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Ottawa, Educational Motivation Systems, c1985. Word Game. 1-8 players. $29.95. Distributed by Educational Motivation Systems, P.O. Box 4028, Station E, Ottawa, Ont., K1S 5B1.

Grades 1 and up
Reviewed by Joanne K.A. Peters

Volume 14 Number 6
1986 November

Inspired by the success of Trivial Pursuit, everyone seems bent on creating a board game designed to educate its players while they engage in friendly competition. Word$tock is the latest entrant in the games market. As in Trivial Pursuit, players move around the game board with the roll of dice indicating the number of spaces advanced. And, as in Trivial Pursuit, landing on a space of a given colour determines the category from which the player will select his game card. However, in WordStock, rather than having to give answers to questions testing esoteric knowledge (as a confirmed TP addict, I shudder at describing the questions as trivial), players must correctly define words of varying difficulty drawn from eight different categories: "Home & Family," "Town & Country," "Arts & Humanities," "Science & Technology," "Hi Tech & Buzz Words," "Slang & Anachronisms," "Abbreviations & Acronyms," "Odds & Ends." The "$tock" portion of the game's name is due to the fact that points are awarded for increasingly sophisticated definitions and thus, players are given play money commensurate with the points obtained. As in the stock market, the winner is the player who accumulates the most money in the shortest time.

The promotional literature indicates that the game is suitable for one to eight players (or teams) ranging in age from 6 to 66+, and in educational level from primary to PhD+. As each card contains five words of increasing difficulty, such a range of players is possible. As well, the game has five possible variations: "Family" (particularly suitable for a range of ages and educational levels), "Cut-Throat" (for the highly competitive player). "Cooperative," "Solitaire," and "Beardless" (good for travel in a car, plane, or train). In both the "Family" and "Cut-Throat" versions, players (called Traders) can bid and speculate on cards in play, adding a marketplace air to play of the game. However, the focus of the game is on word definition, rather than as a simulation of stock market activity.

A fan of both board and word games, I decided that the only way to fairly review the game was to try it out. My husband, an electrical engineer more likely to be familiar with the words from the "Science & Technology" and "Hi Tech" categories, and I played the "Family" version (the version most likely to be played by most purchasers of the games) and found it a pleasant enough way to pass an evening at the cottage. However, we did find that the game had one rather serious flaw; a lack of accompanying definitions with which to compare a player's answer. Difficulty arose most often in the "Science & Technology" and "Hi Tech & Buzz Word" categories. The directions for play suggest that a good standard dictionary be available for consultation and that dictionaries of slang or computer terms be consulted for definitions in those categories. Surely the creators of the game must be aware that it takes some time for neologisms to find their way into a dictionary and that most families are not in the habit of buying an update of Webster's or the Oxford every few years. Furthermore, many of the anachronisms are so old that only a dictionary such as the Complete Oxford would contain many of the words in that category. However, most of the four thousand words in the eight categories are defined readily enough to make the game enjoyable for most players.

The game's promotional literature suggests that Word$tock has value as a way of teaching new words and improving vocabulary. I have some doubts about the validity of such a suggestion; word meanings imbed themselves in the memory through application in a context, and while one might remember the definition of a word simply because the word is so unusual, such a situation would be the exception rather than the rule. However, if you enjoy word games and have no objections to spending $29.95 for another board game, you might enjoy Word$tock. Schools might find it useful as a supplementary item, but I think that good old-fashioned Scrabble gives better value for one's money.

Joanne K.A. Peters, Sisler H.S., Winnipeg, Man.
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