The next in an irregular series of board game recommendations for programmers. Of course, you don't have to be a programmer to enjoy these games, but if you are a programmer, then I think there's a pretty good chance that you'll like them.
However, you might not want to play this particular game with your spouse. Here's why...
“End. E-N-D”, she guessed. “One”, I replied.
“Cab. C-A-B”, I guessed. “One”, she replied.
We were driving to a campground in Massachusetts. My wife and I were in the front seats of the minivan; our daughter was in the middle seat, watching a DVD; and our son and his friend were chatting in the back seat.
We had been on the road for several hours, and I was feeling a bit tired. I needed to do something to help keep me alert. “Jotto?”, I suggested to my wife. “Ok.“
“Icy. I-C-Y”, she guessed. “Zero”, I replied.
“Fed. F-E-D”, I guessed. “One”, she replied.
Jotto is a two-player deduction game, kind of like Mastermind but with words. In fairness, I should say that Mastermind is like Jotto but with colors, since Jotto is older than Mastermind.
Each player secretly chooses a five-letter word with no duplicate letters. The usual restrictions apply—no proper nouns, etc.
The players take turns guessing each other's words. For each guess, you tell the player how many letters were correct. Unlike Mastermind, it doesn't matter whether the letter is in the right position or not. For example, if you guessed BOARD and got one letter right, the answer might be PLAYS (the A matches, in the same place) but it could just as easily be GAMES (the A matches, not in the right place).
“Map. M-A-P”, she guessed. “One”, I replied.
“Jig. J-I-G”, I guessed. “Zero”, she replied.
Jotto is a favorite game for situations where it would not be feasible to set up a board or deal out cards. For example, you can easily play it in a restaurant, or waiting in line, or on a long drive. All you need is two pencils and two pieces of paper.
“Age. A-G-E”, she guessed. “Two”, I replied.
“Out. O-U-T”, I guessed. “Zero”, she replied.
In fact, you don't even need the pencil and paper! Most of the time, we play it in our heads with three-letter words instead of five. This is a great variation that allows the driver to play in the car. It also lets you play in situations where you are moving too much to be able to take notes comfortably, such as jogging or hiking.
For this game, I picked AXE as my word.
“Axe. A-X-E”, she guessed. “Got it. Dang that was fast!”, I replied.
“Men. M-E-N”, I guessed. “One”, she replied.
I started playing Jotto this way with my son when he was 10. We still enjoy it and play it often, but it has become kind of a running joke, because we almost always finish within one guess of each other. This is the first time I have played mental Jotto with my wife, and she's killing me! She got it in five guesses, and I'm not even close!
Ok, with ones for both FED and MEN, I guess that it probably has an E. Next, I want to figure out which letter from CAB was correct. I'll try the A, and I'll also throw one of the other letters from FED to help confirm that it really was the E.
“Far. F-A-R”, I guessed. “One”, she replied.
Good. It probably really was the A. What has an E and an A?
“Sea. S-E-A”, I guessed. “Two”, she replied.
Now I'm getting somewhere. It looks like the E-A is correct. What else has an E-A?
“Pea. P-E-A”, I guessed. “Two”, she replied.
Hmm. I'm nearly certain now that the E-A are correct. What else has an E-A? It can't be TEA because I already got a zero for OUT. What if it's A-E instead of E-A?
Wait a minute. No way. No, she couldn't possibly have picked...
“Axe. A-X-E”, I guessed. “Got it”, she laughed.
Oh, man. We really have been married too long.
Originally written as a session report for BoardGameGeek.