How to Play Upwords (Rules and Instructions)

Scrabble enthusiasts will love this take on a classic: Upwords. If you are good with words and like a challenge, this is the game for you. This guide will explain Upwords rules so you can play like a pro!

Upwords is suitable for family game night or in the classroom. It is excellent for people with strong vocabularies and people looking to build their vocabulary. Either way, you are sure to love Upwords. 

If you like Scrabble or Words with Friends, you are in the right place. Unlike these other games, Upwords allows you to actually build words on top of other words.

Continue reading to find out everything you need to know about how to play Upwords. 

What is Upwords?

Upwords Game Info image

Upwords is a board game originally created by the Milton Bradley Company and has since been sold to Spin Master, Inc. Today, Upwords is available in around 20 different languages. 

The game is played on a grid where letters are placed to create words. Letters can be stacked on top of each other to create new words and earn more points. 

Skills required to play Upwords include vocabulary, counting, and strategy. 

Number of Players: 2 to 4 players

Ages: 10 and up

Difficulty: Medium

Length of Play: 45 to 90 minutes 

Similar To: Scrabble; Words with Friends

Main Objective: Build words to score the most points.

Why We Love it: It’s a fun take on a classic board game. It requires outwitting your friends and family.

A Brief History of Upwords

Upwords was created by Elliot Rudell in 1981 and was originally sold to the Milton Bradley Company. In 2018, it was licensed for Spin Master, Inc. and had been with Spin Master since. 

At one time, Upwords was even known as Scrabble Upwords in the United States and Canada. 

Upwords began as an 8×8 grid of 64 tiles but was later changed to a grid of 10×10 with 100 tiles to help accommodate the longer words that are found in other languages such as German. The grid is still 10×10 to this day.

The game’s electronic rights were briefly given to Microsoft during the 1990s, but Microsoft no longer claims the game. 

What You Need to Play Upwords

Almost everything you need to play Upwords is included in the box. 

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The box includes:

  • Plastic gameboard
  • 100 plastic letter tiles ( 1 J, Qu, V, X, Z; 2 K, W, Y; 3 B, F, G, H, P; 4 C; 5 D, L, M, N, R, T, U; 6 S, 7 A, I, O; 8 E)
  • 4 plastic tile racks
  • 4 rubber feet
  • Label sheet

You will want to have a pencil, a piece of paper, and a dictionary on hand to play. 

How to Play Upwords 

  • The first time you play, turn the gameboard upside-down and put on the rubber feet. Turn the gameboard back over and apply the label sheet to the smooth area. 
  • Get a pencil and paper to keep score. 
  • Grab a dictionary in case you need to check if words are allowed to be played or not. 
  • Put all of the letters in the center of the table. Turn the letters upside down so that you cannot see the letters. 
  • Each player should take one of the tile racks. 
  • Each player should take one of the letter tiles. Everyone should look at the letter tiles. The person with the letter closest to “A” will go first. 
  • Put the letter tiles back in the middle of the table and mix the letters up. 
  • Take turns so that each player draws 7 letter tiles. Put the tiles on your rack, and ensure that your opponents do not see your letter tiles. 
  • Player 1 will make a word of 2 or more letters and place it on one of the 4 middle tiles on the gameboard. 
  • The subsequent players will take turns making words on the game board using 1 or more tiles. They can create a new word that connects to another word already on the board, or they can stack the letters to change the words on the board. Count your points for ALL of the words you made and grab new tiles from the pile to replace the ones you put on the game board. 

Upwords Rules

Upwords has several rules that should be followed when playing: 

  1. You can only play words that read left-to-right across or down; you cannot play words that read up or diagonally. 
  2. Any letter that is next to your tiles must make a new word. 
  3. During your turn, all letters must be placed in the same row, either across or down. You cannot do both. 
  4. You cannot place more than one new tile on a stack at one time. 
  5. You cannot just add an “s” to the end of the word to make a plural. You can add an “s” to one word and create a new word in a different direction. 
  6. No stack may be more than 5 tiles high. 
  7. You cannot stack a letter on an identical letter. 
  8. You cannot stack a tile onto every letter of another word in a single turn; at least one tile must be unchanged. 

These are the general rules for Upwords; however, many people like to make their own rules. 

How to Score Words in Upwords

  • 2 points are given to each letter tile when words are formed one letter high
  • 1 point is given to each letter tile when words are formed where the letters are stacked 2 tiles or more high. You should count each letter in the word you made and each letter under the letters in the word you made to get your score. 
  • 2 bonus points are given if you use “Qu” in a word that is one letter tile high. You do not get any bonus points if you use “Qu” in a word that is more than one letter tile high. 
  • 20 bonus points are given if you use all 7 of your letter tiles in a single turn. 
  • Each word that you make will be scored, even if you made more than one word. 
  • When the game is over, subtract 5 points for every letter tile you have left on your rack. 

Illegal Words

Some words in Upwords are “illegal” or not allowed to be played. A word is illegal if: 

  • It is a word that should always be capitalized (names, places, etc.).
  • It is a word that is hyphenated.
  • It is a word that has an apostrophe (such as a contraction). 
  • It is an abbreviation. 
  • It is a prefix or suffix and not a complete word.
  • It is a word from a foreign language that is not in the English dictionary. 

How to Challenge a Word

If you think another player misspelled a word or used an illegal word, you can challenge them. You have to challenge the word before the next player has played a word. 

If the word is wrong or illegal, that player must remove the word from the board and play a different word or pass. 

How to Pass

If you do not have a word to play or want to skip your turn, you can be passed for one turn. 

How to Exchange Letter Tiles

If you don’t like your letter tiles, you can exchange 1 letter tile for 1 in the pile. However, if you do this, you lose a turn.

How to Finish the Game

The game is over if: 

  • A player uses all of the letter tiles on their rack, and there are no more letters left in the pile to pick up.
  • No player can make a word with the letter tiles they have on their rack, and there are no more letter tiles left in the pile.
  • All of the players have passed their turn in order (player 1 passed, then player 2 passed, then player 3 passed, etc.). 

If the game is over, subtract the remaining letter tiles from the scores and tally the final scores. 

Whoever has the highest score wins!

Upwords Video Instructions

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Upwords a Fun Game to Play? 

Yes! Upwords is a fun and challenging game that requires a strong vocabulary and skill to score higher than your opponents. 

Is Upwords better than Scrabble? 

This depends on personal preference. Some people prefer Upwords, and some people prefer Scrabble. However, in Upwords, all words have the same amount of points, whereas, in Scrabble, each letter has a different points value. Another key difference is that in Upwords, you can build words up, but in Scrabble, you cannot. 

Can Upwords be played online? 

Yes! Upwords can be played online here. You can also download it on Android and Apple Products. 

Alternative Games to Upwords

If playing Upwords leaves you wanting more word games, then we’ve got some great ideas for you! 

Scrabble is an excellent alternative to Upwords. In Scrabble, you will use a gameboard similar to Upwords and create words going either down or across (left-to-right). Both Scrabble and Upwords have similar objectives: to score higher than your opponents. 

Bananagrams (see Bananagrams rules) is another popular word game. Unlike Upwords, Bananagrams does not use a board for gameplay. Bananagrams is played with more starting words and is aimed at a younger audience.

Boggle (see Boggle rules) is another game that creates words. Some key differences are that in Boggle, there are dice instead of letter tiles, and the dice are shown to all players. Then, the players make words from the letters that are shown. 

If you are looking for more similar games, be sure to check out our list of word games like Wordle.

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Read all the articles (4) written by Sammy Bohannon