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Play On Words Rules


The OBJECT is to score the most points by game's end (10 rounds of play, unless a shorter game is desired). You are dealt a hand of 11 letter cards on each round. The Challenge Card for the round indicates how many and what kind of words you must lay down to "get into the game." After you do so, you try to play your remaining letter cards by changing words on the table (yours and your opponents'). Be the first player to play all of the cards in your hand and you score the point value of all cards left in the opponents' hands. (Points are also scored for words with "bonus" letters in them.)


102 letter cards (33 red, 32 blue, and 33 green letters, plus 4 "wild" cards), 10 Challenge cards and tray (you'll also need a piece of paper and a pencil or pen to keep score).


Place the 10 Challenge cards in numerical order face up in the tray as shown. Appoint a dealer who shuffles the letter cards and deals 11 to each player. Place the remainder face down in the tray (the "draw" pile), then turn up two cards and place them on either side of tray as shown. These form the start of the two discard piles.

Play on Words Setup


The player to the dealer's left plays first. Play passes to the left. Always begin your turn by taking a card, either from the top of the draw pile or from the top of either discard pile. (Beginning in Round Five, you'll be able to take an additional card if desired, as explained below).

Meeting the Challenge

Your first goal is to lay down words that satisfy the "challenge" of the round. The Challenge card for the current round tells you how many words you need to lay down, and if they need to be "pure" or "mixed".

• A "Pure" word consists of cards of only one color (all red, all blue or all green) and must be three or more letters long (unless stated otherwise).

Pure Word Example

• A "Mixed" word must have letters of at least two colors.

Mixed Word Example

Wild Cards

Wild cards can be part of Pure or Mixed words, provided there is at least one colored card in the word (a word cannot be made solely of wild cards.)

For example, T R E E (made of red cards) is a Pure word, and so is T R E * (where the "*" is a wild and the other cards are red). So is T * E * (where the "*"'s are wild and the letter cards are red).

Wild Card Example

• Wild cards can be any letter desired. But once played, must remain that letter for the remainder of the round.

• The Double ** Wild card must represent two successive letters in a word. For example, the word "Indoors," could be INDO ** S. Here, the Double Wild card represents the letters "O" and "R."

Acceptable words include any word found in the dictionary except proper nouns, foreign language words, hyphenated words and abbreviations.

Changing Words

Your second goal is to play the remaining cards in your hand by changing existing words. This is important because after you lay down your required words, you may not build any new words. You may begin to change opposing words on the same turn that you lay down your own words. You may change your words on any following turn (but not on the same turn you lay them down).

Note: A Pure word must always remain pure. Therefore, it may only be changed with cards of its color or with wild cards. A Mixed word must always remain Mixed, which means it must contain letters of at least two colors after being changed.

You may change a word in any of the following ways. You may change the same word more than once on your turn.

• Expand

You may expand a word by adding a prefix or a suffix OR you may insert a letter in order to form a new word.

For example, you can change LIST to LISTS or REALIST. You can change BOTH to BOOTH.

• Replace

You may "replace" a letter by playing a different letter on top of it in order to create a new word (don't remove the letter card covered, leave it in place). Note: You may not replace a Double Wild card.

For example, you could change BOTH to BATH.

You can both replace letters and expand a word during the same turn.

For example, you could change LISTS to DELISTS by adding a "D" and an "E" and, on the same turn, change it again into DUALISTS by replacing the first "E" with an "A" and inserting a "U."

Ending Your Turn

You always end your turn by discarding one card. You may discard on either discard pile. However, if a discard pile is empty, you must start a new pile.


The first player to play all cards from his hand (before or after discarding) wins the round and scores.


The winner of the round scores the value of all cards remaining in the opponents' hands plus 5 points for winning the round.

Point Value of Letter Cards

  • Each ordinary (unmarked) Red, Blue and Green letter scores 1 point
  • Each L, N, R, S, T scores 2 points, as indicated on these cards
  • Each Wild card scores 5 points, as indicated
  • The Double Wild scores 10 points, as indicated

For Example, you "catch" one opponent holding A, C, L, M, T, plus a Wild and a Double Wild, and a second opponent holding B and E. You score 29 points: (1 + 1 + 2 + 1 +2 + 5 + 10 = 22 for the first opponent, plus 1+1 = 2 for the second opponent, plus 5 points for winning the round.)


The rare consonants-- K, J, Q, X and Z -- are marked "bonus" and while they are only worth one point each they have special scoring power. Any word you lay down containing one or more of these letters immediately scores bonus points for you. The bonus is equal to the point value of the word formed.

For example, forming "ZERO" would be worth 5 points.

Further, if you form a word with 2 or more of these letters, your score is DOUBLED. For example, JACK is worth 4 x 2 = 8 points.

Note: using a Wild card to represent one of these letters does not qualify for a bonus word score.


Place the used Challenge card on the bottom of its pile, face down. Collect all the letter cards. The player to the prior dealer's left becomes the dealer for the next round. Deal and play and as before. Continue playing until all 10 rounds are completed.


Beginning with the fifth round of play, you are permitted to take either one or two cards at the start of a turn. Before deciding to "take two," tell the other players of your decision. You may take both from the top of one pile, or take one card from each of two piles. When your turn ends, discard one card, as usual. Taking two cards will make your hand longer, so be forewarned. Of course, this is necessary to fulfill the challenge on high numbered rounds where more cards are needed than you begin with.


The player with the highest score at game's end WINS.


Decide how many rounds you'd like to play. Shuffle the 10 Challenge cards and deal, face down, a number equal to your desired round total. Place the remaining round cards out of play. Turn over the cards dealt and place them in numerical order, lowest number on top, face up, in the tray. Play only these rounds in this game.

About the Three Colored "Suits"

Each suit is slightly different. While all vowels and most consonants are represented in each colored suit, only the Blue suit contains an X and a Z. Only the Green suit contains a Q (and an extra U). Only the Red suit contains a J and a K. The most frequently used consonants and vowels have multiple cards per color.


It is okay (in fact, advisable) to lay, face down, on the table some of your cards in order to make your hand more manageable (especially in the latter rounds). Often, a player will lay face down a word (or words) intended to be used to meet the round's challenge. Of course, if an opponent goes out first, any cards laid face down are counted towards that player's winning score.