What happens to words when all of the vowels fly away and all that is left is consonants?
Vowl: The Game of Letters Gone Astray (2021)
|Designer(s)||Cameron Art||Artist(s)||Tristam Rossin||Publisher||
Cameron Art Games
Many of us have seen those pictures on Facebook where words are purposely spelled wrong, but our brains are somehow able to process what was meant. Vowl's reminds me of those posts; it is a word game where all of the vowels have simply disappeared. Unlike those Facebook posts, this is much more difficult because of the patterns that are provided and the rules they follow. For example, you may see BHV on a card and think, "Oh, Beehive," but it can't be that since in between each shown letter is exactly one vowel. So it would be BeHaVe. So it is a game that is truly testing your mental prowess while also forcing you to race the clock. It is an interesting twist on the traditional word game genre.
Box and Components
This is a prototype version of the game so the components are likely to change and could be impacted by stretch goals of the Kickstarter campaign; I will mention what is expected to come with the game currently and a couple thoughts on what I hope the final version looks like.
The game is expected to ship with 400 cards (of varying difficulties), 2 sand timers (15 and 25 second), 2 custom dice, some player tokens, and a double sided score board. There are currently stretch goals to add in additional cards; some of these stretch goals are easy to unlock and simply need social media support from the community to get the word spread about the game. So take a minute after reading this to share their campaign and tag "CameronArt" to help unlock those additional cards.
The cards will be the focus of the game as they will have "words" that are missing the vowels; the goal of the game is to determine what the words are based on the letters provided (more on this in a bit). The cards are also easy to read and look nice without being distracting.
The score board is double sided offer two different game lengths, which I appreciate because too many games waste the opposite side of their boards when they could provide a little extra value to the players.
There are two dice have different faces and represent two aspects of the game. The "numbered" die will have a 3, a 5, and four 4's; this will determine how many green cards you will initially draw on your turn. The "owl" dice will tell you the mode you will be using to solve the cards that turn. I really like the cute owls on the dice, and they are easy to read and understand.
The box for the prototype is a little bit bigger than it needs to be; I hope the final box is a bit smaller so there is less excess space in the box. Something like one of the smaller Munchkin boxes would probably be a better in my opinion unless the cards plan to get an increase in size. Beyond that, the logo and box art is really good.
Now let's discuss how the game is actually played since that is what most of you are really interested in.
Setup for the game is very simple. To determine the side of the board to use, decide if you want a shorter (30 minute/green) or longer (45 minute/red) game and place the board on the side selected. Separate and shuffle the 3 colored card decks placing them next to the board. Each player will take a pair of score tracking tokens (victory "star" and scoring "letter" token). Place the star token at the end of the track in the colored area with a star, and the letter token in the "0" spot. Decide whether you want to play with the 15 or 25 second timers.
The first player is the person whose name comes first alphabetically. You are ready to play!
Throughout the game, you will have the opportunity to move both of your tokens on the score track. Once a player's tokens meet or pass by each other, the game is over and that player wins the game.
How to Play
The active player will roll the two dice to determine how many green cards they will draw and the mode they will be solving the cards. Initially, you will draw a number of green cards equal to the value shown on the number die; additionally, you will draw cards based on the position of your score token on the tracker. If you have 2 green cubes where your score token is, you will draw 2 additional green cards; if there is a red and yellow cube, you will draw 1 red and 1 yellow card. Once you have all of your cards, collect these cards and arrange them however you like, but don't look at the front of the cards yet. The cards are sorted by difficulty with the green cards being the easiest and the red cards are the most difficulty.
Regardless which mode you are playing on a turn, you will be flipping over the cards and shouting out the words you believe they represent while racing the timer. If you don't know a word, you may pass on it placing it at the end of your stack and will get another chance to solve it when it comes back up.
The cards follow a few rules:
- The missing letters are only vowels (A/E/I/O/U); Y is not considered a vowel in this game.
- There is only 1 letter/vowel missing in between each letter.
- The word starts with the shown consonant and may end in a vowel.
- The cards will represent American English words and spellings; no proper names or slang.
There are three ways you may have to solve the cards based on what is rolled on the Owl die:
Solitaire: In this mode, you will be going through your stack of cards alone to try and solve them before the timer runs out.
Head-to-Head: You will select another player to go against (doesn't have to be your neighbor). You both will draw cards based on the number rolled and that player's position on the score track. Once both players are ready, the timer will start, and the two will race to see who can solve all of their cards first (or more than the opponent if time runs out). Whoever wins this round gets to advance on the score track.
In the event of a tie, the two players will compete in a Sudden Death where a red card is flipped over, and the first player to shout out a correct answer wins.
Partner: You will select one of your neighbors to team up with you to solve the cards. You will add 3 additional green cards to the stack to balance out the difficulty. If you and your partner are able to solve all the words before time runs out, you both will earn points with the active player scoring first.
Two player Partner mode is different. Your opponent will draw a number of green cards based on your numbered die plus 3; they will look through the cards and discard 3 cards. Once they finish, you will draw the additional cards based on your score token placement and play as you would in Solitaire mode. Essentially, your opponent gets the opportunity to discard potentially simple words from your stack.
If a player is successful at winning at one of the modes mentioned above, they have 2 options for how to advance on the score track.
- 2 Points: You can move your score token two spaces up the score track.
- 1 Point and Move Victory Point Token (yours and one opponent): You can move your score token one space up the score track and move your victory token back one space. You must also move one opponents victory token back one space. I imagine this is to allow you to avoid some of the higher score track difficult cards but must trade off allowing one opponent the same opportunity. This is definitely a strategic decision to consider.
End of Game
Once a player has had their two tokens meet or pass by each other, the game is over and that player is the winner. The rules suggest there is a chance multiple players may win on the same turn (specifically during Partner Mode), but the rules within Partner mode state the active player advances first so there should never be a tie on the same turn.
We really liked this game. I have played a lot of word games (Scrabble, Just 1, 60 Second Slam, Scattergories, etc) but most of those either require you to have to spell out words correctly or to draw something representing those words (skills some people simply dislike in games). This is a nice game where spelling well certainly helps get to answer faster, but most people are decent at reading and quickly understanding what words are even if spelled incorrectly as mentioned above with the Meme about being able to comprehend and read a paragraph of misspelled words with little difficulty. This game is straight forward and should be very easy to teach to others.
I was partially surprised to see the age rating being 14+; I assume that is because some of the words may be fairly difficult for younger children to know. I could easily see a Jr. version of this game being made and marketed as an educational product because the concept is simple.
As mentioned in the components section, I really appreciate the double sided board that utilizes a space wasted by a lot of games. Thanks to this and the two sand timers, there is technically 4 modes you can play with the varying game length and solving time.
I also really like the Owl theme as it is a clever play on the word Vowel to create a cute theme with a unique identity. I believe this game will stand out when compared to a lot of word games with its unique identity and simple game play. I highly recommend this game.
As of writing this article, the game is live on Kickstarter. The game's Kickstarter relaunch is live! This review was based on the original Kickstarter; I haven't seen any notable differences so be sure to look for yourself for any changes that may have been made since this article was written.
Take a few minutes to check out their campaign, give their campaign a share on social media, and decide if the game is for you.
You can also see our casual video review for this game.
We received the prototype of this product in order to write an honest review; all reviews reflect the honest opinions of the writer.