Year: 2019 | Players: 2-6 | Minutes: 30+ | Ages: 10+
This Letter Jam review was made after playing the game 9 times. We were sent a copy of this game by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
What is Letter Jam?
Letter Jam is a cooperative word game in which you give word clues to each other and hope that by the end of the game everyone is able to unscramble their letters and figure out their secret words. The game was designed by Ondra Skoupý and is published by Czech Games Edition.
Letter Jam Gameplay
To begin a game of Letter Jam, each player gets part of the deck of Letter cards and creates a word (five letters in the standard game). You then shuffle your Letter cards and pass them to the player on your right, making your word the word that they need to figure out by the end of the game. Throughout the game you’ll be receiving word clues from your teammates and also giving them clues.
When you play Letter Jam with fewer than six players, you’ll use non-player stands to hold the extra Letter cards. This ensures that there are always six letters showing each round (five that you can see) regardless of player count.
During each round, everyone will have one card facing away from themselves in their stands and you’ll choose one player to spell out a word of any length using any of the letters showing. As the clue-giver, you place the number tokens in front of different Letter cards to spell out your word. You can use the wildcard to represent any letter and you can use any letter multiple times. In the picture above I’m spelling out “picky” using two other players’ letters, two non-player letters, and the wildcard.
Whenever you’re given a clue, you’ll write down the word on your guessing sheet, using a question mark for your letter and a star for the wildcard. You’ll then decide to either move on to your next letter (if you’ve figured it out) or keep the current Letter card in your stand. Once you’ve run out of Letter cards, you can draw a new card and you’ll have a chance to guess it if someone else uses it in their clue, potentially turning that letter into a bonus letter that clue-givers can use in future rounds.
Every time you give a clue in Letter Jam, you’ll take one of the clue tokens. The clue token pool acts as a timer and it’s a way to track who’s given clues since everyone needs to give a certain amount of clues each game. You can also gain bonus clue tokens whenever you use the final card from a non-player pile.
The game ends when either all of the clue tokens are gone or everyone feels like they’ve figured out their words. Using your guessing sheet to help you out, you unscramble your letter cards to spell a word. You’ll win if everyone spells a word, even if you don’t necessarily spell the words that you were given. There’s also a way that you can score the game if you want to go for high scores.
For more info on how the game plays, check out the Letter Jam rulebook over on BGG.
- Letter Jam uses mechanics found in other games – Hanabi and Scrabble are the main ones that come to mind – but it definitely provides a unique experience. It has some spelling, some deduction, and there is some strategy when choosing who gives the clues each round and when choosing which letters to use in your words. It definitely feels like a different co-op word game.
- This is a challenging word game, which is great. It forces you to think hard about the letters you use in your words since you want everyone to know for sure what letters they have in front of them. Often you’ll think that your word is obvious and is going to be easy for everyone, but that’s not always how it plays out.
- The wildcard itself is very cool because it adds in an extra layer of deduction. You can use it as any letter, which is great, but it can also make it tougher on the other players since they might not be able to figure out what it represents.
- Since the game can be challenging, I like that there is a very simple way to make it easier. You just create shorter words at the start of the game and you’ll have fewer letters to figure out.
- I also like how quickly the game moves from round to round. Someone gives a clue, you write down that word if your letter was used, then you move on to the next round. I don’t think anyone is going to complain about Letter Jam’s pace of play.
- Letter Jam plays surprisingly well at lower player counts. It can actually be more challenging since you always want to use other players’ letters but you have fewer players’ letters to work with. I do prefer it with more players, but it’s still a good game with two or three players.
- Love those poker chip number tokens! They’re weighty and they make that satisfying *clack* sound when you place them on the table. Plus, they look great.
- Letter Jam does lack the consistent excitement/tension found in other word games like Codenames Duet and Just One. In those two games you’re under pressure every round, while in Letter Jam there is a little bit of pressure on the clue-giver and even less pressure on the other players since they’re just writing down what they see.
- People who have found other deduction and/or word games too challenging will probably also struggle with this one. I played the game with one person who had a very hard time figuring out what other players were spelling and he felt pretty bad that he wasn’t able to move through his letters as quickly as everyone else. Unsurprisingly, he did not want to play again after two games.
- This is minor, but I do not like the way the rulebook defines a “win.” Here’s the text: “If more or less everyone has spelled a word, then you have all more or less won.”
I love word games, so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that I’m a fan of Letter Jam. It creates a unique and challenging word puzzle for everyone to work through, it plays well at all player counts, and it works really well as a filler game. It’s not as tension-filled as I was hoping, but it’s still very satisfying when you’re able to work together to figure out your letters and words. I’d put Letter Jam behind Codenames Duet and Just One on my personal “Best Co-op Word Games” list, but it is absolutely still a keeper.
If your group enjoys word games, definitely give Letter Jam a try.
Update: Letter Jam was included on the Best Cooperative Board Games of 2019 list!
Letter Jam Links
BGG | Amazon | Miniature Market
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