Split Run

Playing The Final Word’s “Split Run” during game night at Fix Ur Cat in North Strabane Township are, from left, Leo Kennedy, Gary Malaskovitz, Faye Klein, Holly Hicks-Opperman, Michelle Bruce and Andrea Tomsic.

The creator of the card game The Final Word can easily sum up her game: “One deck of cards. So many ways to play.”

Peters Township resident Faye Klein is up to 18 variations and counting for her deck of 120 cards, each printed with a letter of the alphabet that is assigned a certain point value.

Faye Klein

Harry Funk/The Almanac

Faye Klein, creator of The Final Word

Yes, she and her husband, Leo Kennedy, like to play Scrabble, and The Final Word draws on a few of the enduringly popular tile game’s features. But a quick demonstration by Klein displays the differences, beyond not needing a board for her cards.

She’ll start with the variation called “Last Man Standing,” which she said is the fastest Final Word game to learn, especially for children. Each player – there can be up to six – receives 10 cards to begin.

Player One then places cards on the table to spell a word in English, no proper names or contractions, with another caveat:

“Unlike Scrabble, you must make sure every word you spell is at least three letters, not two.”

Let’s say the first word is “N-A-I-L.”

“In ‘Last Man Standing,’ my last letter has to be your first letter,” Klein will explain.

So Player 2 pulls a couple of cards from his or her hand and spells “L-O-B.” And perhaps that is followed by a longer word, like “B-O-N-A-N-Z-A.”

You’ll recognize the “Z” as a 10-point letter in Scrabble. It’s of the highest value in The Final Word, too, but the points per card range from only 1 to 4.

“I had a friend who was a math whiz come up the formula for how many of each letter would be in the deck, based on what exists in the English language,” Klein said.

Scoring depends on which variation of The Final Word you’re playing, and again, there are many, with names like “Run the Table,” “Leftovers,” “Turn Over” and “Real Value.”

The most popular so far is “Split Run,” a comparatively complex game that tends to result in tables covered with cards. But according to Klein:

Cards in play

The Final Word cards in play

“People catch on very quickly.”

She has demonstrated The Final Word at game nights hosted by her friend Michelle Bruce at Fix Ur Cat in North Strabane Township, with growing numbers of players attending. Another friend, Linda Caputo, invited Klein to demonstrate at Chartiers Township Community Center, and that went well.

“Every time I do a demonstration, people buy the game,” she said. “I sold 12 games.”

A graphic designer by profession, she sells the game through her website, http://www.fayekleindesign.com/. She would like to get The Final Word into schools, and so far decks have been purchased for students in Peters Township and Somerset Area school districts.

“It’s so good for kids who are of spelling age,” she said. “You have to think on your feet. You do not have time to prepare your next move, because your next move is almost always based on the last person’s move.”

Unlike Scrabble, you can’t sit there studying the board until your turn rolls around again.

“It also helps the way puzzles help, with strategic and organizational thought, and the speed at which you can come up with a solution,” Klein said.

Her inspiration for creating The Final Word, she said, actually came from a night of playing something called Cards Against Humanity.

“I thought it was the most vulgar, ridiculous, subjective, but very social, game,” she recalled, and, in fact, it’s advertised as “a party game for horrible people.” “It stuck in my head for a long time. I was thinking about this card game and how strange games had become.”

Klein decided to pursue a not-horrible game, and after a lot of trial and error, The Final Word emerged. She entered it in the 2017 Best Toys and Games competition by Edison Nation LLC, a firm that connects innovators with companies, and was named as a finalist.

These days, she likes to play The Final Word as often as her other commitments allow, often joined by friend Kelley Keane, who also has helped on the innovation end.

“She and I sit there and work out these games,” Klein said. “It is constantly evolving and developing.”

New variations are sent through an email list to those who have purchased The Final Word, and Klein also is happy to answer questions about it.

“I live and breathe this game,” she said. “When people ask me if I want to play any other game with them, I say, ‘This is the only game I am ever going to play again.’”

The Final Word

Harry Funk/The Almanac

The Final Word

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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