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Word Slam Family Review

Designers: Inka Brand and Markus Brand
Publisher: KOSMOS
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 3-99
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 45 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

Word Slam Family is a word-guessing game similar in nature to games like Codenames and Decrypto; however, in Word Slam, the players giving clues are limited to four decks of word cards, and both teams play simultaneously.

When I first read through the rules, I worried that having to rifle through a hundred cards would bog the game down and make it more difficult than it was worth. However, from the very first time we played, it was wonderful. In fact, after our first game, my in-laws expressed how much they liked it and that we would need to play again soon. How’s that for first impressions?

Using word cards as clues put everyone on equal playing fields. Walking dictionaries no longer have the upper hand when giving clues, as they must rely on the same options as everyone else. But just because they rely on the same cards doesn’t mean the same cards will be used to give clues for the same word. 

For example, the word “leather” could be described in many ways. Someone on our team described “leather” by using the following words, as shown in the image below:

Word Slam Family by Thames and Kosmos Games, board Game Review by Benjamin Kocher. Photo by Benjamin Kocher

My Experience
I found Word Slam Family to be heaps of fun. I love Codenames and Decrypto already, and I assumed Word Slam would be a watered-down version of this games. Instead of watered down, it’s simply different, and that’s a great thing. 

I did find it difficult to sort through all the word cards in order to find the ones that would work perfectly for the target word I was trying to give clues for. However, after playing through it a number of times, it was easier to recall which words were in which deck (noun, verb, adjective, etc.), which made things much easier. Of course, other words will frequently pop up from the story word cards that work just as well—if not better—than the one I was looking for. 

It’s also more than just which word cards are picked to describe the target word in question. The way these word cards are laid out on the table dramatically affect the way the words are interpreted. Placing a card sideways might indicate that it could be either word on the card—or it could imply something entirely different. Placing modifiers on either side of a word card could make it mean something entirely different than the actual word printed on the card. The options are nearly limitless, and the more we played, the more creative we got. 

In all, Word Slam Family is a good time for everyone. My mother-in-law, who was hesitant to learn this new game because she simply wasn’t up for learning a game as mind-taxing as Codenames, took to it easily and enjoyed herself immensely. I, someone who loves Codenames and its meatiness, enjoyed Word Slam just as much. It’s a different game, to be sure, so comparing the two doesn’t really do either justice, but it’s one way to say that Word Slam is definitely a contender for game night when there’s lots of people, including those who would prefer something with a bit more weight to it. Get them past the spunky box art, and they should find equal enjoyment in Word Slam as in any other “hobby game” word game.


First, divide the players into two teams, and have each team sit on the opposite side of the table. Each team receives 105 story word cards in their team color (blue or orange). Both teams have the exact same story word cards, so there’s no advantage of getting one color over the other. Set one half of the game box in front of one team, standing up on its side to act as a blind, then do the same for the other team with the other half of the box. Each team sorts the story word cards by their front colors or symbols. Blue cards are nouns, violet are verbs, light green are adjectives, and light blue are prepositions and other words. With this in mind, it will be easier to decide which deck to sift through in order to find the appropriate word for the task at hand. 

Separate the answer cards into their various colors, shuffle each individual set of answer cards, and then draw the top three cards of each deck of answer cards. Shuffle all these newly drawn cards together to form the draw pile. Then, draw one last answer card and place it face-down near the game area. This will be used to determine which word is to be guessed during the last round.


Word Slam Family by Thames and Kosmos Games. Card Game Review by Benjamin Kocher. Photo by Benjamin Kocher

The storytellers (players who are giving the clues) from both teams look at the the top answer card without showing any of the other players. Once drawn, the number on the back of the next card in the draw pile determines which word is to be used as the target/answer word on the one just drawn. So, if the next card in the draw pile had a “6” on it, the two storytellers would use the word that corresponds to number six on the answer card they just drew.

Once both storytellers are ready, a one-minute timer begins, and both storytellers scramble through their story word decks to find words that relate to the target answer word. Storytellers may not speak, hum, whistle, or make any other sound that could be construed as giving an audible hint. So be quiet! Likewise, gesturing is also out of the question, although storytellers may point to their story word cards for emphasis (that tends to happen a lot).

Storytellers may use as many cards as they want to describe the word in question, just as long as they all fit behind the game box/blind. If a player guesses the word right (and both teams can decide in advance how strict you’ll be on that—i.e. Loch Ness monster for “monster,” or if it has to be “monster” without any other qualifiers), then that team takes the card, and a new round begins. The game ends once all the answer cards in the draw pile have been guessed—or not guessed, in cases of highly difficult words. If words are not guessed within the time limit, then no team gets that card. The team with the most answer cards at the end wins! If there is a tie, simply continue playing with new answer cards until one team guesses correctly. When using the last card in the answer deck, refer to the number on the extra card drawn (that was set aside) to know which word is the target word of the round.

Theme and Mechanics:
The theme is really nonexistent, other than its use of word cards to guess other words.

As for mechanics, it’s all about sifting through a hundred cards as fast as you can, finding the right words to help your team guess the target word. There’s not much else to it. Simple, yet effective.

Artwork and Components:

Board Game Review: Word Slam Family - Thames and Kosmos. Photo by Benjamin Kocher
The word was "Christianity," and this is all it took for us to guess it (the topic was Religion).

The artwork is reminiscent of Nickelodeon branding: bright colors splattered all over the place. The cards themselves are simple colors with appropriate backs that match categories. Whatever you want to call it, it's fun.

The components consist of cards, cards, and more cards. The card quality isn’t bad, either, so they should be able to take numerous games before signs of wear start appearing.

The Good:
  • Fast-paced
  • Level playing field (no more human dictionary domination)
  • Great game for teaching younger kids about words (nouns, adjectives, etc.) and definitions
  • Ideal for large groups of people
The Bad:

Until players become familiar with the word cards they have to choose from, it could take the entire minute just to find the right word. Once they’ve played the game a few times, however, things should speed up nicely.

Final Thoughts:
Having a one-minute timer certainly makes Word Slam Family a fast-paced game, which adds to the fun factor immensely. Some words are hard, such as “hater,” but they also act as a good challenge to those who think they’re pretty word-savvy. In the end, Word Slam Family is a lot of fun for all types of gamers. With the flexibility to not use certain topics as desired, it makes the game easy to adjust to specific situations.

There’s a high chance of words in the forecast, and it’ll come slamming down in buckets!

Players Who Like:

If you like Codenames or Decrypto, there’s a good chance you’ll like Word Slam Family, too. If you frequently find yourself with more attendees at game night than you know what to do with, give Word Slam Family a go! It’s also a great family game for any occasion. Lastly, you can combine this version of Word Slam with other versions, giving even more options!

Check out Word Slam Family on:


About the Author:

Benjamin Kocher hails from Canada but now lives in Kentucky with his wife and kids. He's a freelance writer and editor, and covers everything from rule books to novels. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with rich, engaging themes. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and Instagram @Kocherb, and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

Check out Benjamin's reviews here.

Word Slam Family Review Word Slam Family Review Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on December 12, 2018 Rating: 5

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