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Word Ping-Pong

No. of Players: 2+
Type of Game: written
What you need: pen and paper

Goal

To change one word into another one letter at a time.

How to play

This game is similar to Word Ladder and its variations, except it requires at least two players. It is best imagined as a verbal table tennis game which takes place on paper: one player acts as the 'server' and writes down a four-letter word. The second player 'returns' the serve by changing either the third or fourth letter of this word to spell out another word. The first player then changes the first or second letter of the new word to make a third word, and so on, until a player can no longer make a new word. The last player to make a new word earns one point. Service alternates between the players every two points. The game is won by being the first player to reach 11 points with at least a 2 point lead. If the game becomes tied at 10–10, service alternates until one player pulls ahead by 2 points. Two teams of players can be formed if more than two people want to play at the same time; in this case, players on each team would simply take turns changing letters.

Here are some additional rules to note: the first word written must be capable of being changed into another word by a change in one of its last two letters. The server of a new word can only change one of the first two letters, and the other player can only change one of the last two letters. No player can introduce the same letter more than three times in a particular position, and words can only be used once.

Example

Amy wins the coin flip to become the first server. She writes down the word MILK. Bill can change either the L or K, and chooses to return the serve by changing the K to another L to make MILL. Amy can then change the M or the I, and chooses to change the I to an A to make MALL. Bill changes the final L to an E to make MALE, Amy changes the M to S to make SALE, Bill then makes SANE, Amy then makes CANE and so on. Here is how the game builds up:

MILK
MILL
MALL
MALE
SALE
SANE
CANE
CASE
BASE
BASS
MASS
MAST
VAST
VASE
VISE
VINE
FINE

There are many moves yet to make on both sides, but it becomes increasingly difficult because of the limitations on letter use.

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