AmuseAmaze Review
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Players: 2-6
Playing time: 30 minutes and up

Every year at the Origins Game Fair, there’s a game that ends up being the talk of the show. As you wander through the aisles of games and miniatures and guys dressed in chain mail, you’ll see it time and again in the arms of fellow convention-goers. And once you have a copy of your own, you’ll get stopped over and over again by people who want directions to the booth that’s selling it. This year, that game was AmuseAmaze, a twisting word maze of a game that’s never the same game twice.

The most time-consuming part of the game is its set-up—but it’s also the thing that keeps it fresh and different. You see, while AmuseAmaze is a board game, it’s an ever-changing board game—and you create a new board each time you play. Inside the box, you’ll find 18 game board squares—each of which is covered in a maze of letter-filled boxes—and you can put these squares in different configurations for each game. Not only does this allow you to change the board for each game, but it also allows you to alter the game depending on the number of players.

The box also contains a bag filled with letter tiles, which you’ll place at random on certain squares on the board. This, once again, makes each game different—so there’s no need to worry about veteran players taking the same path around the board every time they play.

The different versions of the game are similar—but, for now, I’ll focus on the two-player rules. This version of the game uses 15 maze boards—with the Start board in the center and a Target board (a special board that includes special colored letter boxes) at each of the two far ends.

Players take turns moving their playing pieces around the board by spelling words. You can spell your words forward, backwards, up, down, or diagonally. You can snake around in any direction. And each letter takes you one step closer to your final goal. Along the way, you can place letter tiles on the board to help you spell words—and whenever you use a letter tile to spell a word, you pick it up, creating a road block for your competitors. So it’s not just about spelling—it’s about strategy, too.

The goal is to race to each of the two Target boards and back to the Start board. When you spell a word using a Target board’s colored letter box, you’ll get a Target card—and you must collect both Target cards before you can win the game. The first player to collect both Target cards and return to the center of the board is the winner.

While the rules of the game seem a bit complex, AmuseAmaze is actually a surprisingly simple—and fun—game for logophiles of all ages. Unlike most word games, you don’t have to have a huge vocabulary to play—short words will move you across the board, too—so younger players will have no problem competing.

In a way, AmuseAmaze is a mix between Boggle and Scrabble—only (dare I say it?) better. Now, don’t get me wrong—Boggle and Scrabble are both wonderful word game classics. But they also favor word nerds (and I mean that in the nicest of ways). For average players, meanwhile, those games can be a bit intimidating. AmuseAmaze, however, throws in a few twists and strategies that allow novices and word nerds to play side-by-side with a nearly level playing field. And that makes it a great pick for a quiet game night at home with the whole family.

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