Friday, March 2, 2012

Boards and Beers - Montage

Word games are not my friend. Growing up my mom loved to play Scrabble, but would pull no punches. So when you're 8 and are proud of spelling "cat", having mom throw down "scapulary" for a double word score you tend to not want to continue to play. But to each their own because if anything "Words With Friends" proves that plenty of people out there like the challenge of knowing more than me. Montage does a great job of doing this, while also adding in color coded word jumble, crossword puzzles, and clever clues while being timed. Its a wonder any who played with me survived.

Montage is a recent Kickstarter project from Gryphon Games, which is actually a remake of the game, originating in 1973. In the very retro feeling box you will find a board, a sand timer, an arrow, brown pips, and a bunch of colored pips - each color being associated with 5 different letters. 

To play the game, you'll need three other players since this is a 2v2 partner game, and can only be played with 4. Once you find three people who are smarter than you, you set the board up to match a starting pattern with both the brown and colored pips (the game comes with a 4 page visual guide of different starting patterns to challenge you). To begin playing, the first player will choose a space to "build" their first word in their home zone, and then think of a word to fill that space in with. Words must begin and end either between two brown pips or one brown pip and the edge of the board, and must contain at least one colored pip that you build upon. This is not terribly difficult when there is only one colored pip somewhere within your word, but when you have three or four, you have to be clever and think fast.

This is where your word would go
Once you've found your space for your word, and you know what your word is going to be, you now need to get your partner to guess what that word is by giving them clues. However, your clue can be no longer than 5 words, and everyone playing has a chance to guess what that word is. If both of your opponents "knock" in, then you are SOL because your partner wasn't quick enough to comprehend your clues. Whoever does guess the word correctly will then put down colored pips to spell out the word, with the side up that represents their team (can be black or white). Each pip is worth a point, and when a team scores 10 points in a zone, they win the zone. First team to get 4 zones wins.

Did I mention that you are trying to do this all while being timed?

Yes, you will have a minute to do the following:
  • Think of a word with 1+ predetermined letters
  • Find a place on the board to do it
  • Think of a 5 word clue that your partner will get but your opponents will not
When we played this, it was me and a buddy vs his wife and mine. To share how unfair this matchup is, his wife is currently playing 12 different games of "Words With Friends" and winning all of them, my wife loves riddles/brain teasers, where as my I couldn't find Waldo to save my life. On my first turn, I got "lucky" and had a 3 letter word that I could play (Jug) and so my clue was "Moonshine Container". Granted not the best of clues as far as they go, but what else would you put moonshine in? Needless to say he didn't get it, and it went downhill from there.

While I do not like playing this game, it is a very clever game that I would easily recommend to anyone who likes word games. That said, it still has its own issues, especially since it does require you to have four and only four people playing the game. The game is also as much about words as it is about working with your partner and knowing them well. If you are partnered with someone you've never met you might do well, but your clues may have to be so watered down that the oponents would "knock" in as fast as your partner. With a good balance of players who both want to play word games and are knowledgable of real words, this could be a lot of fun that won't end with your brain exploding like mine did.

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