Have you ever wondered if it’s possible to spell out words using the elemental symbols on the periodic table? No, me neither. But I wish I had, it would’ve made chemistry class much more interesting growing up. This is exactly what you do in FReNeTic! A unique and enjoyable word game where you compete against other players to combine elements from the periodic table and produce as many words as you can.
Off the box
- Players: 2+
- Ages: 8 years and up.
- Playtime: ~20 Minutes*
- Designer: Graeme Fraser-Bell
- Publisher: Accentuate Games Limited
- Key game mechanics: Word Game, Party Game, and Real-time.
* This is an estimate based on our game plays – playtime is not mentioned on the box!
How do you play FReNeTiC?
In FReNeTiC, you and your fellow players compete to create words using the symbols on the periodic table – the winner is the player who reaches 1000 points first.
The first player randomly chooses 8 tiles from the element bag and places them face up on the board. The game board is a large periodic table and each tile must be placed in its designated space. These are the elements in play for the first round and the only elements that can be used to spell out words. They turn the 45 second timer and all players experiment with the elements jotting down any words they can make. Don’t be surprised if hardly any words are being made in the first round or two. Even I, a literary genius, would struggle with just Nb, Fe, Pb, and H in play…FeHNb is a word, right?
When the 45 seconds are over you must stop writing and put your pencils down. The first player shares the all the words from their list and everyone else crosses out these words (if they appear on their own list). Then the next player reads out the remaining words on their list and everyone else removes them from their lists. This continues till all players have read out their lists and any disagreements on words resolved. You then score up your words. The score for each word consists of the atomic number on each of the symbol tiles used in a word (if you used a tile twice in a word you add the atomic number twice).
The first player moves around the table to the next player who takes 4 new tiles from the element bag and places them on the board ready for the next round. Play continues like this until the first player scores 1000 points and the winner is declared.
Is FReNeTiC a complex game?
There’s a wonderful sense of simplicity to FReNeTiC that is rooted in the streamlined rules and range of game components. This simplicity is part of its charm. You can get FReNeTiC out of the box and ready to play in minutes. When explaining the rules to new players, it doesn’t delay the game because there are only a handful of them. But don’t confuse simplicity with easy, because FReNeTiC definitely isn’t easy. You’re presented with a real challenge of crafting the best words from the limited options in front of you and with only 45 seconds to achieve it. 45 seconds is as short as it sounds, and its over before you know it.
Do I need to be good at words to win?
As FReNeTiC is a word game it helps if you have a good vocabulary. However, the requirement to be a word wizard is balanced out by the way the game scores words. The score is based on the atomic number of each of the symbols used which is defined by its scientific properties not by its usefulness in word crafting. Therefore, unlike other word games such as Scrabble, scoring can almost appear random due to the variation in scores that words can achieve. This also provides an interesting strategic angle as it is much more fruitful to focus on creating words using higher value tiles then it is to focus on creating the most eloquent words.
Finding a long list of words to ensure a number of words reach the scoring phase of the turn is perhaps the best strategy overall.
In reality, the time limit reduces a player’s ability to strategise in FReNeTiC. Instead of a turn being a well executed mission for complex words it’s more likely to be a chaotic scrabble for anything you can find.
What player count do I need to have a good game?
As a two-player game, FReNeTiC is excellent; it’s unique, competitive and quick. I whole-heartedly recommend FReNeTiC to those looking for a great two-player word game. I wish I could say the same thing for a four player game, but I can’t.
My issue with the 4-player game can be explained by:
- The scoring of non-unique words: A game of FReNeTiC typically lasts around 3 to 4 rounds. As the player order determines the priority of who gets to score a particular word (i.e. the first player scores a word where the other players have to cross it off their lists), the game feels imbalanced. Sure, the ‘first player’ role gets passed on, but by the time the last player in a 4-player game gets to go first, the game could be over! If it isn’t, as there’s so many tiles on the board the impact of the first player advantage is drastically reduced as players will be able to create a wider range of words which are unlikely to completely cross over.
I have wondered if adding or altering a few rules would help. For example, expanding the target score (to 1500+) or only scoring unique words (like in Boggle). I’ll let you know how these house rules goes when I get a chance to try them out…
- The downtime between rounds: The time between each round expands when you have additional players. Each player has to go through each of their words and score them and tot up their current total. Not forgetting that the tiles for the new round also need to be added to the board. This provides a lot of time for players who aren’t actively scoring up or laying out tiles to be staring at the board and finding new words. Yes, they’re cheating, but that’s because the stagnation of the game has provided them with the opportunity.
Is FReNeTiC good value for money?
FReNeTiC retails at around £20, this is a great price for game which will quickly become you’re go to word game. Each game of FReNeTiC presents you with a different combination from the 96 tiles in a different order, which gives a fresh challenge each time you play. Unlike other word games, FReNeTiC has much less repetitiveness in the words that are made in each round. I can remember playing Boggle as a teenager and the same small words would appear (TON, NOT, TEN, NET, etc.). This makes the game less challenging and boring. So far, I haven’t noticed the same in FReNeTiC, but I have seen a few repeat words appear as we’ve learnt some of the combinations. So maybe, FReNeTiC will feel just as repetitive in the future after a good numbers of additional plays. Only time will tell, but I doubt it!
I think the game components are a fair quality. With a higher retail price I’m sure Accentuate Games could have done more with the components but for £20 I have no grumbles what so ever. They’re well-made, sturdy, and I’m not concerned about how long they’ll last. I also appreciate the decision to make the game board and symbol tiles a good size it makes it clearly visible for all players. Aesthetically, I would have preferred that the symbol tiles were more boldly coloured, like they’re shown on the box cover, but this is purely personal preference.
Summary and Verdict
I’m not typically a word game player, so I was surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed playing FReNeTiC.
I like the creativity of FReNeTiC. Trying to create words with the small selection of symbols on the periodic table provides a unique challenge. Working with the symbols provides a freshness and a difficulty which just isn’t part other words games where you’re dealing with single letters.
I also appreciate how easy the game is to pick up and play; the simple rules and minimal set-up make it an easy game to unbox and get going.
I definitely feel that the FReNeTiC is best as a 2-player game. But I’m looking forward to trying out a few house rules that will make the game work better with more players.
VERDICT: Recommended play for 2 players.
And if you haven’t understood a word of what I’ve been rambling on about I leave you with this:
I’d love to see a cool video combining FReNeTiC with this song… but ill leave that to you Accentuate Games Ltd!
Disclosure – I was fortunate enough to be given a review copy of FReNeTiC by Accentuate Games Limited. My views, opinions and discussions about the the game are my honest opinions, and are not effected by this.