So you have a word game. A famous one. With all the little numbered tiles. And it's great. You love it.
If only it were travel sized.
Oh they sell those right? Right. Except they're generally plastic and clumsy and BIG.
And you know all you really need is the little tile holders, the tiles in a bag and a board. That's really not much, right? You can skip the hourglass, who uses the hourglass?
The score card is harder to drop. There's something compelling about tallying the points, trying to outdo yourself (or your opponent of choice).
And then there's the fact that the board never changes. Ever. It's always the same. That one's always a triple letter score, the other one is always a double letter score... and so on.
Well I have a solution!
Take your existing home version and Make your own word game mod!
I wanted to make one for myself, and then figured I may as well take photos of the process and make a tutorial. Honestly when I get excited about something I find usually other people do too. And this got me excited!
So here it is.
Word Game Mod Tutorial
Existing Tabletop Famous Word Game tiles and tile holders
Big ole ruler
Fine tip sharpie
Regular sized sharpie
Clear Contact Paper
Board fabric (thin is better so you can trace) 21"x 20" (or bigger)
Backing fabric 21"x 20" (or bigger)
Bag fabric x2 (still working through the kinks on sizing, original bag was 7" x 21")
12, Small buttons or something to act as counters
10+, 3.5" x 5" index cards cut in half
Stamps or other decorative elements
Velcro strips, roughly 6" long or big buttons
(Theoretically you can completely skip most of these steps if you are simply adapting a home version. Just paint over the squares and create your cards. The directions below are if you want to create a travel version.)
To start you'll need a way to figure out all those pesky squares and how to line them up to make your board. It's not easy. They're not square!
Thankfully someone has already done this rather hard step for us. Pop on over to The Quirky Artist Loft for a free printable board (if you like it consider sending the creator Alina some love at her Etsy shop here). Download the four sheets of paper, carefully cut them out and tape them together. I recommend you cover it with a layer of clear contact paper or give it a light coating (outside in an adequately ventilated space!) of clear coat spray paint. This will make sure it releases easier after painting (I skipped this step and spent a long while peeling paper off the back of my board).
Next you'll need some fabric. You'll want a soft, translucent fabric so when you slide the printed board under it you can easily see it. I used orange linen. Cut it to 21 by 20 inches (or larger if you want some slop area).
Center and pin the paper underneath your translucent fabric of choice so it doesn't shift (you could use glue but you'll be removing it later). Be aware one side is shorter than the other and line it up accordingly with the fabric.
Trace the board. I used a fine tip sharpie marker and a long metal ruler. Try to make sure it's not shifting around as you do.
There are the following breakdown of tiles on a traditional famous word game board:
24 double letter
12 triple letter
16 double word
8 triple word
Pick four acrylic paint colors (one for each) and start filling in squares. I chose to use the usual spacing but switched around the colors.
There are 25 yellows, 12 oranges, 16 reds and 8 turquoise squares, but none of them are where they normally would go. It took a little figuring to make sure it was visually appealing.
After filling in all the colors let the paint dry and remove the paper backing.
The Quirky letter pages will print full size if you download them to your desktop and print them. If you try to print them directly from the web they'll print small. Print one small version of any square. Cut that into three rows of 9 and use as your score template, tracing the same set centered on the board four times over.
You can number however you like. I hand lettered with a regular sharpie. Outline each score 'card' in one of each of your chosen colors.
To use the score card put a counter on 1 and 30 to show your total is 31. Put a counter on 5 and 100 for a total of 105, and so on. You will need small counters. I used buttons. You could also use glass counters sold for game use or anything else small like pistachio shells or acorn tops.
You will end up using 1/2 sized 3.5x5 index cards (which we'll get to later) that will need to sit on the board in a colored box. Cut one in half and trace around it, lining it up with the invisible horizontal lines that extend from the edges of each score card. These will end up being the edges of your final board. On my test prototype I had 18.5" from corner to corner on one side and 19.5" on the other.
Paint a rectangle slightly larger than each 1/2 index card in each corner. Red next to red and so on. As you can see with a blank card, it will outline them when they lie on the board.
