Dale Yu: First Impressions of Crossed Words

  • Designer: Evan Davis and Nick Little
  • Publisher: Indie Board and Cards
  • Players: 3-6
  • Age: 14+
  • Time: 30 minutes

Crossed Words is subtitled – “The Brain-Boggling Game of Kooky Categories”.  But it could also be called “The race to 7 points”, but that’s much less sexy and interesting to be printed on the box.   In this game, players are going to  be challenged to come up with answers that satisfy two different category requirements – but they should be doing this as fast as they can… and also trying to come up with unique answers to boot.

The box has a plastic insert in it which is placed on the table, there is a 3×3 grid of spaces on it.  A card from the “Starts with…” deck is drawn, and placed in the upper left corner.  You’ll note that this card has five colored crescents on it, and this tells you which colored cards will be placed in the other five positions.  Draw cards from the corresponding decks and place them in the matching spots.  While this is happening, each player should get a set of 9 matching answer discs with matching color/shape on the back.

When the round starts, each player will look at the grid and note that there are 9 intersections of clues – that is, for each space in the tic-tac-toe grid, there will be a clue for the column and a clue for the row that uniquely intersect in that space.  Players need to try to come up with unique answers for these intersections – they will write them down on their disc and then place the disc face down in the appropriate part of the board.

Wordplay is allowed and encouraged – I’ll use the examples in the rulebook…

Homonyms are good.  If the clues are “plants and animals” and “musicians and bands” – “The Beatles” is definitely a valid answer.

Container words are good.  If the clues are “Boy’s Names” and “Colors” – “Fred” would work because it’s definitely a boy’s name, and it also contains a color – because “red” is part of “Fred”.

The side of the box offers this example – “Food and Drink” crossed with “Girl’s First names”.  The possible answers include “Ginger”, “Rosemary”, and “Shirley Temple”.  All of these would be valid.  Thinking over my food from this week, I’d also add in “Bloody Mary” and “Stacy’s Pita Chips”.  Anyway, there is a bit of leeway for you to be inventive and clever, and in the end, if there is a doubt, you can plead your case at the end of the round and the other players will vote to determine the validity of any answer.

So, players fill in their discs and place completed discs in the appropriate space on the board.  Note that you are not limited to one answer per space.  You can definitely throw in multiple answers for a single space, but you should know that this will lower your maximum possible score – more on this later.

Play continues in a round until one player has played all 9 of his discs somewhere into the grid.  At this point, he counts to “5 Crossed Words” or “5 mississippi” or whatever, and then the round ends.  Any discs not in the grid at the end of this count will not be played this round.

Now it’s time to score.  Each of the 9 intersection areas are scored one at a time.  The discs for that area are removed and revealed, and any duplicate answers are immediately thrown out.  After that, players can judge for themselves if the remaining answers are valid for the crossing of clues, and if so, each player that has at least one valid answer in that space has a single disc of their color set aside.  Remember, it is possible to place more than one answer in a space, but you can only score once per area regardless of how many discs you threw in there.  Repeat this process for all 9 spaces.  When this is done, total up the piles in the scoring area.  The player with the most discs in the scoring area for the round gets 3 points.  Second most gets 2 points and third most gets 1 point.  Ties are friendly.  You can collect the category cards from the round to keep track of your score.  If at least one player has more than 7 points, the game ends, and the player with the most points wins.  If no one has 7 points. Set up the grid and play another round!

My thoughts on the game

Crossed Words is a different take on the word party game with a lot of familiar components.  I like the variety in each game generated by drawing the different cards at the start.  You never know quite what to expect and it does lead to a bunch of chuckles each and every time.

For the most part, in my games, the crossed categories have worked out, but I will admit that there have been a few that just were…. awkward.  As this is a party game, it works best if everyone is just loosey-goosey with their definitions of what fits into a particular crossed set of categories.  I mean, lets face it – “Vacation Spots” x “smaller than a microwave” doesn’t really have any logically valid answers.  That being said, James Nathan and I did manage to cancel each other out with Micronesia.  We had lots of laughs about that, and we decided that we would have let the answers stand if they had been solo. 

Rounds move along pretty quick, and the group-think in our group had us writing down answers quickly, often taking advantage of the rule of being able to put multiple answers in a slot – in this way, trying to guarantee a point for a particular answer while also putting the time pressure on the others to finish.   Additionally, it was surprising to see just how often people couldn’t remember which slots they had already answered!  The discs are necessarily large, and they pretty much completely conceal the discs underneath.  Thus, once your answer disc is not  on the top of a slot, you really have no way of knowing (other than memory) whether you’ve already put something there.  We did make a house rule that you cannot cancel yourself out…

I liked the size of the disc as it gives you enough space to write down even the longest word… but I do wish they were a bit better at the dry-erase part.  Weirdly, they were both too easily erased as well as not erasable enough.  We found that some of the words would get smudged just from the friction of slipping against the other discs in the stack.  We had to be super careful when moving the discs and flipping them over lest we erase the words written on them.  Once we figured that out, we had no more problems but we did have a few illegible words in our first few rounds. Also, at the end of each round ,a few of the marker colors seemed to permanently stain their background of their discs (blue and green in my set).

For what it wants to be, Crossed Words is a fine little party game, especially for play with non-gamers.  It’s light and provides a lot of laughs – often when two people give identical unexpected answers!  Many people around here are familiar with Boggle, and that helps them immediately get a grasp on how to play and how to score.   Would be fun with a casual group, definitely more fun after a few adult beverages – that’s for sure!

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

John P:  This game is tailor made for people who love coming up with puns and wordplay.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it.
  • Neutral. Dale, James Nathan, John P
  • Not for me…


About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
This entry was posted in Essen 2020, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dale Yu: First Impressions of Crossed Words

  1. Tom Hilgert says:

    Sounds a lot like the old CATEGORY game by EG

  2. bigwelsh says:

    Definitely a play on the recent Tags party game which used the same intersection of “begins with the letter T” and a bunch of categories along the other axis.

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