AlphaBlitz Playtest Review by Tom Zunder on 07/07/01
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)
Substance: 4 (Meaty)
Two enjoyable word games in one. Excellent fare for Scrabble and Crossword fans. Enough gameplay to allow lesser mortals to play too.
Author: Mike Selinker
Category: Card Game
Company/Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Comp copy?: yes
Playtest Review by Tom Zunder on 07/07/01
Genre tags: Other
AlphaBlitz is a word puzzle card game from Wizards of the Coast. It is packaged in a standard double card pack with 108 cards. It states that is suitable for 2-6 players, ages 10 to adult and with a playing time of 25 minutes. It is professionally but simply presented and fits clearly into the family catagory of games.
The pack contains rules for two games, Alpha and Blitz. Both games are variations on a common theme, which is one of competitively making words from letters on card displayed on the table. One game (Blitz) is very competitive with elements of time and gameplay, the other (Alpha) is more individualist and has no time element. My family and I, two adults and a ten year old, played both games several times over a weekend and from those games and our mutual feedback I shall pass on our collective review.
In this game six letter cards are placed in a row in the middle of the play area. Each player is dealt three letter cards as their hand. Each round each player takes it in turn to form a word from the letters in the piles before him. In this game any letter may be used as many times as required. Scoring is based on 1 point for a word, 1 extra point for every letter in the word beyond the number of letters visible on the table, and an extra point for every use of any letter cards printed in red. The red cards are letters like Z and Q. Before or after the word has been made and scored, the player lays a letter card from his on top of one of the letter cards on the table, which are referred to as letter piles. Some cards are Blitz cards, which render a letter pile completed and effectivel out of play. The game continues until only two letter piles are still in play, at which point the player with the highest score wins.
The game plays at a leisurely pace, and indeed adding a time limit is sometimes needed, and allows players to ponder words without much inteference. The slow reduction of letter piles in play both makes the game harder but also makes the ability to score bonus points greater, since the letters in the word are compared to the letter piles in play at that time. I found this game a little slow, my son enjoyed it since it gave him time to play at his own level without being out-thought by his mother, and my wife enjoyed the ability to play a purely word based game without any gameplay or gamesmanship intefering.
Blitz is similar to Alpha but is a competitive game. Instead of six letter piles, there are two letter piles per player. Players may only place a letter card onto their own letter pile and instead of this being done in turns as part of the players go, it is done simultaneosly at the start of the round. Once the new letters have been played on the piles then the first player to call out a word made from the letters scores both the points for the word (as in Alpha) but also a bonus point for calling first. In addition all words called thereafter must be longer. Thus as players call out words the next word must always be at least one word longer. In a clever twist the player who calls out a word last also scores a bonus point.
The game plays fast, and players need to adopt a syle that suits their skill with word creation. In this game I am always going to be out thought by my wife, so I adopted the strategy of calling out the first three letter word I could see. Whilst this meant I never scored high points for complex words, I nearly always scored two points. In adition the letters were sometimes so awkward that noone else ever scored, so I also gained the bonus point for being last. On the other hand my wife also scored some speactacular points totals with long words that she pronounced last, scoring the last word bonus. I would say this game is more of a gamers game, it levels out the advantage that a highly competent word game player has. I felt that it would be better for the younger players, but my son still preferred Alpha.
Both games are very much word games. If you like Scrabble then you will enjoy this set, for which you get two interesting and rewarding opportunities to exercise your mind. It is a game that will work very well with a normal family group, and would make a great present for a relative who enjoys word games or crosswords. If you are not a great letter juggler then I would suggest that whilst Blitz is a fairly good game, this is perhaps not the family game for you.
In all, a very well designed set that satisfies its target audience well.