Letter Jam is a cooperative word game by the game author Ondra Skoupý, the original of which was published by Czech Games Edition and is localized and distributed in German by Heidelbär Games. In Letter Jam, two to six guessing foxes have to guess secret words. But that's not that easy, because each player has one letter of his hidden secret word in front of him round after round, but only sees the letters of his fellow players. In our board game review we reveal why Letter Jam turns out to be great word guessing fun.
The premise of Letter Jam is simple: only by skillfully deciphering clue words can the players - all working together - guess their hidden letters in order to create a meaningful word from their secret "letter jam" at the end of the game.
Letter Jam: jam instead of soup
At the beginning of the game of Letter Jam, each player receives their own stack of letter cards from which they secretly form a word made up of five letters. So that word guessing is not too easy for the other players, the word is then mixed up again to make a letter jam. Now the words are distributed to the other players and the cooperative decoding of the secret words can begin.
For this purpose, the players give each other letter hints during the game that belong to a word that contains the letters of their own secret word. What is remarkable at this point is that Letter Jam can also be played using the app. This helps to set up the game and to generate secret words. However, it does not have to be used. The app serves as a digital support, but the letter game works in a purely analogue manner.
Guess words: this is what players have to do
Round by round, the players now place a letter of their face-down word in front of them. This remains invisible to you, you only see the letters of your fellow players. Word guessing can now begin. The players discuss possible words that contain the revealed letters without naming them. Otherwise the unknown letters would be revealed and the game would be over.
Clues can be, for example, the word length, by how many players letters are used and whether possible wildcard letters were used. If the players together have the feeling that a player can give a particularly helpful clue, the latter spells the word silently by placing clue markers with the corresponding numbering in front of the individual letters that make up the clue word.
Next, the players write down the clue face down on their guess sheet. Jokers, which may appear once in a word, and their own, unknown letters, are marked separately. If the secret letter can be guessed, it is entered in the corresponding line, the drawn up letter is put back in its place in the word row and a new letter of the word is drawn up. If a player has guessed all letters, he draws bonus letters.
If he guesses these in the further course of the game, they can be used once as hint letters. Each time a clue is given, the players take a marker from an installation card. When all clue markers are used up, the game ends. This also happens when the players no longer need any further clues to solve their secret words.
Letter Jam remains demanding: give hints, get hints
Unlike other word guessing games, Letter Jam always has something to do. The interplay of whistleblowing and receiving information sometimes turns the board game into a real headache. The star of this title is the flow of the game, which tirelessly and steadily flows towards the goal - namely the rate success. Giving hints that several players understand as such is not that easy. We already know this from similar guessing board games.
Because several hints are often necessary in order to be successful, your own head is constantly busy creating the best possible keywords. But that's not all: fighting against the instinct, always using the longest possible word as a clue, is more difficult in the course of a game than you might think. As is so often the case, it is in the brevity - and beyond that, uniqueness - that the flavor.
Letter Jam is mostly about eliminating alternatives - and this guessing process is great at getting the game across to the players. The first few games are mostly about developing the most efficient hint strategies possible. With increasing experience, players can then use letter variance specifically to make deductions easier.
Aha moments on the assembly line
At some point all players know which letter is theirs - or at least they think they know. sometimes the clues just run out and you have to get into the dark. The closer Letter Jam comes to an end, the steeper the tension curve becomes. Mere assumptions then turn into knowledge, hopes for a correct result turn into the famous “forehead clap”. Letter Jam literally produces these aha moments on the assembly line, because sometimes solutions were simply obvious the whole time - and apparently obvious hints could still not be used meaningfully.
The overall level of difficulty is rather high. Even clever players sometimes have to nibble on the word puzzles. Adjustments can be made through the word length: the set of rules defines words with five letters as the standard, but that too is often extremely difficult. Even four-word words are sometimes a challenge. After all, it is possible to mix the word lengths for the individual players without any problems. This turns Letter Jam into a word guessing game that almost anyone can take part in.
The alphabet salad is underlined by the attractively designed game material. Typical of jam, which translated from English means jam, is fruit - this is exactly what you can find in abundance on the game box or word cards, and the plastic numbering markers almost resemble a fruit salad.
Although it doesn't actually take much to be able to play Letter Jam, the author cannot be denied that he will deliver the best possible material-technical result. Whatever individual parts are put on the table at Letter Jam, fits the game. The playing cards have a comfortable firmness and size and the writing is also large, so the letters can be easily recognized during the game. The card holders are neither too loose nor too tight, so the word cards can be inserted safely.
Number of players: 2 to 6 players
Age: from 10 years
Playing time: 45 to 60 minutes
Long-term motivation: medium
Published by Heidelbär Games / CGE
Author: Ondra Skoupý
Graphics: Lukáš Vodička, František Sedláček, Radim “Finder” Pech
Year of publication: 2019
Cost: 27 Euro
Letter Jam from Heidelbär Games is currently one of the best word guessing games on the market. Ondra Skoupý's title can easily keep up with top competitors such as Codenames, even if the gameplay proves to be a little more classic than that Game of the Year 2016. Overall, Letter Jam seems to focus more on the social component, which makes the title an excellent fun game.
Letter Jam also appeals to larger playgroups and involves all participants equally in the flow of the game. There is hardly any idling, the brain is constantly working. Giving hints is just as exciting as receiving hints. In the end, there is great joy in the case of success, otherwise there is a noticeable learning effect. Then Letter Jam proves how simple board games are to promote conversation. After one round, you could spend hours discussing the various tips - not just to get better, but because this interaction is fun.