Review – Hooky

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Designer James Miller, Friends of Aseema

Artist Tessa Samuelson, Mirko Akira Suzuki

Publisher Rio Grande Games

Category Deduction, Word Game

Length 45-60 minutes

Release Date 2023

Player Count 3-5

Hooky is a deduction game in which players try to determine 3 letters that are missing from a deck of 26 letter cards. Designed by James Miller, who sadly passed away during the game’s development, and by Friends of Aseema, a nonprofit focused on educating children in extreme poverty in India, this game has shades of Sleuth and Wordle. Let’s check it out!

Review

Even if Hooky didn’t have a bittersweet story behind it and support a worthwhile cause, I would have still been interested in it simply because it’s a deduction game.

The goal of this game is to find the missing letters. To begin, 3 cards are secretly removed from the game, and a few more are set aside face-down, to be revealed later. Then, all players receive a starting hand of cards and must give an initial clue about their hand to everyone else. This clue must be in the form of a 5-letter word, and it must contain at least 1 occurrence of a letter from their hand.

For this hand, my opening clue might be “BRICK.”

Once that is done, players take turns asking each other questions using 5-letter words. When asked, a player must answer with the number of times their letters appear in the word. So, if someone’s hand had the letters A, G, K, R, and T, and another player asked them about the word “TOWER,” their answer would be 2, because their letters appear twice in that word.

Everybody keeps track of their own info privately on a sheet of paper.

After the first round, players may choose, in addition to asking their question, to reveal a card from their hand for all to see. If they do, they may secretly look at a card from an opponent’s hand. The card they revealed to take the action remains face-up on the table for the rest of the game.

During the early rounds, the cards that were set aside at the beginning are slowly revealed, 1 card per round, giving players new information incrementally. Then, in the later rounds, players have the chance to guess which letters are missing. Correct guesses are worth 5 points each in rounds 4 and 5, and 10 points each in round 6. Players can also earn points from guessing cards in their opponents’ hands.

At the end of the 6th round, the player with the most points wins!


As a huge fan of deduction, I was predisposed to liking Hooky, but sure enough, this is a solid game. It feels like a mashup of Sleuth and Wordle, and it should appeal to fans of either of those games.

Hooky manages to avoid some of the potential pitfalls of other deduction games. For one thing, players never feel like they’re unable to ask a particular question. Unlike Sleuth, in which each player has 4 questions at a time to choose from, players in this game can ask about any information, simply by forming a word around the letters they need to know about. It not only gives players more agency, but it asks them to be creative in coming up with the best words to use each turn.

For another thing, there is no player elimination for wrong guesses, as the outcome is based on points, not on finding the single, solitary solution. This helps to keep everyone engaged from start to finish—no sitting out and having to answer questions from the sidelines. That said, I do find it odd that correct guesses are worth more later in the game. It would seem to me that a player who guesses the missing letters early should be rewarded more than a player who guesses them later. I’m sure there was a reason for this design choice, but it’s unclear to me what it was.

The production of Hooky is just right for what the game is: a deck of cards, a pad of game sheets, some player screens, and a first player marker. It’s all pretty minimal, but I love that the card illustrations feature the artwork of Aseema students. This is a major highlight for me, as it makes the game feel that much more meaningful, and it gives a sense of connection to the actual students with whom Friends of Aseema works.

Overall, Hooky is a very strong deduction game, made all the better for the real-world impact it has. If you enjoy word games and/or deduction games, or if you’re simply looking for a way to have fun while supporting a good cause, this is definitely one to check out.

A review copy was provided by Friends of Aseema.

The Bottom Line

Hooky is a very strong deduction game, made all the better for the real-world impact it has. If you enjoy word games and/or deduction games, or if you’re simply looking for a way to have fun while supporting a good cause, this is definitely one to check out.

 

8.5

Author: Stephen Hall

A bard pretending to be a cleric. Possibly a Cylon, too. I was there when they dug up the "E.T." cartridges.