Trapwords could remind you of the classic word game Taboo, but this one has an interesting twist on gameplay – the opposing team is the one who chooses the words you cannot use. With you having no idea which words are "traps", it’s like dancing on a minefield, when you’re trying to describe your assigned word to the rest of the team.
You take the role of a group of adventurers crawling through a fantasy dungeon full of traps and curses, with a Boss waiting for you at the end. You have to successfully guess a word that one of your teammates is trying to describe to you. Sounds simple, but it is made fiendishly difficult by not knowing which words you can't say. Because both teams are simultaneously preparing secret traps for each other, words that you can't use. And further you get, the more trapwords you might expect.
Can you avoid your opponent's trapwords when you don't know what you can't say?
Designer: Jan Březina, Martin Hrabálek, Michal Požárek
Artist: Régis Torres
Publisher: Czech Games Edition
Category: Word Game
Price: $19.20 Amazon.com
Trapwords is a party game of clever word-guessing careful clue-giving. Players try to get their teammates to guess secret words, but must be cautious not to use certain terms when giving clues. Following an established, mass-market genre, it feels like a “gamer’s” version of Taboo.
Czech Games Edition has seen immense success with party games over the last few years. From all the iterations of the Spiel des Jahres winning Codenames to That’s a Question to Pictomania, they have excelled at inserting hobby gaming sensibilities into a typically-maligned genre.
Trapwords is a recent addition to the CGE family. This team-based game follows the standard formula of “get your teammates to guess a secret word,” but the twist is that the opposing team gets to discreetly select words that cannot be given as clues.
The game board is created by laying out tiles to form a dungeon. Each room tile has a number on it, which can be thought of as its difficulty rating (higher number = harder room).
At the start of the game, a monster card is chosen and its matching standee placed in the final room of the dungeon. The standees representing the two teams begin at the opposite end of the board.
Throughout the game, the teams will progress through the rooms, and eventually come face-to-face with the monster. If a team defeats it, they win!
To advance on the board, a team must correctly guess their secret word. Trapwords comes with special folded-cardboard “books” that reveal a single word when a card is placed inside.
To start a round, both teams select a card and place it in a book. The revealed words will become the opposing team’s secret words—that is, Team A knows Team B’s word, and vice versa.
The teams then craft a list of the titular trapwords, equal to the number on the opposing team’s tile. For example, if Team A is on the “5” tile, Team B will get to create five traps. Essentially, trapwords are clues that the opposing team’s clue-giver cannot use. Here is how this might look:
Suppose Team A’s word is “Thunder.” All the members of Team B get to know this, so they might create trapwords like “Lightning,” “Storm,” and “Loud,” anticipating that Team A’s clue-giver will want to use these words as hints.
When both teams have written down the trapwords for each other, the clue-giving portion of the round begins. One person from each team is chosen as the clue-giver, and these players receive the books from the opposing team. Then, acting one team at a time, each clue-giver has a single sand-timer’s worth of time to get their side to guess its secret word (and their teammates only get a total of five guesses!).
Herein lies the interesting twist of this game: the clue-givers do not know what the traps are for their word, since the opposing team made them in secret. If a clue-giver uses a trapword as a hint, they fail and their team’s turn ends immediately. Otherwise, if their teammates guess correctly in time without the clue-giver using any trapwords, they succeed and move their team standee to the next room tile.
In the event that both teams fail, the monster is moved one space closer to the team standees.
I realize this may sound a bit confusing, but it boils down to this: clue-givers have to get their teammates to guess a word, but they don’t know which clues they can’t use.
When a team reaches the monster, they must contend with its unique ability. Each monster has a special rule that makes it extra-challenging, such as “Your clue-giver can say no more than 10 words.” If a team defeats the monster, they win!
Trapwords is an interesting idea, and it has the potential to be very fun. Building on existing word games, it instills modern game mechanisms such as increasing difficulty, variable monster powers, and a cool word-randomizer system. Depending upon which set of books the players use (the tan ones or the gray ones), they can customize the word lists to be generic or fantasy-themed.
The clue-giving presents a clever obstacle—since players don’t know which words the other team has trapped, they face a sort of meta, double-bluffing challenge. Players have to think, “Would the other team have trapped this word? Is it a word they would expect me to use as a clue?” This, combined with a ticking timer and a limited number of guesses, makes the experience quite interesting.
However, Trapwords is not perfect. If the clue-giver says even one wrong word, the team’s entire turn is over. This means that the opposing team might spend several minutes coming up with a list of trapwords, only to have the round come to an immediate, anticlimactic end on the first clue.
In addition, the rules for giving hints are very lengthy. I understand that this is probably the result of extensive playtesting, but the amount of clue-giving do’s and don’ts is kind of cumbersome.
That said, though, Trapwords is a nice entry into the word game genre. The notion of “you don’t know what hints you can’t give” is weird and cool, and it challenges the clue-givers to outthink the other team. This game would be a good stepping stone to get non-gamers interested in the hobby since it builds on recognizable classics like Taboo and CatchPhrase. If this sounds like something your group would enjoy, I recommend checking it out.
A review copy was provided by Czech Games Edition.
+ Builds on classic game mechanisms
+ Interesting, psychological wordplay
+ Quick playtime
- Rounds can end too quickly, making trapword preparation feel like a waste of time
- Ruleset is simple, but clue-giving rules are too lengthy