Montage is a word game that will suit crossword enthusiasts of either the quick or cryptic kind.
You need four players forming teams of two. The board – broken into nine zones – goes centrally on the table and represents a kind of crossword – it’s seeded with several coloured discs at the start (representing letters) and one team is represented by the light side of these discs, and the other dark. There will also be some ‘blocking’ discs (representing the blacked-in squares of a crossword where words begin and end).
But as we said, the discs also represent letters – in front of you you’ll have a guide to the five different coloured discs and the letters they can represent. On a given turn, the active player chooses a part of the board in front of them with at least one disc in it, horizontally or vertically, and makes up a crossword clue for the missing letters. For instance, if they have a purple disc at the start then the word must begin with one of I, L, M, N, or K; as denoted by the guide. And if the final disc is an orange it must end with A, B, C, D, or Z. The empty spaces can be any letter you like. Decide on a legal word, then give a clue in the style of a crossword puzzle to your word.
Once you’ve given your clue, both your team-mate and the opposition are trying to work out the answer. As soon as someone thinks they have worked it out (or conceivably for the opposition, wants to bluff they have) they knock on the table. If your team-mate knocks before both of the other team do, they get to guess. If both the opposition team knock before your team-mate does, you choose one of them to make a guess. In either case if the person guesses right, then the area is filled with discs turned either dark or light side up (depending on who won). If the guesser is wrong, no discs are added.
If your team-mate successfully guessed the word, and the word contained more than one disc in it already, you get to take a second go! But lastly – crucially – Montage moves very very fast – from the moment your turn begins a timer is flipped, and you have a single minute to decide a location, give a clue, and have it guessed correctly!
As soon as one team had ten discs of their own shade in a zone of the board, they ‘win’ that zone. First team to four zone victories wins the game outright.
This is a delight. A high-pressure, oh-my-word-what-is-it or oh-my-word-what-clue-can-I-give delight, but a delight nonetheless. Originally published an astonishing half-century ago, Montage stands up very well and is beautifully presented too. Not one for the little ones, but if word puzzles are your bag (and you have three willing accomplices) it’s a wonderful game.
Montage is just great, and its relative obscurity must have more to do with the fact that it requires four people to play as two teams than the quality of the gameplay, which is really clever and a lot of fun. Stressful fun – that timer keeps ticking, and when one of your opponents has knocked, you’re just willing your partner to knock before the other opponent. I am a crossword fan and I like the limits on clue-giving – at most five words, and no rhyming or’opposites’. It’s really pretty too, and it would look completely befuddling to passers-by (always a bonus, in my opinion) – nothing but coloured discs on a board, and four people sitting around giving word clues? Brilliant!
There's no combat or theft, but you are in direct competition.
None, unless you count a few seconds on the timer whilst a clue is worked out.
You can play it giving simple clues or cryptic ones, depending on the company. But you really don't have much time to craft devilish clues, because the timer keeps things moving.
For the right bunch, there's enormous replayability here as the game functions entirely on what you put into it.