One of the great aspects about things opening up here in Ontario is that we can finally try out and enjoy some larger group party games like Trapwords, a word guessing game with a dungeon crawl theme.
In Trapwords players are trying to get the members of their team to guess a word without using any of their opponent’s trap words, which are words they chose before the round begins. Trapwords rewards clever wordplay and fits in the dungeon crawl theme in interesting ways.
Disclosure: CGE was awesome enough to send us a copy of Trapwords to check out. Links in this post may be affiliate links. Using these links doesn’t cost you anything extra and helps support this blog and our podcast. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
What do you get with Trapwords from Czech Games Edition?
Trapwords was designed by a team including Jan Březina, Martin Hrabálek and Michal Požárek. It fetures atworks by Dávid Jablonovský, Filip Murmak, Régis Torres and Michaela Zaoralová. It was originally released n 2018 and published in North America by Czech Games Edition aka CGE.
This word game plays four to eight players (and potentially more) with each game taking under an hour. This is a family weight game with a listed age of eight plus. The MSRP on Trapwords is a nice low $19.95 US.
Trapwords is a dungeon crawl themed, team-based, word guessing game where teams try to advance deeper into the dungeon by guessing words without the torchbearer, a.k.a. the clue giver, mentioning any of the trapped words chosen by the other team. As you get deeper into the dungeon you may have to deal with curses and your opponents will also get to choose more and more trap words that you will need to avoid. The goal of the game is to be the first team to defeat the dungeon boss monster.
To see what you get in a copy of this unique dungeon crawler, check out our Trapwords unboxing video on YouTube.
Trapwords comes in a small board game box that contains way more stuff than you might expect from a word based party game. When you first open it there are some baggies sitting right on top, which is a good indication of just how much stuff you get.
The game includes plastic stands and standees for each of the boss monsters as well as for the two adventuring parties. There is also a thick deck of cards that includes a huge number of word cards, each of which is two-sided with eight words on each side, plus a smaller set of curse cards and a set of monster cards monsters for two different difficulty levels.
You will also find a sand timer, pencils and a pencil sharpener.
In addition to the very clear twelve page rulebook that features lots of examples, there’s also a four page summary of play that is great for teaching the game to new players.
Other stuff on the punchboards includes torchbearer tokens to show who’s the clue giver each round, the dungeon room tiles and some very well designed book covers that you place the clue cards in. These book covers come in two sets, one that will give fantasy-themed words and another set that is designed to reveal more mundane words.
Everything here is top notch quality. The cardboard was falling off the punch boards when I was unboxing this game and I love the design of the clue books. My only real complaint is that the standees for both adventuring parties use the same artwork in a different colour, which is a very minor quibble.
How is Trapwords played?
You start a game of Trapwords by building the dungeon. A typical dungeon has five rooms, numbered three, four, five, six and seven. The game includes seven tiles in total, with numbers from one all the way up to ten (the tiles are double-sided and some numbers are on the back of other numbers). This lets you modify the difficulty of the game as these numbers printed on the dungeon rooms represent how many trap words teams can pick.
Players then select a monster to fight against. There are two versions of each monster, an easy version and a hard version. The monster card, which features special rules that are used when fighting the monster, is placed on the table and the monster standee is added to the last room of the dungeon.
Curses are then added to the dungeon. These are randomly drawn and, in a standard game, placed in rooms five and six. It’s recommended you not use these in a teaching game and you conversely have the option to add more curses to more rooms if you wish to make the game harder for experienced players.
Players split into two teams in whatever way they want, though each team must have at least two players. This game does not work with fewer than four players. One player on each team is assigned to be the torchbearer and takes a torch token to indicate this. This player will be the one giving the clues during this round.
A set of books is chosen. One set of books will reveal words with fantasy themes like Troll, Myth and Axe. The other set feature more common words like Elephant, Submarine and YoYo. I guess technically you could use a book from each set as well.
Each team then draws a word card and places it into their book and looks at it. This is the word that the opposing team will be trying to guess. They then write down a number of trap words on the included sheets also noting the clue word and how many traps they get to use. The rules contain an extensive section on what makes for a legal trap word and I’m not going to get into the details of that here.
Once both teams have chosen their traps, the books are passed to the torchbearer on the other team and the guessing begins.
The team that is the furthest behind in the dungeon goes first. One book from each set has a “lit up” gemstone on the front to indicate which team will go first in event of a tie.
In a guessing round, the sand timer is started and the torchbearer begins to give clues to their team. Similar to trap words there are a set of restrictions for what makes for a valid clue that I’ll leave for you to discover on your own. Note for the first few games you may want to only start the timer once the torchbearer gives their first clue.
The torchbearer’s teammates get five guesses as to what word the clue giver is trying to get them to say.
At any time if the torchbearer says any of the opposing team’s trap words the round immediately ends and their team fails the round and fails to advance in the dungeon. Note the trap words only affect the torchbearer, who is giving the clues, not the other players on the team who are doing the guessing. We played this wrong our first couple of games, and trust me the game is way better playing by these proper rules.
If the torchbearer’s team does manage to guess the word before time runs out, their team advances to the next spot in the dungeon. Then the other team plays through their own guessing round with the same rules.
If neither team manages to advance in the dungeon, then the boss monster advances towards the teams.
