By Harry Funk
Scrabble, it ain’t.
There really is only one way to play the venerable board game, forming words from your tiles and trying to use your Q’s and Z’s for triple scores.
On the surface, Peters Township resident Faye Klein’s card-game invention, the Final Word, resembles Scrabble: You draw letters and do your best to play them in combinations that legitimately are in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary.
But the Final Word features a seemingly limitless series of variations on the basic theme – Faye lists 27 in the current TFW rulebook, and she always is thinking about more – and, from this player’s standpoint, holding cards is preferable to picking tiles up from their holder.
Those little suckers have been known to slip from my fingers.
I talked with Faye about the Final Word a couple of years ago, when she gave me a demonstration and invited me to come out and play sometime.
Of course, what with a pandemic and all, that ended up taking much longer than anticipated.
Finally, I visited the Chartiers Township Community Center to join a midday ladies’ group in learning a couple of TFW games, the ones Faye calls Hit Six and Split Run.
Unlike all the gear in a Scrabble Box, the Final Word requires only its specialized deck of cards. Each is imprinted with a letter and a corresponding numeric value representing its frequency of use in the English langue.
Hit Six starts with each player laying cards on the table to spell out a word of at least three letters. From there come actions called “add-insert,” “overlay” and “give-take,” through which players make new words from the existing ones in what often are decidedly non-Scrabble methods.
For example, “overlay” means that you can place letters on top of the ones already played, but you can’t cover up every letter on the board. So “the” can be transformed into “stones” if you play an “s” at the front, put an “o” on top of the “h,” slide an “n” between the “o” and “e,” and tack on another “s” for good measure.
Speaking of “stones,” it contains half a dozen letters, which triggers the reason the game is Hit Six: The cards forming the word are removed, and the player can spell another word from the cards remaining in his or her hand for additional score.
If that sounds complicated, it may be so for a few minutes, but novices tend to catch on quickly, especially when Faye is right there to explain everything.
After guiding us through Hit Six, she switched gears to Split Run, which is particularly challenging in that it allows you to form entirely new words by splitting the existing ones down the middle.
What usually results is a table full of cards, which makes keeping score kind of confusing. Players receive points for all the new words they create during a round, so it’s advisable to mark each of them with a washer, button or other small object as you proceed along your merry way.
Those are just a few examples of all of Faye’s TWF variations so far. They run the gamut in the number of players from the solitaire First Base to as many as six in several, including Split Run, which in the rulebook is listed as “voted most favorite game!”
I’m looking forward to trying more of ’em, if nothing else to do something useful with the enhanced knowledge of English I’ve gained in 36 years as a professional journalist.
Come to think of it, honing your English skills is a good reason for anyone to give the Final Word a try. You may be surprised at what is and what is not listed in the dictionary.
And you just might prefer playing a hand of cards to picking up little tiles.
For more information about Faye Klein and the Final Word, visit fayekleindesign.com/FinalWord/Game.html.