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Rachael and AlexChurchill wanted to design a game that was both tactical/strategic and wordy, and we came up with RouteWords. It has similarities to Boggle and Labyrinth. It takes 2-4 players and lasts about half an hour.

The aim is to have the most points at the end. You get points by collecting coins from the board (by travelling around the board along words) and by winning bonus rounds (by finding the longest word anywhere on the board).


Grid of 5x5 largeish squares
Letter tiles (e.g. Scrabble, Snatch)
Pawn for each player
A few ownership markers in each player's colour (e.g. Settlers houses or roads)
One "bonus round" token for each player
Coins or VP chips in denominations of 1, 2 and 5, to represent points
1-minute timer


Deal out 25 letter tokens into the middles of the squares.
Put coins on the intersections between the squares: a 5 on each of the four outer corners, a 2 on each of the sixteen edge intersections, and a 1 on each of the remaining inner intersections.
Put a pawn instead of a coin on 2, 3 or 4 of the 4 intersections immediately surrounding the centre (one pawn per player). If there are only 2 players their pawns should be diagonally opposite each other.
Give each player one coin (this is in case they want to spend a coin on their first turn).

For example, the board might look like this: (2) = coin of value 2, @ = players' pawns
 (5) (2) (2) (2) (2) (5)
    T  E  I  K  L
(2) (1) (1) (1) (1) (2)
    A  M  G  Qu  O
(2) (1)  @  (1) (1) (2)
    W  S  W  P  R
(2) (1) (1)  @  (1) (2)
    E  O  T  O  L
(2) (1) (1) (1) (1) (2)
    Y  T  R  D  S
(5) (2) (2) (2) (2) (5)


Take turns. On your turn, you may either move, swap, or pay one coin and do both (in either order). You may not do two moves, or two swaps.
Move your pawn from its current intersection onto one of the touching letters; then from one letter to another such that the sequence of letters it travels along form a valid dictionary word; and finally from the final letter to an intersection at one of the corners of that letter. If there is a coin on the intersection where you end up, you get that coin.
Words are formed Boggle-style, i.e. each letter of the word must be adjacent (orthogonally or diagonally) to the previous letter, you may not use the same letter tile more than once in a given word, and words must have a minimum of 3 letters.
For example, if you are currently on an intersection surrounded by the letters A, B, C and D, you may make your move along a word beginning with any one of those letters. If you choose to begin with the C, you might then travel through the aforementioned A, and then a T which is on the far side of the A. You would finish the move by putting your pawn down on any of the four intersections surrounding the T, and collecting any coin which is there.
Swap the positions of two letter tiles which are adjacent (orthogonally or diagonally).
If a tile has an ownership marker (q.v.) on it, the ownership marker remains in its original position, and so becomes attached to a new letter.

Ownership applies to squares on the board, not to the letter tiles which temporarily occupy those squares. --Vitenka (attempting to clarify)

You probably want a Ko rule of some sort here. --SGB
Good point. --AC


If your move traces out a closed loop, from one letter to an adjacent letter, with one or more letters contained inside the loop, then you take ownership of the enclosed letter(s) and place one of your ownership markers by each of them. This means that none of your opponents may travel via those letters on their moves (although they may still use them in bonus rounds).
Ownership markers are permanent and cannot be removed. However, by swapping letter tiles, you can change the letter which an ownership marker applies to (although the position of the marker remains fixed).
If player 1 has placed an ownership marker on letter A, and player 2 makes a word which encircles letters A and B, then letter A remains owned by player 1 (only), but letter B acquires player 2's ownership marker.

Bonus rounds

Each player may trigger one bonus round, at any time of their choosing throughout the game, not necessarily on their own turn. (A player should hand in their bonus-round token when they trigger a bonus round, to indicate that they have now taken their bonus round.)
When a bonus round happens, set a 1-minute timer. All players get to look at the board for 1 minute and find the longest word they can. The word may be anywhere; the position of the player's own pawn is irrelevant. Ownership markers are also irrelevant in bonus rounds; anyone can use any letter. Boggle rules regarding adjacency and non-repetition still apply.
At the end of the minute, each player gives the length of the word they have seen. Then each player states the word itself (like a Countdown letters round), and the player with the longest word gets points equal to the length of the word. If two or more players tie they all score.


