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Day 4 - Letter Jam (2019)

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

CGE is probably best known at this point for their thinky party game #Codenames. Well this year they’ve put out another game that gives a similar, cerebral feeling and plays with up to six called Letter Jam.

Letter Jam owes its origins from the old classic #Mastermind where players attempted to work out a sequence of colours through a series of clues. In Letter Jam however it is a sequence of letters which once solved will spell a word. Each player makes a five letter word for their neighbour who places those letters face down. They will attempt to solve each of those letters over the course of the game. Each player then places a letter in a standee so that everyone else can see it but they cannot.

Letter Jam is a co-operative game and players take turns giving clues to words that use the other letters they can see. For example tonight I gave the clue, Cheetah. The player holding the A could see Cheet?h while the player holding the E could see Ch??tah. For both players this meant they could work out their letters and place them face down and start working on their next letter. By the end of the game players need to have worked out all 5 letters in front of them and if everyone can do so then you win the game.

Sometimes you might find you need another letter that just isn’t out there. For this there is an asterix card in the middle of the play area but each time you use it it must represent the same letter. For example I gave what I thought was a good clue, Bandana, to a player holding the N. Unfortunately there was no A so I used the asterix, this meant they saw B*?d*?* maybe not the best clue after all!

Letter Jam is a thinky game and you need to consider how much your clues will help the other players. For example giving a 3 word clue that uses the asterix ends up looking like this “*?y” which probably didn’t help much. Whereas using longer words generally leaves fewer possibilities. Using words with odd construction, double letters, words ending in “ing” or “tion” etc will help narrow down the possibilities. It’s a really interesting puzzle, you have a limited number of clues so you have to give good clues that help the largest number of people, but figuring that out might take a few plays.

Having a good vocabulary isn't a prerequisite for Letter Jam but it certainly helps. Unlike most word games however anything is a valid clue, for example abbreviations or proper nouns, even fictional words if you want, the only caveat is that you can’t say “It’s an abbreviation” so playing a non-standard word comes with an element of risk.

Component quality is a bit hit and miss with Letter Jam. The cards and poker chips are nice, but then the score sheets are incredibily thin and the plastic stands while functional are rather basic and brittle. The box too is rather thin and loose fitting, but the price point puts this one in the same region as codenames, which is probably about right for the type of audience the game is trying to reach.

I really would recommend Letter Jam to anyone who likes puzzles, especially word puzzles. And it has the added benefit of being co-operative so it’s about working together and not about seeing who knows the fanciest words.

p.s. It is impossible, given the game doesn't include a letter J, to spell it's own title with the components and yes, I tried it!

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