Audrey’s is Edmonton’s last remaining independent book store. It has survived the big Chapters/Indigo merger, the rise of ebooks and the growing trend towards online shopping. When you go there, don’t forget to visit the basement, where you will find a great children’s section, as well as jigsaw puzzles and games.

It wasn’t too surprising that I found a language-themed game at Audrey’s. What did surprise me was how much fun it is to play. Quicktionary’s red box with bold graphics caught my attention. The back of the box, which usually would have a description of the game, instead has examples of how to play, a concept definitely at the top of my list of great promotional ideas.

Quicktionary is another game that proves that there is a big difference between simple and easy. The game is simple to learn, but it is not necessarily easy to win. The publisher, Chronicle Books, had a certain type of person in mind when they designed this game. Someone who loves language, who loves a challenge, and who enjoys a game that makes them think.

The game consists of 102 cards, divided into 3 types. The yellow cards give a category, for example, “a word associated with science” or “an item found in an office”. The blue cards place a limit on the word itself, for example, “has exactly one syllable” or “has more consonants than vowels”. Finally, the red cards add a specific letter or letter combination, like, “cannot contain the letter R” or “contains the letters CH”. Once 3 cards are laid out, one of each colour, the goal is to be the first person to call out a word that fits all the conditions. There are no turns, everyone plays at the same time. And I do mean everyone plays; there is no “judge”, the players as a whole determine whether or not a word is correct. In the games we played, this led to many interesting situations, like counting letters on fingers, writing down words to determine consonant to vowel ratios, and at one point, a non-player googling “foods that start with A”. Each time you get a word, you take one of the cards, representing one point. Winner is the first person to get 5 points; although we decided almost immediately that was too short a game.

There was a rule that, unfortunately, we had to invoke many times. If every player agrees that there are no possible words, then the three cards are discarded and new cards put out. Not that we ever gave up easy. There were times when the game just stopped because we were all too stubborn to leave a word, and it took a concentrated effort to go on to the next one. Another minor issue was that we sometimes found cards that were ambiguous. For example, one blue card reads “Does not contain more than one vowel”. We had problems deciding if this meant there is exactly one vowel, or only one type of vowel. Were they referring to words like Bat and Cop, or words like Banana and Boot? Plus cards referring to number of consonants and vowels often had us muddling through the rules of when Y is considered a vowel or not.

As an avid reader and writer, I really thought I was going to be good at this. But I met someone who was even better at wordplay than I. In fact, the main reason we kept raising the point limit was to give me enough time to catch up. This is what I would call a “love it or hate it” game. Either you can’t wait to play it, or you don’t want to be anywhere near it. But for the right kind of person, Quicktionary is fun and challenging.

You can find Chronicle Books online at www.chroniclebooks.com or on Facebook facebook.com/ChronicleBooks.