Review: Decipher – every character is a mystery


I remember it like today, when I first wrote my first word in a notebook. Carefully with an ink pen. Our writing teacher praised me and I was proud of my writing as the time went by. Twenty years later, no one writes with a pen anymore. Everyone just knocks on the keyboard, and if someone leaves you a handwritten message somewhere, deciphering it is a task worthy of Sherlock Holmes.

And it is such letter, that detectives – players in the game – will receive. Its based on an older game by , , and created a novelty, the first and last of which also participated in the original classics from 1981. The release was completed by and they entrusted illustrations to a well known author named . The entire result is then distributed throughout Europe by .

On the colored lid, we see a pair of faces and a lot of objects flying around them. Under the lid is a game board in the shape of a small mushroom, which has two sides. Both are divided into a series of slices used for guessing, but in the meantime, they set the board aside. Players fill up compartments in the plastic bottom of the box with letter tokens and transparent parts of letters, but also create a pile of NO tokens. In addition to all this, there must be room for a scorepad, a pencil and a word holder. Participants must then agree on how long the words to guess should be. Each is then given a set of three guess tokens of his chosen color. They place remaining tokens with numbers, decryption and bonuses on the side for now.


One of the players takes on the role of a puzzle maker. This player turns the box towards him and covers the view with the help of the mentioned decryption board. He then places a word binder in the bottom of the box and creates a word with the help of square tokens. Each letter is already printed with different colored parts, exactly as it will need to be guessed. It is according to these instructions, that puzzle maker prepares also the supply of letter parts, which he places in a tray also in the board game box.

Now all bins and components will be covered by the puzzle maker with the help of a decryption board. Only the tray with all the letter parts needed to compose the correct word remains visible. But according to the length of the word, player has to choose the right side of the board. He will also place bonus and decryption tokens on it, so they are available to successful players.

Then it’s the turn of the guessers, who alternate in their search for answer. The person, who created the word, selects any of the available parts of the letter and places it on the guessing board. He can choose (rather guess at the beginning) its position and puzzle maker will answer, if its correct place or not. Depending on the length of the word, it can be one field out of three but also one in six places. If the piece belongs here, it will remain lying in the slice. Otherwise, the player marks this place with the help of the NO token with the corresponding color and shape. That way, the team can easily remember their failures.


Each such NO token brings a point to the word creator. Therefore, guessing players must try to get to the whole reveal as quickly as possible. The placement of the pieces continues until the last three pieces are in stock. At that point, the bonus phase begins, where each of the remaining pieces has a value of two points for the creator of the word instead of one.

However, players are not obliged to get that far. They can try to guess a mysterious word at any time during the round, even much sooner with less word parts available. Before that, a player who wants to guess must hand over one of his guessing tokens to the word master. Then he can guess. If he fails, the game continues. If some of the players uses up his third token, he is eliminated from the round.

Once the round ends with the correct guess, players will score the points earned. The creator of the word gets them for NO tokens, bonus chips and mistakes in guessing. He will also receive an extra five-point bonus, if no one has guessed the word. Other players get a reward for unused guess tokens and the author of the correct tip receives another reward. The game then continues for the next rounds, so that the players all can try on the role of word maker. Then all the rounds have to be summed up and the participant, who has the most points in total becomes the winner.


Decipher is a game, that takes basis of placing letters in a specific place from the classic game of Hangman and give it a completely new meaning. The original game Runes is a nearly 30-year-old classic, that is now enriched with wonderful processing and seems fine-tuned to perfection. Its it really true.

A party game with letters often promises great fun, but in the end, it doesn’t happen. However, this is not the case with this game, the course of which is cleverly divided into several phases that intersect. Players must first collect the correct pieces for the letters (here you can recognize traces of another classic Mastermind) and during that time, they also might try to combine them into letters and into a word as quickly as possible, even if the letters are still incomplete. That mechanism is really incredibly fun and addictive and you get better as you play it repeatedly.

Players get help with their task from colored pieces, which have clearly defined positions in the individual letters. Thanks to this, it is possible to successfully deduce identity of some letters and look for connections after the first few moves and successes, even when no letter is still clearly visible.


It is clear, that the longer word you hide, the more difficult the overall effort will be. This affects not only the difficulty of guessing, but also the length of the round and the whole game. And so, with smaller three-letter words, you get to the four ends in the promised thirty minutes, for words with six characters, the situation is much more challenging and the games last more, it can be around 45 minutes.

Everyone gets a chance to be a word maker. And because he has complete freedom, it’s up to him to try to keep his opponent guessing and make it hard to put together the letters correctly. Three and four characters are much more for learning or for playing with younger children, the real battle begins with words with five and six letters. This is a real challenge of Decipher. Although at first glance it seems complicated, the game is beautifully simple and its rules are described basically on three sheets.


A great help in the overall experience is the game box and the design of individual elements with having gameplay in mind. Cardboard letter tokens are probably the weakest link, but even so, the letters can be read well and that’s what they are for. The parts themselves and their gradual life cycle in each round are really well thought out and everything looks really effective and makes your game easier to manage.

Word games always have a great potential and Decipher can make the most of it. This is one of the most unique and fun letter games we have played. There is no real negative, that can be reasonably found in the game (if we disregard the chance at the beginning of each round). Given the fact, that the game is intended for families and for parties, we can simply mark Decipher as amazing game.

DesignerBill Eberle, Peter Olotka, Greg Olotka
ArtistKwanchai Moriya
PublisherHeidelBÄR Games, Asmodee Italia, Atalia, FoxGames, Outland
Year Published
# of Players2 - 4
User Suggested # of Players Best with 4+ players
Recommended with 2, 3, 4 players
(5 voters)
Playing Time30
Mfg Suggested Ages10 and up
User Suggested Ages6 and up
(1 voters)
CategoryDeduction, Word Game
FamilyDigital Implementations: Tabletopia, Misc: LongPack Games
Primary NameDecipher
Alternate NamesEnigma

Infos courtesy of More Infos.


Review: Decipher – every character is a mystery
Final word
Decipher is a surprising word guessing game. However, players must first gather enough clues, because the secret word and its letters consist of different colored parts. For those, players gradually reveal their positions and only during the round can they finally reveal what letters and words are involved. The game offers a very interesting gameplay, it is very distrinctive and fun and the choice of words is entirely up to the players. There are even difficulty levels according to length. Decipher is an excellent word game, that is a mix of Hangman and Mastermind, but unique and extremely fun.
Reader Rating0 Votes
a great combination of fun activities
excellent processing tied to game progress
enough points to get
everyone creates a word
guessing is exciting
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