Letter Treasure

So the hourglass is rapidly running out for finding a gift, and it is almost Christmas eve. You have a limited amount of money and a limited willingness to spend it. You don't have inspired ideas, and don't have an exciting gift. Consumerism is in the air, and that does not necessarilly make people happy. Oh, and there's a pandemic. What are you going to do?

You could do worse than making the Letter Treasure game, which you can find on the Games page, for a fun experience. You can easily make this at the last minute by yourself or with others, or even after the last minute.

I don't want to oversell this. On the contrary, it is held together by string and bubblegum, because it has not been tested.

You know that classic trope of digging in the sand to find buried treasure? You could dig here and that spot and there until you find your valuable treasure.

So how about each of the 4-7 players has ten letters, visibly laid out in front. There are envelopes on the table, each containing a player's name (maybe a "nobody" or two). On the outside of the envelope there is a word like TURKEY, PICKLE, AROMA, BEAVER, SPONGE.

During your turn you can trade a letter with a willing player, or draw and replace a letter from the deck. If you can spell one of the words, like PICKLE, you can secretly look at the name in the envelope. If it is your name, you win. If not, well, that's where things get complicated.

It may be a pedestrian game. On the other hand, there may be various shenanigans regarding information. The randomness of getting the treasure is also kind of exciting and helps to even the odds for players.

This game will be called Letter Treasure.

The quality of this game is unknown. The rules are simple, and it shouldn't be too hard to get people to try this around the holidays. It is easy to make. You could even make it on the day. I plan to, with assistance.

Some candidate words include TURKEY, PICKLE, BEAVER, SPONGE

To figure out which letters to make, just take the target words and split them up into letters.

Should the squares with letters have coloured letters, or black letters? Colours add, well, colour, while black letters are more visible and straightforward, as well as easier to make.
The letters used are tied to what the key words are. The key words are tied to how many players are playing. The number of players playing is unknown until you sit down to play. Hmm.. I'm working out what the key words are. TURKEY, PICKLE, ONION, RAINBOW
Rhubarb is a neat word. Serpent?

As for which letters are used, using the regular alphabet may be best (as opposed to using the letters in the key words). This will allow flexibility for adding new key words.

I'm worried that while the goal is to have a lot of deduction and spy vs. spy action with information, in practise someone will win because they got lucky by spelling the right key word. Let's look for a bug fix. Note that when players know the contents of other envelopes, they can deduce which envelope is theirs.

Option 1: Vanilla. There is something to be said for using luck. Little Sally might win. Also a player won't feel locked out "Don't trade with Steve".
Option 2: Each player gets to look at the envelope belonging to one other player. (How would you do this?)
Option 3: Like Option 2, but you have to spell the other player's envelope.

Some sort of partial clue with letters? I don't know.

It looks like I jumped the gun on this one. Note that it still hasn't been tested. It seemed attractive. There is a runaway winner problem.
Early in the game Keith spelled RAINBOW, and saw Jenna's name in it. If Jenna starts to spell RAINBOW, he will discourage other players from trading with Jenna, preferably without Jenna knowing, and Keith will not be inclined to trade with her. Let the games begin!
Jeff starts out by trying to spell TURKEY, which has his name in the envelope. Jeff cluelessly plows ahead and wins because of luck. For good measure nobody else knows the name in the TURKEY envelope, because he is gathering the letters to spell it.

Here is another bug to watch out for: Keith has spelled TURKEY, and he has done that envelope. Ralph is done spelling ONION. They spend the next five turns trading with each other. Not wrong, but not fun.

The original concept wasn't letters at all, but non-letter pieces or cards. Is John going for the blue-red-white envelope, or the two blues and two whites envelope?

Maybe players gather letters to spell a secret word, a word for that person not on the envelope. Can Keith figure out which word John is trying to spell?