Let all paint dry.
Cut your backing fabric to 21 by 20 inches (trimming your main board fabric if you left yourself slop, being careful to keep it centered). Stitch both squares right side together leaving a gap to turn. I stitched as close as possible to the edge.
Turn inside out, pin raw edge and stitch all the way around to secure both sides together.
Take your 3.5 x 5 inch index cards, carefully measure and cut them in half. On the unlined side stamp or draw a design that is consistent so the cards aren't easy to tell apart.
Some examples include:
Get up and Dance
Use this word in a sentence
Make a French Word
Make a Spanish Word
Switch any two cards
Word has to be in a Song Title
Deliberately Misspell This
Remove one item of Clothing
Truth or Dare
Draw this word
Triple word score
Pick a new card and use immediately
There is endless room for creative modification here (see the end for more ideas on this based on our first play test).
I suggest making extra to leave blank so new players can design their own.
Alright. Now you're almost done. If you're making a travel version remove those tiles and tile holders from your home game. You'll need counters for score keeping. Either cobble something together any time you pull this out or find 12 counters now. I happen to have a lot of buttons, so I put 12 buttons aside.
If you're just adapting a home game you won't need the bag and can skip the next step.
For the travel version, you'll need a bag to hold everything (as noted it only fits board, this has not yet been fixed to hold everything):
Cut two long strips of your front and back fabric at 7 by 21 inches.
You can use any fabric you want, it doesn't matter. I wanted mine to be visually appealing so I took the same paint from the tiles and did a matching design for the background. As for styling, if there's one thing I always forget it's all those pesky two letter words. So I found a list and wrote them all out to reference during game play.
Stitch together leaving a gap to turn. Turn inside out, press and sew up gap. Now you'll have one long rectangle. Line it up so one end sticks out further than the other. This will end up being your closure flap. Stitch up sides leaving the top opening clear.
Either hand stitch or use a machine to add button holes. Sew on buttons. You can alternately use velcro instead.
Who doesn't like to shake it up a little?
Thanks for looking! Please share if you make your own I'd love to see it!
**Notes post first play test**
Travel bag design needs work. If I work out the kinks I'll post it here. Right now it just fits cards and fabric board and not much else.
For the first playtest we used the cards as follows:
Shuffle and divide cards into four piles, one in each corner, leave face down.
Play as normal per your famous word game. First turn you automatically earn a 'yellow' card by playing on the central square. Tally points as usual.
Every time you land on a colored square as part of a word you pick a card before tallying points.
If your word lands on more than one colored square pick one from each pile.
Some cards leant themselves to immediate use (IE +5 points), some we ended up dubbing 'challenge cards'. If you draw a card that says 'Make a French Word' it makes no sense to do that now. What we decided is that if you get a challenge card you hold onto it. It goes into your 'hand', face up in front of you. When you're able to use it on a turn (and fulfill the challenge) you get +5 points. If you still have challenge cards in your 'hand' when the first person goes out, you get -5 points for each card.
After the first play test we realized that there need to be a LOT of cards to use them the way we did. Probably at least 40. Perhaps more. Consensus was that there needs to be a greater percentage of 'common' cards to 'unusual' cards. Lots of +5 points or -5 points and not as many unusual challenge cards.
Generally after using a card we cycled it back into the pile it came from, putting it at the bottom .
Some cards simply didn't work. Truth or Dare or Remove one article of clothing in particular just were strange. Perhaps if you design your own drinking version you can keep those, otherwise I don't recommend them.
Thank you G for our first play test!!!!
Inspiration and Info:
I got the inspiration for the bag and closure style from Georgina Giles's etsy shop, make sure to check it out. It's just two simple buttons and some button holes. Lovely design.
Did I mention how awesome that Quirky Artist Loft tutorial is? Make sure to look around.
Many thanks to my online collaborators for their advice and suggestions! And of course all my enthusiastic play testers and their partners.
This is a free tutorial invented and written up by me. It is not for commercial resale. If you use this please credit me or link back here.
PS: I've only done one play test so far. If anyone else does one please tell me what works and doesn't work and I'll add notes.