s all there is to A Little Wordy.
With A Little Wordy, Exploding Kittens has finally published a non-party game and I dig it.
I’m sure I’m not the only one shocked to learn that The Oatmeal has created and published a real strategy game.
When I was first contacted by the PR company representing Exploding Kittens, they were all excited about the upcoming 10th Game from Exploding Kittens and I almost immediately replied, “No thanks. That’s not my style of game, I don’t think we would be a good fit.”
At that point I just assumed anything by Exploding Kittens would be a silly, take that, party game, potentially featuring NSFW artwork and content. I am so glad I actually went on to read the full email and to check out the full press release.
A Little Wordy is a brilliant, small footprint, word game for two players. The rules are very clear, concise and easy to learn either from the included rulebook or from the official A Little Wordy how-to-play video. This is a game where you can crack it open, have one player read through the rules while the other punches out the word tiles, and be playing in minutes.
The entire system in A Little Wordy is just clever. The way you build a word of any length from limited tiles, then swap your tiles with your opponent and use those tiles along with clues to guess your opponent’s word, is all very well done and intuitive.
The scoring system is especially brilliant. Using different valued clues to give your opponent tokens removes the need for keeping track of your scores on paper and also removes any math that you would need to do during the game. The tokens have the added benefit of making it very obvious what position you are in compared to your opponent at all times.
The other benefit of this word-building and clue system is that it rewards players for choosing clever secret words and not just for making the biggest word they can. This means that, unlike in many word-based games, having a large vocabulary can help but memorizing word lists isn’t going to give you a big advantage in A Little Wordy.
There is one aspect of the game that I think would have been better left out, the rules for playing with teams. They aren’t really rules at all. It basically just says try playing the game as teams where you work together to build your Secret Word and to guess the opponents, but be careful what you say out loud.
That’s not a team variant, that’s something you can do with any board game regardless of the player count. Unlike other two-player games with a team variant, like for example Codenames Duet, I really do think that A Little Wordy is best at two players only.
While we currently aren’t hanging out at pubs or coffee shops, I think this would be a perfect game for those venues as well as for some date night gaming. The small footprint is perfect for playing on smaller tables.
My only real complaint with this game is a fact I mentioned earlier, that I wish the game came with tiles for the letters instead of cardboard chits. I’ve been spoiled by other word games and just expected this game to have components similar to Dabble or Appletters. Having cardboard chits in A Little Wordy really surprised me, especially coming from a company as big as Exploding Kittens that sell games on levels that most hobby board game publishers only dream of.
I get it though, to keep the price point at only $15 US they probably couldn’t produce a game with plastic tiles and still make any money. This does leave me wishing they would put out a deluxe edition. Maybe, if this game does as well as it deserves to, that is something we will see in the future.
Overall I was extremely impressed by A Little Wordy. A big part of this was due to the game’s pedigree, Exploding Kittens isn’t a company that makes the kinds of games I usually want to play, but A Little Wordy is now an exception to that rule. Another aspect of it though isn’t just that Exploding Kittens put out a non-party word game, but also that they put out a really good tile-based word game. I’ve enjoyed every play of A Little Wordy and look forward to the coming months when we can bring it with us on a weekend outing to Kingsville’s Jack’s Gastropub or pack it in our luggage for a family vacation.
If you dig The Oatmeal’s work and don’t mind games with a bit more meat on them than your usual Exploding Kittens style take-that party game, I invite you to check out A Little Wordy.
If, like me, you don’t usually enjoy those styles of games, don’t write A Little Wordy off. It’s a significant departure from their usual fare.
If you dig word games at all, go grab a copy of A Little Wordy when you can, there’s a very solid game in this small box for a small price.
If you aren’t usually a fan of word games due to always losing to players who have bigger vocabularies or who are great at memorizing word lists, you may want to give A Little Wordy a try as word-building in this game is much more about being clever than about building the biggest most impressive word.
In general, I’m a fan of word games, but I do get frustrated when a word game is just about knowing the most words or memorizing a word list. My wife is much better at those kinds of games than I am and I hate losing all the time. Thankfully A Little Wordy does not fall into that category and we’ve both had a great time playing it (and I swear it’s not just because so far I have more wins than her, really).
If you dig word games like this be sure to check out our 18 of the Best Word-Based Board Games article.