In the wide world of Wordle alternatives, competitive versions are especially tricky to design. What does it mean to play against somebody? How do you interact? How thrilling is the victory, how agonizing the defeat? Squabble is chaotic and nerve-wracking, and P3nto is nearly inscrutable. But a newcomer, Mordle, has become my favourite.
When you play Mordle, you wait just a moment while the lobby fills up with other players. Up to 100 people may be allowed in; the games I played were usually with 20 to 30 others.
Then you see a Wordle-like game board — everybody will need to find the same word — and it’s a race to see who solves it first. If you run out of guesses, you’re out, of course. A scoreboard at the top tells you how many people have lost, how many have completed the puzzle, and how many are still playing.
My first game, I won: first place out of 30 people. The next one I found more challenging, and came in 11th out of 20. Then second out of 19. Then I lost a game, guessing wrong on my final try. (You get six guesses per puzzle, just like regular Wordle.)
You’re working against a five-minute clock, as well as trying to beat your fellow players. I was able to pause thoughtfully between my guesses and still place well, which means other people were doing the same. This makes the game different from Squabble, in which speed brings a bigger advantage. (After all, failing to solve a puzzle in Squabble doesn’t kick you out of the game, it just takes your score down a few points.)
There’s also a “sprint” version of Mordle, where you have to solve three puzzles in ten minutes. First person to get all three right is the winner; I came in eighth out of 31 on my first play of that version. The game’s makers promise an “elevenses” version coming soon, where you’ll try to solve as many puzzles as possible in ten minutes and the person who solves the most will be declared the winner. I’m game.