Along with this, some rooms will have curses. This is a catch-up mechanic. The first team that enters a room will be affected by the curse and will have to apply whatever its effect is in the next guessing round they play. Curses include things like having to use only one word clues, or having to use only nouns as clues, or having to say your clue all in one breath.
When any team starts their turn in the room with the boss monster they enter into a boss fight. Each boss monster includes some form of restriction making it harder than usual for the team facing them. These include things like limiting the number of guesses the team gets, handing out random curses, limiting what the torchbearer can say, etc.
The first team to defeat the boss monster wins. If eight rounds go by with no one defeating the boss, then the adventurers have been defeated by the boss monster and both teams lose.
Trapwords is a unique and very solid word guessing game
I’ve been wanting to try Trapwords for a long time now. Due to requiring at least four players to play, and with Ontario just starting to loosen up on pandemic-time gathering restrictions, we weren’t able to get this game to the table until very recently. In the meantime, we did get to check out Letter Jam, another word game from CGE, which plays very different from this one. As you can read in our Letter Jam review, it’s more of a thinky-filler than a party game.
Now that we have gotten Trapwords to the table and played it with mixed groups of four to six players including a mix of adults and kids I have to say I’m quite smitten with it. Especially once we started playing with the proper rules.
As I noted when summarizing how to play, during the first couple of games we played we missed the rule that traps are only triggered by the torchbearer, a.k.a. the clue-giver, and not by their teammates, the players trying to guess the right word.
While the game did technically work with anyone setting off traps, and there’s even a boss monster that makes this an official rule for the round, we found that traps were going off left and right and we made almost no progression in the dungeon. The game was playable but just wasn’t all that fun. Playing by the proper rules fixed this completely.
So this is a big warning to anyone out there playing this game now or planning to pick it up, don’t make the same mistake we did. Only Clue Givers Set Off Traps!
Playing properly, the game was just as much fun with four as it was with five and six, though I do worry it may be a bit fiddly with more than that. Technically you can play with any number of players on a side, the problem is working together with higher player counts. While you could technically whisper to each other, you really don’t want the opposing team to hear any of it.
When we play, we pass the Trapword sheet around to each player and let them write down a few words each, then go back and cross some words off until we get to the proper number of traps. This method works great with small groups but I can see it being annoying with more players. Perhaps if you had a way to physically separate the two teams, maybe in different rooms, higher player counts would work better.
What I love the most about Trapwords is the thought processes you go through in both main phases of the game.
For the first few games, in the trap writing phase, we were just writing down words we thought fit the clue. Eventually, we picked up on the metagame of realizing who will be giving the clues and started basing our choices of trap words not only on the word the other team will be trying to guess but also on who will be giving the clues.
In the guessing phase I love being the clue giver and trying to not say words I think my opponents have written down. My approach to this also shifted over time. A part of that was knowing who would be picking the trapped words, but also there’s the whole Vizzini death scene from Princess Bride thing. This is where you think, I” can’t say X because they probably wrote down X as it’s so obvious, but what if they didn’t write down X because it is so obvious and they are going to think I will avoid that word because of that, but then what if they realized I would think this so actually wrote it down”, etc.
Overall I’ve been shocked by how much we’ve all been enjoying Trapwords. The most surprising part for me has been just how much my daughters love it, including the one that normally has difficulty with words, grammar and spelling. I think working as a team really opened her up to the game and her unique way of looking at the world has led to some great clues and trap words.
In addition to playing with the kids, we’ve also enjoyed playing with the extended family and with another couple on a double date night. That particular event proved that Trapwords can also be a solid drinking game as well.
If I had to complain about something, the only thing I can really mention is that the entire way the game works is rather unique and different from other word guessing games and it can take a bit for some players to fully get it. Now the designers must have realized this because they included a short example of play meant superficially for teaching the game, which I do think helps.
After multiple plays, I honestly think the best way to learn this one is to just dive in and have players that know the game be the first clue givers. That way they can walk their teams through the trap phase and then give an in-play example of clue giving. I also suggest you take advantage of the additional dungeon tiles so you can create games of variable difficulty. For example, if playing kids vs. the parents, you can start the kids one room further along in the dungeon with the parents further back in a much higher numbered room.
I actually really appreciate the game including such variability through the dungeon tiles and the curse cards. Fair warning though, some of those curses are rough.
Trapwords takes the basic concept of games like Taboo and puts the control in the players’ hands. It’s an extremely solid and fun word guessing game with a unique theme. If you dig word guessing games then I hope at this point you’ve already got a copy in your cart or you’ve messages your FLGS to set one aside for you. This is especially true if you dig the fantasy, dungeon crawl, theme. If you aren’t normally a word guessing game fan, you still may want to give Trapwords a try. It just may win you over.
Personally, I expect this game to get a lot of play, especially once we get to head back out to public play events, cons and epic game nights like our Extra Life 24-hour gaming marathon.
Are you a word game fan? I’m not, really.
Or am I?
I used to say that I didn’t like word games but games like Trapwords are starting to change my mind. I’m really enjoying these modern word games that aren’t just about finding the biggest most obscure words. For another example of this check out my review of Letter Jam, another great modern word game.
What are your favourite word-based games? Let us know in the comments!
If you enjoy our content then please consider donating to our Patreon.