The game ends when the last coin is collected from the board.
If there are one or more unused bonus-round tokens left at this point, one final bonus round happens before the game actually ends.
The player with the most points (collected coins plus points from bonus rounds) wins.

Do coins associate with territory, or with tiles?  It makes a difference. --Vitenka
Coins start off on intersections. Coins are collected when a player steps off a letter onto that intersection. Ownership markers associate with territory rather than tiles, as stated above: "by swapping letter tiles, you can change the letter which an ownership marker applies to (although the position of the marker remains fixed)."

Generally sounds good and I'd be interested.  I see two things you've missed out on explaining though:
They can swap tiles instead, to work towards making a word on a future turn. However, we might need rules for if players really can't do anything. --AC
Sure, it's hard to do (les shard if it gets done over multiple turns) - but they are now out of the game.  Is this a deliberate victory condition?  --Vitenka
Remember: pawns are on intersections, and ownership markers are on letter squares. You'd need to claim all four adjacent squares to stop someone moving. --AC
Yes, you want short words that end you on the edges.  Which makes you more likely to be stuck later.  --Vitenka
CH: Understandably. The bonus rounds were an attempt to bring back in the long-words-are-cool factor, and they do play fascinatingly - there's a battle of subterfuge as you make swaps towards making a funky word for a bonus round, whilst trying to look like you're making swaps to let you get to useful places on the board in order to not give too much away about your funky word. We did consider giving points of some kind for length of the word you use, but if they're too strong, the position aspect is lost, and if they're too weak, they're fairly pointless. Also, once a word is given away, multiple people can use it from then on, and we didn't want the bookkeeping of recording all the words used in the game so far (remembering that the letters themselves can move around and change places). --AC

You can certainly end on intersections without coins (and often have to, towards the end when most of the coins have been taken). You can't land where another player's pawn is (sorry, I should have made that obvious). Yes, orthogonal adjacencies are enough to enclose a letter. For example, in the grid above, you could start at the T in the bottom row, and go up in an anti-clockwise circle to spell TEST and enclose the O. I imagined it as drawing a closed curve which passes through the letter tiles. And the board edge is open. --Rachael

I'd lose so badly at this game. --Vitenka

[Javascript implementation here]. Todo: bonus rounds, remote play usability. Implementation dictionary uses British English, but currently forbids any words that you would normally always have to capitalise (e.g. "John", "Amanda", "America", "Zen", etc). Click one of the boxed player counts for a new local game of that size, or one of the underlined links for a new network-play game; or the "join" link to join an existing game, if there is one. Note that currently, navigating away from a page holding a network-play game in progress will kick you out of the game, as will opening a copy of the RouteWords page in another tab/window, and there is no way to rejoin; each user can only be in one active game at a time. Bearing this restriction in mind, feedback is welcome.

Pallando writes: Very nice.  Just had a bit of a play with it.  I'd say it is currently more tactical that strategic, in that you can look a move or two ahead, but you are not really taking decisions that mean if you and another player ended up in the same spot later in the game, that your best moves would not be identical.  Which is not to say that there are not several ways it could be minorly changed to be more strategic. For instance:
bonus 'teleport' counters, that are gained by forming a word that rhymes with the word just formed by the previous player
disallow movement over diagonals with missing coins, or along edges where both coins are gone, to allow being trapped (perhaps only for the turn after they are removed)
(on a seperate note, if you find lack of words a common problem, a triangle layout would give each node 6 neighbours, not 4)
Each non-edge node has 8 neighbours, because diagonal moves are allowed. --PT
have bonus score tokens for the first person to make a word of a particular length (eg 2 for length 4, 4 for the first length 5, 6 for the first length 6, 8 for the first length 7 and 10 for the first length 8 or over)
give a bonus for completing 'lines' of removed coins
give a bonus for sets (eg 3 for 8 "1" coins, 5 for 12 "1" coins (and the same for the "2" coins), 3 for 2 "5" coins, 8 for all 4 "5" coins.


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