The goal of Unspeakable Words is to be the first player to reach 100 points without going insane. Players begin with a hand of seven cards (each of which has a letter of the alphabet, points (based on the number of angles in the letter), and Lovecraftian image, except for the wild card Unspeakable Letter) and five sanity tokens (which look like little Cthulhu figures). On a player's turn, they use cards from their hand to spell out (and define) a word, excluding proper nouns, contractions, abbreviations, acronyms, and any word previously made in the game Players then score the points on the cards used to make the word, draw back up to seven cards, and the player to their left goes next. (If a player can't make a word, they can discard their hand and draw seven new cards.)
But did I mention the insanity? After a player scores a word, they have to make a sanity roll by rolling equal to or higher than the points of their word on a 20-sided die (or rolling a 20). If the player succeeds, nothing happens. If they fail, they lose a sanity token. On the plus side, a player down to one sanity is no longer governed by the rules of spelling and can make any word they want from their cards (which is when the definitions get really fun). On the minus side, a player who loses their last sanity token goes stark raving mad and is out of the game. Also, a player who would reach 100 points has to succeed at their sanity check to get the points and win the game.
Unspeakable Words is both fun and flawed. The game is amazingly easy to learn, plays pretty quickly, and has plenty of opportunities for strategy (go for big words that are likely to cost your precious sanity, or smaller words that won't get you to 100 points quickly?) and humor. However, the cards are made of fairly weak card stock, so frequent play will give you some worn cards pretty quickly. And as a Lovecraft fan, I was disappointed the Cthulhu minis were black with green eyes, not green overall. But those are minor quibbles for a game that's an easy one to teach and play. Unspeakable Words is slightly challenging, pretty funny, and a (literally) mind-blasting hoot!
Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch