The cards each depict a pair of letters. As you’d expect, there is a word game (the eponymous Wibbell). You also get Faybell (a storytelling activity), Phrasell (a party game about inventing amusing little phrases), Grabbell (finding cards that match a letter or border of another card) and Alphabeticell (an abstract push-your-luck game).
In the future, there will be other word games – a co-operative one for 2 players, one involving drafting and a high-pressure one – as well as another pattern-recognition game and a set of solitaire puzzles. The system allows for a broad range of games. I’m proud to say that I have 10 games already – all very different from one another. Other designers have submitted ideas and some are even working on their own designs.
How do you play?
If you don’t mind, I’ll take you through the ‘core’ 5 games.
Wibbell – you lay out 2 cards and then everyone has to shout out a single word containing at least one letter from each. The first player to do so takes a card (worth 1 point). As you’d expect, that’s reasonably simple and not terribly challenging or exciting. However, the collected cards stay face-up in front of you and you also need to include a letter from each of them in the word you shout! This give it a great catch-up mechanism. When someone picks up their 4th card, the round resets. So each round starts fast, then slows down, a suitable word becoming a real struggle to find, until the round resets and the game speeds up again.
Grabbell – just collect cards that match the top letter in your pile. Each card you collect will change some of the qualities you can collect. It’s another realtime game, so everyone is just frantically grabbing for around 1 minute. At any point, you can stop playing and slap your pile face-down. Everyone except the last person to do so gets 10 bonus points, whilst the last person to be in the game gets as many points as there are cards on the table. So whilst grabbing cards, you need to pay attention and probably slap as soon as there are fewer than 10 cards on the table.
Faybell – this is an activity, rather than a game. First, 5 cards are used to provide inspiration for 5 story elements. Once these have been defined and placed on a ‘timeline’, players take it in turn to narrate one sentence of the story. They use the top letter of a card to dictate the first letter of the sentence. The 2nd letter is used to inspire a word that the next player has to use. This way, you get some control over the following player’s sentence and the restrictions work to help guide your group towards a story you would almost certainly never have told otherwise.
Phrasell – a judge flips over a card and gives a topic. 2 more cards are flipped over and everyone tries to invent a 4-word phrase that uses those 4 letters as initials. It could be funny, truthful or poetic. You play to the judge. The judge gives cards to their favourite phrase and the game continues. Again, everyone says things they otherwise wouldn’t and it’s fascinating to see how people’s minds work! 10 days ago, I started playing this with 6 others around a table. By the time we finished, 10 others had sat down to join in, or were standing around, enjoying the phrases that people were inventing.
Alphabeticell – in this game, you add cards to the start or end of an alphabetical sequence. Each card counts as either one (but only one) of the letters depicted. The dealer flips over a card, then (in turn order, going around the table) players get an opportunity to take it. Whomever takes it becomes the next dealer. You can’t add letters to the middle of your sequence, so you need to think carefully before you skip letters. How many potential cards are you skipping? How many cards would work there? Going from ‘Q’ to ‘U’ is probably terrible since ‘R’, ‘S’ and ‘T’ are so common. Going from ‘I’ to ‘M’ is far more reasonable. But you might also want to think about how good the card would be for the players after you, and how many more cards you need. When someone gets to 9 cards, they win.
I started working on Wibbell over a year ago, before releasing the game from my first Kickstarter. I started with one game – Wibbell – and when another designer submitted the concept for ‘Alphabeticell’, I knew that this deck had the potential to be a game system.
It was seriously playtested at UK Games Expo and has been playtested and shown around hundreds of times since.
When I gave a prototype copy to a professional crossword designer 3 months ago, I was delighted by some of the ideas he came up with.
What to expect with the kickstarter?
I’ve given myself nearly a year to send the deck to backers. My first KS took 9 months to fulfill and – rather than trying to do it faster – I’m going to do it even better. One or two of the comments made during (and after) that campaign really improved the final design, so I’m allowing time for backers to get involved if they want to.
I’ll continue tweaking the letter distribution and will try a couple of different layouts. I’ll send out different PnP files for anyone who wants to try it before it’s printed, or offer feedback. You can either have your input or just wait for the final cards, knowing I have devoted several months to polish them up.
Buying things on KS is always a risk. Far more so, given that I have no final artwork. I want to set people at ease.
In the end, I want everyone who backs to feel like their life has been improved with the intellectual stimulation, social connections and fun that these decks and rulesets offer. I’m offering a 9-month love-it-or-return-it money-back guarantee. It’s an extra risk for me, but if someone doesn’t love at least one of the games, then I’d prefer them to be happy and use that money for something they WILL love.
At this point, I’m just really excited to get real printed copies out, get people playing with it, watch the reception, continue making more games and see what other designers come up with.