Try to make the most best-dressed words in this pocket-sized word game!
What Is Handsome?
Handsome is a word game by T. C. Petty III for 2 to 6 players, ages 8 and up, and takes about 15–25 minutes to play. It’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with a pledge level of $10 for a copy of the game. Handsome is part of the Wallet Games line from Button Shy, and is suitable for anyone who’s old enough to spell.
Note: My review is based on a prototype copy, so it is subject to change and may not reflect final component quality. The final game will come in a small vinyl “wallet,” like the rest of Button Shy’s Wallet Games line.
The game contains 18 cards. That’s pretty much it! You’ll need to supply some paper and writing utensils.
The Kickstarter will also include the Hyphen Expansion, though that was not a part of my prototype.
The cards themselves have consonants on them—usually a single consonant, but a few cards have two. Each consonant only appears on one card, so there aren’t any duplicates. In addition, each card has a suit: bowties, pearls, or bolo ties, worn by the person holding the letter sign. The letters themselves also have different colors and fonts to help distinguish the three suits at a glance.
The illustrations are fun, with kind of a retro look to them, though I have to admit that the choice of bolo tie for one of the three suits is a little weird to me.
How to Play Handsome
You can download a copy of the rulebook and print-and-play files from the Kickstarter page.
The goal of the game is to be the first to reach 9 points (so you’re “dressed to the nines,” haha).
The game is played over a series of rounds. Each round, you set up by shuffling the cards and dealing out a certain number based on the number of players: some dealt to the players, and some flipped face-up to the center of the table. Then each player will pick a number of cards to play to the center, revealing them simultaneously. The end result will be 5 total face-up cards in the center, and 2 cards in each player’s hand.
- 2 players: Deal 4. Flip 1. Play 2.
- 3 players: Deal 3. Flip 2. Play 1.
- 4 players: Deal 3. Flip 1. Play 1.
- 5 players: Deal 3. Play 1.
- 6 players: Deal 2. Flip 5.
Everyone works simultaneously; there is no taking turns.
Using the face-up cards on the table and the two cards in your hand, you secretly create a word. You may use any number of vowels (not counting “Y” as a vowel), and you may not use a word that has been created in a previous round. Write your word down on paper.
Once everyone has written down a word, reveal your cards and your word.
Players will score points based on 4 criteria: most cards used of each suit, and longest word. For each suit (pearls, bolo, bow tie), check which player used the most cards of that type, and award them 1 point. (In case of a tie, all tied players get 1 point.) The player with the longest word also gets 1 point.
There are a couple of special cards in the deck. The J/Z and Q/X cards are wild: each one shows both letters, and two suits instead of one. You may use only one of the two letters on a wild card, but that letter counts as both suits when scoring. There’s also a suit-less card with S/Y on it. You may only use one of these two letters in your word, and it doesn’t count as any suit, but it can help you make a longer word.
You continue playing rounds until somebody reaches at least 9 points, and the player with the highest score wins.
Why You Should Play Handsome
First off: okay, I’m not sure why it’s called Handsome or what the story behind the theme is. But, hey, it’s a word game with clothing and accessories!
Handsome is has such a small ruleset and set of components, it’s easy to think it’s a simple game. But once you start playing, you realize a few things. Chief among them: I can’t think of any words! Okay, maybe that’s just me, but even though you’d think it’d be a little bit like playing Scrabble but with any number of vowel tiles at your disposal, it doesn’t quite work that way.
First, you can’t just pick up and rearrange the 5 common letters. For some reason, that made it a lot harder for me to form words, and I usually end up just jotting lots of word options down on paper and then circling my favorite. Second, even though you have unlimited vowels, it can be strangely difficult to see them in your mind’s eye when you don’t have actual cards sitting in front of you.
But aside from the trick of coming up with a word, you have some competing criteria that you want to fulfill: you want a long word, sure, but is it better to have a longer word, or one that uses more of the same suit? Will you outnumber the other player for sure to score the longest word point? Or is it more likely that you can lock in the bowtie point with those two extra bowtie cards in your hand? What if your opponent also has two bowtie cards, that scoundrel! Is it worth using a wild card for the extra suit, even though it makes it harder to form a word?
Choosing which cards to play into the middle is also a tactical decision, though it shifts depending on how many players you have. At 3 players, for instance, there are already 2 cards on the table, and each of you will contribute 1 from your hand. Sometimes you can choose based on the suits that are available, so that you can try to maintain a lead on at least one suit. Or you may choose to play a letter that you think will be harder for your opponents to use, keeping some easier letters for yourself. In a 5-player game, however, there’s no information whatsoever about what’s on the table until everyone has played, so it’s a blind guess as to what else will be available.
The gameplay itself and the scoring is very simple, though, even taking wild cards into account, and it’s a nice way to get your gears turning. The game length is a little longer with more players (since points may be divvied up a bit more so that it takes longer to reach 9 points), but it’s still overall a pretty quick game to play. The portability of wallet games has always made them great for on-the-go gaming, and I particularly like the way that Handsome accommodates up to 6 players (though you’ll have to find some solution for everyone writing down words and keeping score—I guess the Notes section of your phone, perhaps?). It doesn’t take much table space, either, which is a bonus.
If you enjoy word games and are looking for one that fits in your pocket, Handsome is charming and will fit nicely alongside your handkerchief.
For more information or to make a pledge, visit the Handsome Kickstarter page!
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.