If Uno and Scrabble got together and had a love child, that child might grow up to become 5 to Close. A wordplay card game, 5 to Close evokes memories of family game night. The primary colors and retro font of the cards enhance this feeling. Upon opening the deck for the first time, I immediately pictured a multi-generational game around a holiday or vacation table. Even my Xbox-addicted husband has become hooked.
The basic premise of 5 to Close is simple. Players use the letter cards to form words. Once a word has reached the desired length, the player can flip over the cards, locking the word. The first player or team to lock five words closes the round – hence, the name.
5 to Close allows for individual or team play. With my limited review panel (husband and 10-year-old daughter), I have only been able to test the individual play thus far, but the team rules promise an even more intriguing game. With team play, one player feeds cards to the teammate who is responsible for building the words; the twist? The two players are not allowed to discuss the words.
As my husband discovered when I trounced both him and my daughter in the first two rounds, there is an art to locking words. While the lure of longer, higher scoring words tempts, only locked words count in the final score. One player can have several brilliant examples of etymological splendor pending, only to wind up with no points when his opponent locks five three or four letter words. Words can be doubled or tripled with special cards; however, again only locked words count. Also, beware! “Double” and “Triple” cards carry penalties if they are still in the player’s hand or are played on words that remain unlocked at the end of a round. “Freeze” cards can be played on an opponent’s words to keep the word from being completed or locked until an “Unfreeze” card is drawn. Unplayed “Freeze” cards also carry penalties. As some of us discovered to our sorrow, it is entirely possible to end a round with a negative score.
My 10-year-old assistant reviewer has pointed out that I should mention the educational value of 5 to Close. She informed me that people should know that it is an excellent way to have children practice reading and spelling without knowing that they are learning. Good point. Score keeping also seems to build math skills unbeknownst to my fifth grade word-lover/number-hater.
Our criticisms of 5 to Close were minor. The deck is thick and tends to be difficult to shuffle properly, especially initially. Also, the rules could be slightly more clear on a couple of points regarding what cards may be played upon a word and at what point. However, neither of these points detracted from our enjoyment of the game.
5 to Close is available through the company's website. The list price was $9.95 at the time of review. And, no, you can’t have my copy. This one is definitely making the trip to the grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving!