Literacy

28th September 2001 at 01:00
LECARDO. pound;9.99 from Leo Marshall Designs, 322 Panther House, 38 Mount Pleasant, London WC1X 0AN. Tel: 020 7278 1269 email: lecardo101@aol.com website: www.lecardo.com. Discounts are available for class sets from 10 per cent

Like all the best ideas for games, LeCardo has a simple central premise. That is not to demean this excellent word-based card game, it's just to say that the easier the rules and the more cunning the format, the more enjoyable the game will become for all involved - particularly if those people are grasping the concept of putting words together to make compounds at the same time.

The game is based around a set of playing cards, each of which features a word that can, in certain situations, be put together with another to produce a third word. Each card carries a score that reflects the degree of difficulty in forming compounds with that word. For example, the word "paper" is deemed trickier to form compounds with than "water", and this is reflected in the values of the cards - in this example, 5 and 1 respectively.

On the three or four occasions I have attempted this game, my competitive spirit has been stirred, and opponents have reached for dictionaries to check the validity of some of my more outlandish attempts. (Each player is at liberty to check the meaning of any compound put down on the table.). Tempers became a little frayed during one particularly vicious bank holiday session.

There's more than a small element of Scrabble in this game: the object of LeCardo is not just about trying to stack up as many compounds as possible, but the realisation that there are other players in the game and that it's in your best interests to block them from scoring points on the resulting grid of words. This means that once the stock of possible word compounds has been exhausted, the more enjoyable, tactical side of the game takes over as players try to frustrate their opponents by placing cards in such a way as to prevent other nearby cards being built upon. It all makes for a rewarding experience that, for once, does all that it says on the box.

If I can get enough sets (the price is a little steep) I'll be trying to use LeCardo during upcoming Year 7 and 8 English lessons, as well as starting off a Friday club for colleagues; provided we can find the time.

Carl Davies teaches English at Northumberland Park community school in the London borough of Haringey

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