Oxford Games Ltd, £4 Designed by Finch & Scott 2-8 Players, about 20 minutes Reviewed by Mike Siggins

Anagram is one of the growing range of games from Oxford Games, to my mind one of the more positive and prosperous British game companies I wonder if the two adjectives are linked? I was quite taken by their stand at the recent Toyfair, both by the number of games they have produced (all the more impressive since they also design for Past Times) and the upbeat, helpful attitude so in contrast to the doom and gloom that often haunts British game producers. On balance, there was little difference between Oxford and the typical denizen of Death Row apart from confidence and outlook.

Having woffled on, I'd better get to the game, which is simplicity itself. It is a word game, but manages to combine the arcane art of anagrams with the word building and point scoring of games like Scrabble. The result is quick, surprisingly challenging and an excellent little filler, playable by up to eight. The more players the better, as we shall see.

Basically, a pile of letter tiles are laid face down in the centre of the table. These are turned over one by one, slowly, so as to form a pool of letters from which you can form words with four or more letters. The first player to say the word can pick up the relevant letters and place the word in front of him. From that moment on, that word is fair game for anyone who can make an anagram of it or construct a completely new word by adding letters from the pool. So READ could become DARE, or LADDER by picking up two pool letters. Either way, the new word is whisked away to score for the stealing player. This carries on until all the letters have gone or no more words can be made. Scoring is similar to Scrabble in that each letter has a value and the highest total of letters wins.

In play, the game can be pretty hectic, and often noisy, with several players sitting round and spotting words at the same time. The knack is to construct words that are not anagrammable (mmm...) or those with obscure letters, but in reality you are happy to get anything shouted out and in front of you. The old brain comes in for some multi-tasking aerobics as well, because you are trying to look at the pool for new words, appraise other players' words where they sit and combinations of the two. It is also helpful to think of anagrams for your own words so you can immediately steal them back! Anagram is a game for quick and steady thinkers and it's a good job the game is short enough to prevent meltdown of grey cells.

Anagram is marketed in a small Victorian style of box and this motif is carried over to the letter counters themselves, which is all rather attractive. I am not sure why (perhaps it was the intention), but as a result I get the impression that the game has been done before and that this is a reprint. I can't prove this either way, and I doubt that it matters greatly, I would just be interested to know if it was a genuine parlour game because they are so often unplayable at anything beyond Snakes & Ladders level. I am also impressed by the distribution of letters that seems to be spot on.

For those who love anagrams, word games such as Scrabble, or can do the odd crossword, this game will be ideal. It is nicely produced, great value at around £4 and has plenty of play value. The rules are instinctive and it really tests the brain. This is a cracking little game.

On to the review of Attacke or back to the review of The Mob.

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