Saturday , February 24 2024

Word Game Review: ‘Jabuka’

Jabuka from Jabuka Games gives an entirely new spin on word-building games. Using mixed-up letters to construct words has been a mechanic in games such as Scrabble and Boggle for decades, and rightfully so. The mental challenge of finding patterns goes well with the knowledge base of a good vocabulary, making a strong contest dynamic. Jabuka raises the stakes with a new layer of flexibility by having the symbols on the tiles stand for more than just one letter.

Each tile in Jabuka is made from recycled wood and marked with stylized representations of the letters of the alphabet. Several are unchangeable like “a” or “k,” while others like “s” and “z” only turn into themselves, but most can be rotated to a new angle to make a “b” into a “p” or a “t” into an “x.” A few, like “c,” “u,” and “n,” even form a trio for maximum versatility. Further dual-letter tiles even pair up letters to turn “nd” to “pu” or “om” to “wo.” Players will have to not only recognize the letters on each tile but also consider what else they can be from a new perspective.

While other word-building games focus on turn-taking with patient analysis, Jabuka is about reflexes. A game begins with each player taking a blank tile that may serve as any letter with the rest of the tiles scattered on the table, some face-up and some face-down. Players race to scan the tiles to recognize potential words. Upon finding one, a player calls out a word and grabs up the tiles to arrange them. The game continues until players are ready for a new round, with each player flipping over one of the previously face-down tiles. When the last tile is flipped, players have a last chance to make a word, and the game ends. The player with the most tiles overall wins.

Jabuka adds another layer of competition by allowing players to take words from one another. Rather than just letting the words sit out as “claimed,” players can keep an eye on each others’ creations and potentially hijack them if they can change a word by adding a letter, rearranging the word, or twisting a letter, such as making “read” into “reap.” As the game progresses and more tiles are flipped, players may settle on a strategy of watching others’ words with a ready “s” to make something plural, to not only score points but subtract them from someone else’s score.

Jabuka is a word-building game for two to eight players aged eight and up. Games are quick thanks to simultaneous play with everyone constantly calling out words and reaching for tiles across the table. Jabuka is proclaimed as a “total brain workout,” and the label could not fit better as it encourages pattern-recognition and vocabulary recall. After each round, players will be delirious from plucking words out of chaos and eager for another go on a fresh set of jumbled tiles.

About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.

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