December 14, 2015



Anomia was the second game we played at this year’s Will Shortz’s Wonderful World of Words (invented by Andrew Innes, published by Anomia Press, and distributed by Everest). Anomia is a simple card game. The cards contain a colored symbol and a category. Players draw a card and place it in front of them, face up. As soon as two players’ symbols match, they announce one example of the category on the matching player’s card -- this is called a face-up.. The first to announce a correct answer grabs the opponent’s card and keeps it in his “winning pile.” When the loser’s top card is picked up, his new symbol might match one of the other players, which initiates a new face-off. This kind of “cascade” of face-offs further speeds up the pace of the game and keeps all the players involved in the game.

Before the weekend, I was worried about two aspects of the game:. The symbol recognition element of the game play might not appeal to hard-core word game folks; and that the category part of the game would be too simple for our brainiacs. As usual, I was wrong on both counts. Players loved the pattern recognition aspect of the game and in practice, the time pressure induced the exact condition that Anomia is designed to create (“anomia” refers to the inability to name objects). Imagine a bunch of word people not being able to think of one example of ANY website or any toothpaste brand. Players who could nonchalantly generate the name of a toothpaste brand whose third letter is an “L” are rendered tongue-tied when under pressure -- engendering many laughs and occasional trash-talking.

Anomia works well as a family game. Kids have a natural edge in the speed of their symbol recognition, enough to compensate for whatever disadvantage they may have in the other part of the game. And all can start playing within minutes of opening the box (indeed, the rules suggest reading the directions “out loud as you begin to play”). Out of the 12 tables playing Anomia, there wasn’t one question or criticism of the rules. I can’t remember ever encountering a game that plays so much better than the premise appears at first blush. I might not be able to articulate why Anomia is so much fun to play, but trust me: it is.

[We played the basic edition of Anomia, available for less than $13 from Amazon. There is also a party edition with over 400 cards:]