Synonyms is an easy-to-learn, challenging-to-play game from San Francisco-based Lindergaff Publishing LLC. In Synonyms, 2 to 8 players move their pawns around a colorful board, racing to be first to collect all the letters needed to spell the word ‘synonyms.’ You claim letters by drawing a word card and coming up with synonyms for that word in one minute. Depending on the luck of a single six-sided die roll, you may have a simple challenge, such as giving one synonym for “stop.” It’s equally possible you will face a more difficult challenge, such as listing six synonyms for “endorse.”
Gameplay: Each player (or team of players) places a pawn in the start position on the board. Each player is dealt two Pass cards. When played, these cards allow players to select a different word card or re-roll the die. Players also start with a pair of Challenge cards, which give them a chance to steal a letter from another player.
On your turn, you roll a single die and move your pawn the corresponding number of spaces. Most of the spaces on the board are letters found in the word synonyms, and those spaces are color-coded green, yellow, or red. The colors correspond to the relative difficulty of the word decks – green being easiest, yellow a little harder, and red the most difficult.
As an example, you have rolled a 3 on your turn and move your pawn three spaces, landing on a yellow Y. You draw a card from the yellow deck, and flip a sand timer. You now have one minute to come up with 3 synonyms for the word on that card. Acceptable synonyms are printed on the reverse side of each word card. If you succeed, you have captured one of the two Ys needed to spell "synonyms."
Landing on a Challenge space gives you an opportunity to gain additional Challenge cards. There are four Roll Again spaces and four Lose a Letter spaces on the board. The Roll Again spaces don’t seem to add anything to the game, while landing on Lose a Letter is just painful. It’s like playing Chutes and Ladders with four chutes and no ladders. It might have evened things out a bit if the designer had included spaces that offer a corresponding reward – perhaps by changing the Roll Again spaces to Move to Any Letter.
The game comes with instructions, a pair of sand timers, a score-keeping pad and pencil, a folding board, eight pawns, and decks of green, yellow, and red word cards. The approximately 400 cards are printed on heavy stock. Although I found the stiff glossy cards difficult to shuffle they will stand up to repeated play.
Everything is packaged in a large, sturdy, and attractive box. I thought the 10.5 x 16-inch box promised more game than the contents delivered – the undersized board slides around freely inside and the components are arranged thinly across a molded inset tray.
The game action is basic roll-and-move. The rules are clearly explained and printed on a single sheet of paper. A game takes about a half-hour.
Marketing: Lindergaff recommends a 10 to adult age range. However, success in Synonyms is entirely dependent on vocabulary skills, which seems to nudge it out of the realm of family games. It’s hard to imagine a 10-year-old hanging in there with a well-read teenage sibling. Kids also may not appreciate mom or dad springing a Challenge card on them, which require them to name yet more synonyms or risk losing a letter.
Synonyms is a reasonable choice for customers looking for a word-based party game with more complexity than, say, Apple to Apples. With its simple rules, fast set-up time, and vocabulary-enhancing play, this game would be an excellent choice for a classroom activity.
In-store demos would work well with Synonyms. It would require 5 to 10 minutes to fully explain the game and play a sample round with a customer.
Product: Synonyms: The word game that gets your mind racing
Publisher: Lindergaff LLC
Availability: Check with your favorite game distributor or visit lindergaff.com
Easy-to-learn word game
Plays well with a group
Builds language skills