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A to Z

There's nothing funny about A to Z, and yet, this game made us laugh, almost non-stop, for an entire hour. Each player or team gets an alphabet board. Dice are rolled. A category is selected from a card. And then that player or team has fifteen or thirty seconds (depending on the dice) to name items that fit the category. As soon as an item is named, its first letter gets covered on the alphabet board. Name as many items as possible within the time limit, each starting with a different letter, and then name more, in a different category, when it gets to be your turn again. The object is to be the first player or team to complete the alphabet. Transparent discs are used to mark which letters have been used.

There were eight of us, so we played it in teams. It turned out to be so much fun to play with a teammate that I'd recommend, even if there are exactly four players, that you play it in two teams. Some of the categories are excruciatingly difficult. Like, names of foreign newspapers, or famous military leaders. Others are delightfully easy, especially for us average American folk - like snack foods or fast food restaurants. So, you might think that success depends on the luck of the category drawn. And you'd continue thinking it until someone throws the dice and the hand symbol appears. Then, when naming items, instead of trying to find things that begin with one of the ever-dwindling assortment of available letters (like Q and Z), you select someone else's board, and remove their discs. Since the letters already covered tend to be those that are easiest to use, things have a way of evening out with depressing rapidity.

The mechanical timer ticks and flips noisily when the time limit is reached. It's a little difficult to see the fifteen second mark (there are only two time limits - either the full 30 seconds or the painfully brief fifteen), affording the opportunity for the only negative criticism I could find for this remarkably absorbing, unique, challenging, easy to understand, and genuinely fun word game.

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