Keywords - New Words From an Old Keyboard.

Introduction: Keywords - New Words From an Old Keyboard.

Keywords is a two-player game to test your wordpower against an opponent.  It needs quick thinking, cunning and a little help from Lady Luck to triumph.  The rules have evolved over a number of plays and it is really an entertaining game to play at home or on a journey.  This Instructable tells you how to make a set out of entirely recycled / repurposed items. 

A single round may take from 5 seconds to over twenty minutes.  A full match is up to a set number of points.  First to 30 will give you a game of an hour or so.

It will take a while to get familiar with the rules, but it is worth it.  If you like word-games you'll love this.

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Step 1: Putting Your KeyWords Game Together.

To make your KeyWords set, you will need an old keyboard. A laptop keyboard is not suitable for this and some types of desktop keyboard are better than others - see later.  The keyboard I used initially had mushed up ceiling tile drop into it after a flood in an office.

You will also need a bag to keep the game in and to draw letters from.  I found the ideal thing in the cupboard under the sink.  This was a mesh drawstring bag which comes with tablet form washing powder.  We had a couple spare. 

The other essentials are a 30 second hourglass timer from another game and a pad and pencil to keep score.

Step 2: Reclaiming the Keys From the Keyboard.

Take one of the keys off the keyboard.  Look at the plastic post / channel which attaches it to the rest of the keyswitch.  If this doesn't protrude below the edges of the key then it is ideal for KeyWords.  The best keys will sit flat on the table.  Older keyboards tend to have more suitable keys than new ones.
If it does not sit flat it may be OK but will not look anywhere as neat in play.  You could take a pair of cutters to the posts but I wouldn't recommend it as there will be 41 to do.

Find the best way to get the keycaps off.  Usually this will be levering with a flat-bladed screwdriver.  You may need to get a blade under both sides at once for some types of keyboard.

You need the following keys - All should be approximately the same size : -
All the letter keys - A to Z.
8 of the function keys. Choose what you like from F1 to F12.
PgUp, PgDn, Delete, Insert, Esc, Home and End.

If it's an old keyboard it may be pretty mucky.  I found the quick and easy way was to put them loose into the bottom of the dishwasher with the pots and pans.  Run the cycle and they come out clean and sparkly.  (I can take no responsibility if fewer than 41 keys come out ;¬)
Alternatively, you could put them in the washing bag and run them through a washing machine cycle

If you now have 41 keycaps in a bag, a game timer and a pencil and paper, your KeyWords set is complete and you can go and find an opponent.

Step 3: How to Play KeyWords.

These rules and this method of play has developed over several matches but feel free to add, remove, modify or totally ignore them.  The rules below give a very playable game with a good balance of skill and luck, but post comments if you have proven improvements.  Please comment if anything needs clarification.

Players should agree in advance how many points or rounds constitute a match.
The game starts with all the keys mixed up in the bag and the opposite player turning over the timer.

Use 'Scrabble' type rules for allowed words, but if you're spending more time arguing over validity of words then playing the game then you're not playing it in the spirit which it's intended. Plurals are fine.  Vulgarities may be used by mutual consent.

KEYS are divided into three categories : 
a)  The LETTER keys (26) - You only score points for these.
b)  The FUNKEYS (8) - F1, F2 F3 etc. These are wildcards and can be used as any letter.
c)  The ACTION keys (7) - Home, Esc, Insert etc. These give a bonus or forfeit, or end the game.

The idea of the game is to draw keys alternately from the bag and make words.  At the end of a round the number of LETTERS in your complete words determine the score for the round.  LETTERS in your longest word score double.  FUNKEYS do not count towards the score.
Any LETTERS and FUNKEYS which are not part of a word are deducted from your score.

Words are made from LETTERS and FUNKEYS. 
No more than half the keys in a word can be FUNKEYS. 
E.g.  TOAD, TO(f)D and T(f)A(f) are OK.  T(f)(f)(f) is not.

The ACTION keys must be acted on immediately. 
Once used, they are put on the table and not back in the bag. 
Any LETTERS affected by the ACTION keys are put back in the bag.

Where 'hand' is mentioned below it means the collection of keys on the table in front of a player.

The ACTION keys effects are as follows :-
PGUP - Draw 2 KEYS from the bag and add them to your hand
PGDN - Draw 1 KEY from the bag and put it in your opponent's hand.
HOME - Take 1 LETTER from your hand and replace it in the bag.
DELETE - Take 1 LETTER from your opponent and put it back in the bag.
INSERT - Take 1 LETTER from your opponent and put it in your hand.
ESC - One of your LETTERS escapes to your opponent (your choice).
END - Drawing this key means the IMMEDIATE END of the round and the points are counted.

If an ACTION key is drawn as the result of another ACTION key, the ACTIONS are also acted upon.

If an ACTION key affects your opponents hand, they cannot make any changes to their words until it is their turn.  They cannot repair any broken words until then. 

Order of play :

Start of turn - Take a KEY from the bag.

If it's a LETTER or FUNKEY, rearrange your hand to include the new letter in a word, if you can.
You may just add it to an existing word or make new words.  The FUNKEYS can be used as any letter (but not more than 1/2 the word) and the letter it represents can be changed at will.
The player must say what a word is if it contains FUNKEYS.

If the key is an ACTION key then refer to the list above to see what effect it has.
If the END key has been drawn IMMEDIATELY score the round.

You have until the timer runs out to make changes. 
Once the timer runs out you MUST NOT TOUCH your letters until your next turn. 

Turn over the timer to start your opponent's turn.

Watch the timer like a hawk!  He has to turn it over as soon as it has expired.

Once your opponent has had his go and turned the timer, it's your go again.

Scoring :

Each player scores ONE POINT for each LETTER in a word but TWO POINTS for each LETTER in his LONGEST word. 
If there are two longest words the same length then you lose the bonus and letters are scored ONE POINT each.
FUNKEYS do not score any points.

LETTERS and FUNKEYS which are not part of a word deduct ONE POINT each.

Add up the points for each player and add them to the score on the pad.

First player to the agreed total (or the most points after the agreed number of rounds) is the winner.

Step 4: An Example Game of KeyWords - Page 1

I've split this down into three parts as it was impossible to scroll through the pictures easily with all on one page.  Step through the pics to see how the game develops.  Hover over the yellow boxes for more detail.

Make the game set - Play the game - HAVE FUN!

Step 5: An Example Game of KeyWords - Page 2

Make the game set - Play the game - HAVE FUN!

Step 6: An Example Game of KeyWords - Page 3

Strategy :

Longest word should be as long as possible with the minimum of FUNKEYS, but watch out for unused letters as these will deduct from your score. 
At some point you may have to break your long word down into shorter words so always keep possibilities in mind.
Make use of the stealing ACTION keys by breaking your opponent's words. 
Remember that END key could come out at any time.

Make the game set - Play the game - HAVE FUN!

(I'd liked to have entered this in the 'dead computer' contest, but can't due to the regional restrictions #;¬(

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    3 Discussions


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Brilliant! i love the idea of using an old jeyboard to play games....where did that broken keyboard go...?
    5* and faved


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Looks good! Will finish reading the rules when I'm less tired :)