This review is also garrulously available on Zatu here!
I hate being lost for words. You know the feeling. Something happens that’s so exciting, inexplicable and shocking that you manage a stutter and a few consonants, but no eloquence. Or when you’re unable to understand how Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers? And don’t even get me started on that lady selling seashells. It’s infuriating – you think, plan and speak but somewhere along that process your brain and mouth say “Nope! Today we’re speaking gibberish.” Luckily for us who are permanently tongue tied, the longer you’re around us the more likely you are to translate our utterings to English. Inkling by Osprey Games is a game about deciphering what someone’s trying to say when they can’t. It’s a 3-6 player word game that takes around 20 minutes to play.
How To Play
The game is centred around guessing words your neighbouring competitors are creating whilst also creating your own. Players earn points for not only guessing your opposers’ words, but also having your words guessed. It runs over three rounds and after that, whomever has the most points based on guessed, wins!
To kick off, all players need to be dealt eight letter cards and a word card. They also need a score/guess pad and something to write with. In the first round players have eight cards. Then they gain three in the second and three in the third.
The challenge for players is that they are not guaranteed to be given letters they need to create their words, and will struggle to create all six words across the three rounds. Inkling encourages players to be clever with how they present their words and makes it clear that any amount of manipulation is acceptable. Covered cards, flipped cards, words sharing letters, crossword style layouts – it’s all completely viable.
Play and Scoring
Players play simultaneously to create their words using the cards they currently have. Then, all players simultaneously and secretly guess the words created by the adjacent players. They can make any number of guesses for each round, but only seven in total across the game. Once all players are ready, they get the option to first trade back up to two cards to receive two new ones. Then they receive their additional three for the new round. This continues until players have made their third guesses, after which the game ends and a winner is established. You score based on not only how well you guess, but how well those adjacent to you guessed your clues. Cards contain words with different points values, three worth 1 point, two worth 2 points, and one 3 pointer.
How It Feels to Play
I’m not one for word games, but ask me to play Inkling and I’m there. There’s something really puzzly and tactical about it that goes beyond just guessing some words. You’ve really got to think, plan and consider. Both for your clues and your guesses!
There’s so much freedom for manipulation in this game, it’s unreal. If you’re not versed in crosswords, you’re going to run out of cards quick though. Your words come in tiered scores, with the easiest being worth a measly point and the big boy being worth a whopping three. Not forgetting that you COULD score twice if both your neighbours share your thinking. However, even with these lowly scoring words being easier to create, managing the rounds and the big scores, and creating them all is a true test of one’s ability to articulate.
Inkling distributes cards gradually and allows you to change your cards when possible. Five new cards a round is a godsend, but you’ve got to use them effectively to win. Layering cards is an art. Organising them with logical gaps more so. We found it took a round of playing and getting it wrong before you’d get it right. Nailing which words can have which letter omitted is tricky. Or rationing them so you can make multiple words in one round… it’s where the strong puzzly feel comes in to the game. It isn’t for everyone at first, and one of our players was really pulling their hair out. But after a solid game of gradually seeing the patterns and links, they’d nailed it!
Gift Of The Gab
Inkling’s scoring system is simultaneously something I love and loathe. It works, works well and is integral to ensuring the people score highly… but is also a bit convoluted for a simple game! Once you’ve got it and grasped it, you’re sorted. But my goodness did it take us a game or two to grasp it!
Your guesses score purely on how accurately you guess, but that’s pretty obvious. You get the points of your guesses and the same points of those adjacent to you who guessed your clues. So if I manage a score of 8 for all my guesses, I’d then add my neighbours’ scores to my total. Jim and Barry guessed my clues and scored 7 and 4, I add that to my total score. That’s how I score the quality of my clues.
I do love the fact that this system means you have to work to help your opponents, without scope to intentionally sabotage them. No matter how good your guesses are, if both your neighbours score a big fat zero for your clues, you do too. For me, it’s the fact it removes the team element from the word game. It’s common for these types of games to be a team vs team game – it mitigates the chance of sabotage. Inkling has no risk of this. And no need to depend on anyone. You can be as strong, independent and inarticulate as you fancy!
Getting Tongue Twisted
This game is not easy to master – I dare even say it’s difficult! Words aren’t my forte, despite how much rubbish I talk, and it’s hard to get the words down effectively using the initial cards you’ve got. Eight letters across six words, and no guarantees for letters you need. You’ve got to cover letters with cards to change them, whilst also managing the cards you’ve got. You could blank letters out with flipped cards or just disregard them altogether. All of which will sacrifice letter cards. No easy feat. But, all that said, it’s the reason I genuinely love this game. It’s difficult and has no default tact to win, and that’s why the game is so fun.
In A Nutshell
As far as word games go, Inkling is a front runner for me. No teams, no repetition, all fun. How each player will play is different, but the goal is the same for all. Guess, and get guessed correctly. The game has no scope for deviation from the aim and you can’t sabotage – it’s executed beautifully. Inkling is a word game for tactically thinking board gamers. Excellent fun!