The card game Quiddler first appeared in 1998. This hybrid game combines traditional card gaming rules with the rules of word games like Scrabble to create a totally original game. The name is a made-up word, but it sounds like a hybrid of “quiz” and “riddler,” a hint to the game’s mixed-up status as part card game, part word puzzle.
Quiddler has won more than a dozen gaming awards, including a MENSA Select Award, a spot on Newsweek‘s Perfect Presents list, and the 1998 Tiger Award for Best American Game. Quiddler has a growing cult following, probably thanks to the explosion in popularity of all games, especially Scrabble. More people are playing Scrabble and similar word games thanks to social media gaming and more families are playing card games and board games as cheap entertainment during the economic downturn. We’re still smack dab in the middle of a gaming renaissance, with new games and new gaming fads popping up every minute, so it should come as no surprise that Quiddler is on its way to being one of the best-known word games on the market.
One of the things I love about Quiddler is the fact that up to 8 people can play at once, and the game is designed for people 8 years old and older. That makes it a very adaptable game, as good for a young family on game night as it is for a cocktail party among older adults.
Play starts by shuffling the cards. A single game of Quiddler is made up of eight rounds. Each round deals out a different number of cards to each player, starting with a simple three-card version of the game and ending with ten-card hands for each player.
In the first round, the player chosen to be the dealer hands out three cards to every player. Any leftover cards become a draw pile. The top card of the draw pile is flipped over to begin a discard pile.
Play starts with the player sitting to the dealer’s left. To begin, every player draws a card. They can choose the top card from the draw pile or the discard pile. This card is added to their hand. A turn ends by discarding a card from your hand. The point is to form one or more acceptable English words with the letter cards in your hand, which is called “going out” in game parlance. Players take turns moving clockwise until someone goes out.
Once a player goes out, each other player has another shot at using up their cards to spell words. Points are totaled by the amount of points on the face of each card. When a player goes out, the points on cards remaining in the other player’s hands (not used in the game) are subtracted from their total. The game rewards the player that spells the longest word with a ten point bonus; another ten point bonus goes to the player who spells the most words.
Each round of the game moves the same way; the only difference is that each round increases the number of cards in the player’s hands by one. After each round, point totals are recalculated, and the game continues until after the eighth round. The player with the highest point total is the winner.
Check out Quiddler’s official website for more specific rules and rule variation options.
Pros & Cons of Quiddler
Quiddler has a lot going for it. For starters, there just aren’t that many word puzzle card games on the market. In fact, I’d say Quiddler is the only one I’ve ever come across. It’s unique, so even people who have never played the game before will probably be intrigued, especially if they like board or card games.
Another great feature of Quiddler is the game’s pace. You can play at your own speed, if you’re playing casually over coffee or drinks, but the rules of the game are designed for an entire game of Quiddler to take around a half hour at the most. We need more games that are designed to move at a fast pace; it is a nice change of pace on family game night to play a game designed to move fast, compared to popular board games that can take hours to come to an end. You can fit a game of Quiddler in between games of Scrabble at a tournament or as a quick backseat distraction during a road trip.
Ultimately, I really like Quiddler because it is a fun way to compete with words against your family and friends. Sure, the game is unique, and yes you can play it in just a few minutes rather than a few hours, and like I mentioned before, the game has won a bunch of awards. But really, I like Quiddler because I’ve never not had fun during a round of the game. It lacks some of the complexity of Scrabble and other word games, but it more than makes up for a lack of complexity with the fact that you can compete with people of all ages. I’d much rather play a simple fun card game with my younger nieces and nephews than spend hours plugging away at a less exciting game designed for adults.
As for the game’s cons? I’d improve Quiddler in a few specific ways. For starters, the game should have a standard dictionary, like Scrabble has. You could even come up with a few different dictionaries for different types of games: a Quiddler Junior edition emphasizing simpler words, one for adults, maybe even a version that includes some foreign words as a way to expand vocabulary. The lack of a standard dictionary makes scoring a little hectic: should we count “AIDS” as a word, even though acronyms aren’t acceptable by the game’s rules? What about foreign words that have made their way into the English language? Using your own dictionary at home as an established way to judge the legality of a word is the best way to improve the game of Quiddler. Without a standard dictionary, arguments about words drag the game down and suck the fun out of it.
Quiddler is unique: a card based word game that emphasizes speed over having a big brain. As such, Quiddler is perfect for family game night, a group of people from different educational backgrounds, or a quick diversion for both kids and adults. It transitions seamlessly to the classroom, and can be an educational game under the right circumstances. Add Quiddler to your game library because it is a really original game that also happens to be a ton of fun for people of all ages.