Nothing against the game itself, mind you, but to me, the best part of Zip-It, the 2010 offering from the folks who brought you the wildly successful Bananagrams, is a 3 3/4″ by 2 3/4″, 38-page booklet that’s included in the self-contained, brown cloth package. Senior citizens might want to drag out a magnifying glass, because as its stated size might indicate, the print is small. It’s a booklet called “Weords,” subtitled “Weird Words That Win Word Games.”
Within its pages, you will discover a variety of categories; 18 of them, to be precise, including “Words with no vowels” (flysch, lym, and pygmy, for example), “Q words with no U” (qat, qibla, and qoph, for example), and “words starting with X” (xerif, xiphoid, and xylite, for example). I could go on. In fact, there’s a strong temptation to just re-create the whole booklet right here, but it’d probably get me into trouble. Thing is, it has a sort of compelling readability to it. You open at page one and find yourself actually reading it; going right down the list and filing words for future use in word games.
The caveat to the employment of this little book in the word game of your choice is that normally, word games will specify that players should agree on a dictionary to settle disputes, and you’ll need a comprehensive one to find some of the obscure words you’ll discover in “Weords.” Dictionaries that bear the Scrabble name will work, but I’m guessing that you won’t find a lot of these words in your average Merriam-Webster dictionary. The little booklet is not comprehensive enough to be the single, dispute-settling dictionary necessary, because you won’t find things like water, beer, or apple in it (I did not actually check this). Of course, it’s unlikely anybody will dispute such words. You might want to bring it out and suggest to players that a ‘normal’ dictionary and “Weords” be used to settle challenges.
It’s even got sections for Semi-Palindromes (words that read forward and backwards, like “arb” or “brag”) and Palindromes (words that are exactly the same, forwards and backwards, like “kayak” or “rotator.”) Off-hand, I can’t think of a reason why either would be significant in a word game, except, of course, with Zip-It itself, because it includes a variant that offers bonus points for both options.
On to the game itself. Zip-It is a strictly, two-player game, although the clever minded might be able to discern a way to work out some sort of team variant. What you’ve got are 24 letter dice. You divide them between the two players, roll ’em, and set to work creating a crossword grid of words, using all sides of the dice. First player to successfully utilize all dice wins a round of play. The dice (reminiscent of Bananagrams, with a different color scheme) come in a brown cloth bag with two zippers and a colored ‘slide bar’ (Mine were orange and green. I forgot to check whether they come in alternate colors, but whatever. . .). Beneath each zipper is a scoring track. The idea is, when a player wins a given round, he or she slides the zipper to the appropriate score, up to 10. First player to 10 wins.
Part of the charm of Bananagrams is its portability, and Zip-It continues this tradition. With only 24 dice in their small package, it’s even more portable. Zip-It offers a variety of variants, including the palindromic ones mentioned above. You can choose to award bonus points for rhyming words, as well as variable bonuses for long words; one point for seven-letter words, two for eight, three for nine, etc. They also suggest rule adjustments that level the playing field between children and adults (children get to use two-letter words, adults don’t), and challenge restrictions, like making all words fit a given category; nouns, animals, verbs, etc.
It’s one of those games that makes you wonder “Why didn’t I think of that?” Simple, clever, fun and as challenging as any word game you can think of, for many of the same reasons. Its suitability for travel in a car is limited by the necessity of a flat surface, but enterprising adults could well find a way around that. Perfect for your basic, airplane drop-down table in a way that Bananagrams, with its 144 plastic tiles, is not. All in all, a welcome addition to one’s ‘quick-game’ library, and a ‘thanks’ here to the folks at Toy Fair’s Bananagrams booth for providing me with a copy to prepare this review.
No addendum here, because all the basics are embodied in what’s already been written. Its design is unattributed and it’s published by the Bananagram people. Retail cost is $14.95.