My eldest son, Harrison, laps up the sciences. He can regularly be found with his head in a book about the Periodic Table. I’m not sure where he gets that from, as it isn’t his parents! So when the lovely people at Accentuate games offered him a copy of FReNeTiC, he excitedly said yes please!
I have very few memories of chemistry classes. It was not a subject that I particularly enjoyed. In my head, lessons should’ve been about explosions, bubbling liquids and plumes of smoke. It rarely was. I think the smell of a Bunsen burner will live in my memory forever though. Bunsen burner lessons were cool. I will also remember that I was allowed to stick my finger into a glass of mercury. I say ‘allowed’ as the teacher said we could, but I am not entirely sure the school’s health and safety policy would’ve permitted it. Needless to say that teacher got sacked a few years after. Don’t get me wrong I fluked a B in my Chemistry GCSE, but from that moment on, Chemistry was promptly forgotten. Until now…
Setup of the game is straight forward. Unfurl the large board. Allocate every player a pencil and score pad. Then draw eight tiles at random from the bag of tiles. Place these on the board. You are now good to go, I told you it was straight forward!
The first player then turns the 45 second timer and everyone makes as many words as they can using the letters available on the tiles. If you haven’t worked it out yet, each letter tile represents a chemical symbol and using that letter scores the points of its atomic number. At the end of the round the first player reads out their list of words and scores them. Other players cross out any words they have duplicated. Then, in clockwise order, players announce any other words they managed to get and score accordingly.
Words must be formed from at least two tiles and cannot be duplicated throughout the game, unless created with different tiles.
There are 5 blank tiles marked with the ‘FReNeTiC’ logo. These blank tiles are kept by anyplayer who draws one. They can be used in any round to act as any symbol on the periodic table board to assist in forming a word and scores the same as the tile would’ve. A really handy tile to ramp up a score at any point. But beware, they can be stolen if an opponent spells out a chemical element, such as TiN.
The first player to accumulate 1000 points wins.
What it’s like
The first few rounds of FReNeTiC will usually be low scoring, but once a few vowels and s’s come out the bag, the word building ramps up another level. Being first player when those tiles are drawn, can give that player a lucky advantage.
The time limit, combined with seeing other people furiously scribbling words down on their own pad, piles on the pressure and gives the game its name. Speaking from experience, there will be some rounds where it feels like you have had the Men in Black pop up and wipe your vocabulary. These brain farts happen to me at least once, every time I play.
The one thing that always surprises me is how quick FReNeTiC plays, the 45 second turns fly by and scores quickly fly up to the mid-hundreds. Entire games last around 15-25 minutes so it never outstays its welcome. Often you will play another game straight away.
Like with many word games, such as Scrabble, age and skill can offera huge advantage. Our children struggle to be truly competitive with us. But the older two can pretty much be competitive with each other. As a result we won’t be playing this regularly as a family until they are a bit older. An extra turn of the egg timer for less experienced players may work for some.
The rule book will get you playing in no time, it is easy to follow and concise. The board is clear and nicely designed too. With more players the board does benefit from being turned (or players swapping seats) as seeing the board the right way up is an advantage. The tiles are simple but effective and coloured by their periodic table groupings.
I’m not a fan of egg timers, they are probably my least favourite game component ever. So the use of one in FReNeTiC, grates more for me than it might for you. But I do believe it would be better served with an electronic timer. The reason being, when all players have a mere 45 seconds to form words you don’t want to be having to glance up and keep checking the egg timer.
Adding up is a constant requirement and I dare say most will reach for their phones to help keep tally. I guess a little FReNeTiC calculator in the box might be nice to have, particularly for those wanting to keep the phones from the table.
What the kids thought
George (10): I did like it, but I did find it a bit complicated.
Harrison (13): FReNeTiC is a really good game and I love the idea and theme. It is definitely in my top ten games.
Final thoughts on FReNeTiC
Word games are always going to struggle to compete with the age old goliath, Scrabble. FReNeTiC holds its own by being very different and considerably quicker. The tie-in with the periodic table is an interesting twist which some science buffs, like my son, will adore.
FReNeTiC will get pulled off the shelf more frequently than Scrabble, mostly because of the speed of play. However, it won’t be as frequent as some other games, as it doesn’t offer the inclusive family experience for us. When our children have grown up a little and can be a bit more competitive, it might see a bit more table time.
As a learning aid, this does teach children how the elements are arranged, but this is predominantly a word game, with plenty of adding up too!
This board game really succeeds in making the brain cells work. FReNeTiC offers pacey turns and a short overall game time that will keep all players interacting the whole time.
Number of players: 2 to 12
Board Game Review Recommended Age: 8+
Publisher’s Recommended Age: 10+
Playing Time: 1 minute
Setting Up and Take Down Time: 1 minute
Designers: Graeme Fraser-Bell
Publisher: Accentuate Games
FReNeTiC is a fun game and offers something quite unique in the word game genre. Chemistry lovers will also rejoice at the theme! Fans of Scrabble will find this a quick and interesting alternative.
Artwork and Components
Value for Money
- Easy to learn
- Quick to play
- Fun Twist on the word game genre
- Everyone playing at the same time
- Luck of the tiles on your turn
- Not equal when playing with younger players
- Relies on egg timer
- Some adding up
Need more games?
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