8 years & up
2 to 8 players
Games, Card Games
Quiddler is a word-forming card game that’s been described as “Scrabble with a shot of gin (rummy) and a twist of Phase 10.” It’s fun for both young and old players because you can choose strategies that suit your skill level and counter another player’s advanced vocabulary with some judicious compromises and well-timed exits using shorter words. Quiddler is a must-have game for both nerds and novices alike. Want to see numerical summary ratings? Skip to the conclusion for our detailed criteria breakdown and final review score.
What’s included & how to play Quiddler
Quiddler is made by Set Enterprises, the maker of their eponymous Set game. Quiddler is a card game as well, but with letters instead of symbols and featuring a more traditional dealt-hand style of play. The game includes a large deck of 118 cards, each with a letter or letter-combo pair on it. The face of each card is lovingly decorated with calligraphy from Celtic manuscripts, and the back is adorned by a late-90s-era red/blue gradient that, let’s face it, looks quite dated now.
You’ll war against your neighbor to achieve an erudite diamond of diction…
Play consists of multiple rounds of dealing out additional cards progressively until the final hand of the game yields 10 cards per player. Points are accumulated by players as they create words out of their letters. Each hand allows an extra 10 points for either the longest word or the most number of words, but not both. These bonus points are significant and will drive an irrationally large portion of your strategy.
Turn by turn each player competes to make the best use of their letters and get rid of cards that, hopefully, won’t benefit their opponents. You’ll war against your neighbor to achieve an erudite diamond of diction, or, if you give up, an embarrassing entanglement of two-letter filler words. I’m simplifying the rules somewhat, but overall Quiddler is easy to learn and fun for newcomers and veterans alike. The pace is fast, but not overwhelming. Anyone who likes Scrabble or other word games will undoubtedly love Quiddler. Need to know more details? Here’s a link for the full Quiddler instructions at Set’s website.
Is Quiddler fun and educational?
Quiddler is fun for anyone who loves words, or someone who loves card games and doesn’t mind words. It’s educational in the stimulating sense as you draw on ancient reserves of your vocabulary to exhaust your pathetic hand of random consonants. I may be bitter about my in drawing cards, can you tell? The official companion book, the Quiddler Short Word Dictionary (sold separately), is more annoying than useful–it seems to rely on imported Polynesian words to use up your miscellaneous vowels, so don’t buy it unless you have a particularly fierce set of competitors who dispute your 3-letter gems.
Complete Insanity, CandyChess, and Time2Play
Quiddler earns a perfect 5 out of 5 on our Complete Insanity score. Over the years we’ve lost nearly a third of our deck, but it still plays very well. The remaining cards are in sad shape, having been spindled, folded, torn and everything else your standardized test proctor told you not to do with your bubble-fill scanned answer sheet. Our family has played Quiddler literally hundreds, perhaps a thousand times in the last decade, so we might be due for a replacement set of cards!
Over the years we’ve lost nearly a third of our deck, but it still plays very well.
Our CandyChess Strategy Score, at 2.5 out of 5, puts Quiddler somewhat closer to the dice-rolling Candyland than to the deterministic vanguard of strategy, Chess. Like Candyland’s mercurial dice, Quiddler can seem maddeningly unfair when you get a terrible hand. In contrast to a child’s board game, Quiddler does have a strong element of planning ahead. The strategy comes about when you use those awful letters creatively, making a series of short words. Or, perhaps you deny an opponent a critical bonus by thwarting their longest word score. There is enough strategy and skill to keep advanced players interested, but enough chance to help out novices and newcomers. All in all, Quiddler is a well-balanced game.
Our Time2Play metric, at 35 minutes, means that Quiddler is a bit too long for casual play. You’ll have games lasting up to an hour when you have competitive individuals trying to eek out every last longest-word bonus. You can speed up the game by adhering to a short, strict timer for each round, so there is some flexibility. Another way that we shorten a game is by starting at one of the later rounds, say 6 cards, and then proceeding to 10 cards. What matters is that Quiddler can fit into the time you allocate if you’re willing to change a few rules.
What ages of kids will enjoy Quiddler?
Our DistribuFun histogram for Quiddler lines up almost perfectly with the manufacturer’s recommendation of “8 years & up.” I wouldn’t start kids in a competitive game until they’ve been reading well for a year or two, but the cards are excellent for use as teaching aids as your youngster learns to read. I imagine most people who play Quiddler use it exclusively as a grown-up game for parties or quiet afternoons at the beach and don’t realize that young kids would enjoy it was well. Again, like Scrabble, Quiddler will adapt to a variety of ages and vocabulary levels.
Alternatives to Quiddler that teach similar skills
I’ve mentioned it several times: you should definitely consider Scrabble as an alternative (if you don’t own it already). The similar tile-based Bananagrams is another fun game that, unlike Scrabble, doesn’t need a board. Both games let you form words and help hone your spelling and vocabulary skills. Another great possibility you might not have heard of is called Word A Round, from ThinkFun. We’ll review it here soon, but in the meantime you can see the product itself on Amazon. Compared to Quiddler, it’s more of a pattern reconition game using words in a circle, with players racing to be the first to call out each word. The words are hard to discern since you know neither the starting nor ending point on the symmetrical circular cards. For those learning to read it can help build vocabulary, and for older readers it will definitely be a fun brain-teaser.
Value, durability, and longevity: Is Quiddler a good buy?
Costing only $10 for 118 beautiful cards, Quiddler is a great value. As you can see from our sad photographs of mutilated cards, ours have been lovingly destroyed through constant use over the past ≈8 years. If you don’t own Quiddler and you like word games, it’s an easy decision–just buy it now.