Runes Word Game

Designed by B. Eberle, J. Kittredge, P. Olotka, published by Eon in 1981
Re-released in Germany as Buzzle in 1994
This review copyright 1997 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated August 8, 1997

Runes is a unique game of letters and words. There are many types of word games, of course, ranging from those which use whole sentences and phrases to those which use whole words to those which build words up letter by letter. But Runes is unique in that you first have to build up the letters!

The game consists of four boards and a large number of "letter elements." The boards are identical, and each player gets one. A board is largely made up of the official way to make each letter using the letter elements. There are also six spaces for your word to be built, and a scoring track around the outside of the board.

Runes only uses capital letters, and there is one and only one way to make each letter, as shown on the boards. There are four types of letter elements:

  1. Long straight pieces;
  2. Short straight pieces;
  3. Large curved pieces;
  4. Small curved pieces.
To create an "A", for example, you need two long straights and a short straight. The same letter elements are used to make an "H", however, so once you've guessed that a given letter of your opponent's word has two long straights and a short straight, you still have to guess which letter it is. And if you're not sure you've guessed them all, it may actually be an "M" or "W", which each have two long straights and two short straights.
It could be worse, though: when you have one long and one short:
  • that could be an "L" or "T" without adding anything, or
  • if you add a small curve you have an "R", or
  • add another short and you have an "F", "K", or "Z", or
  • add two more shorts and you have an "E", or
  • add another long and you have an "A" or "H", or
  • add another long and short and you have "M" or "W"!
The game starts with players agreeing on a given word length (5 or 6 letters recommended) and choosing a secret word. The first player (and there is a cute little way to determine first player) then selects a letter element from the pool at the center of the table and places it by one blank space of one opponent. If the letter which goes in that space has such an element, the owner says, "Yes", and the element is placed in the box. The first player scores one point, and may take another turn. This can be guessing another element of the same box, or of another box of the same player, or moving to another player's display.

Once someone says, "No", then your turn is over, and you leave the element just outside the box as a reminder that such an element is not found in that letter. The player who says, "No" scores one point.

Play proceeds around the table, with a player continuing to play as long as he gets a "Yes" answer. At some point, you're sure what letter is represented, and you may assemble the elements into a letter and ask if that's correct.

Anyone can interrupt to guess a word, however, so it's risky to take too much time guessing letters when you're pretty sure you know what they are. Better to leave them confused, because if the interrupter is correct, he scores the points for the word: one point for each element in the word!

When your word is guessed, you're not out of the game. Instead, you simply clear your board of letter elements, choose a new word, and the game goes on.

To win, you have to first have 25 points and then guess a secret word correctly. If you guess a secret word incorrectly, you lose points equal to the number of letter elements in the word you guessed ...

The game is best with four players, though there are special rules for two players which helps it. It's an interesting game in that you can't gang up on the leader: even if three people focus their attentions on one player's board, it doesn't really hurt him to have his letters or word guessed.

Overall, this is a very good word game I recommend, should you ever find one. I've never seen the German edition, so I can't say how they handled umlauts (ä, ö, ü) and esset (ß), if at all.

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