This post contains an affiliate link for buying FReNeTiC. Please see full disclaimer at the end of the post.
FReNeTiC has been sat on my “to be played” pile of board games for a while now. All I really knew about it was that it was a word game based around the periodic table. As someone who did A-level chemistry (and hated every minute of it at the time) I have to admit that me and the periodic table didn’t exactly part on the best of terms. The idea of a game around it was frankly frightening. For that reason alone FReNeTiC just kept being overlooked every time we went to choose a new game to play.
That all changed though when I was pulling out a selection of games to take to a recent board games night at the WI. As well as taking trusty favourites like Ludo and Snakes and Ladders I also chose some vintage games that had been favourites last time (Rack-O being the perfect example) and a couple of newer games like Baffled and FReNeTiC.
My logic for taking along FReNeTiC was that one of my friends was a secondary school science teacher and always complaining that there weren’t enough games based around chemistry. I figured I’d try to prove her wrong, even if I didn’t actually play the game myself.
The thing is that I did actually play the game though. And I loved it. Me and the periodic table are (almost) friends again and I basically realised that FReNeTiC is the perfect word game for people who like things to be a bit geeky and different.
The game itself is relatively simple really. You have a board with the periodic table on it. Each element is clearly shown, along with their atomic number. There is also a bag containing small tiles with all the elements on them.
How to play FReNeTiC
To start the game one player draws eight tiles from the bag and places them in the correct positions on the periodic table. Each player has a note pad and a pencil and whilst the sand timer runs (45 seconds) they have to form as many words as possible using the elements on the tiles already drawn and placed on the periodic table.
Each word has to be made up of at least two elements. So you can’t use No – Nobelium – on its own, but you could have NO made up of Nitrogen and Oxygen.
Scoring takes place at the end of each round of the game, but more on that in a moment. It’s not uncommon not to be able to make many (or even any) words in the first few rounds of the game, so please don’t let that put you off playing for longer.
After the initial round, players take it in turns each round to take an additional 4 tiles from the bag and add them to the periodic table. Each time you therefore have more letters to try and make words from. Depending on which elements get pulled out this might mean the game gets easier with each round. Or not!
Scoring in FReNeTiC
The scoring is special in FReNeTiC. Firstly, the player who pulled the last set of elements goes first. They go down their list and check if each word is a valid one or not. If it is they are allowed to score it. Only one player can score each word though, so if other players have it on their list then they simply have to cross it off – unless they’re used different elements to make the same word. After all AgNOsTiC is not the same as AgNoSTiC in this game.
When you are allowed to score a word it isn’t as simple as just getting a point for it. Instead you have to add up the atomic numbers of the elements that make it up. With atomic numbers up to 118 on the board this means that words can score wildly different amounts. even those two different “spellings” of Agnostic above can gain a player either 158 or 193 points.
There are a few special scorings based on elements that themselves can be spelt out using other elements, and tiles that double the score of any word that uses them, but to be honest our game didn’t manage to get that advanced!
How to win
Overall, the winner is the first person to score 1000 points and depending on which parts of the periodic table you’re using most, this can take very different lengths of time. It certainly isn’t the case that the person who has made the most words will necessarily win.
Now I have to admit that when I started playing FReNeTiC I really wasn’t too sure (remember that fallout with the periodic table during A-Level Chemistry?), but after just a few rounds I was totally hooked. It’s a bit like hardcore Scrabble for scientists. But playing against the clock. I guess that’s why the name FReNeTiC is so perfect for the game.
You don’t need to be intimately connected to the periodic table to play, but it certainly does give players an advantage. Simply in knowing what elements (and therefore letters) exist and if they do, where on the periodic table you would find them to see if they had been drawn from the bag or not. That saves you a huge amount of time compared to me trying to go back over 20 years to remember if there is an element that is just the letter D, and if so where it might be on the table.
For anyone who is trying to learn the elements the game is perfect, and also if you’re looking for a gift for a hard to buy for scientist friend or relative! Buy it. You really won’t be disappointed.
FReNeTiC is available to *buy online here.
Disclaimer: I won my copy of FReNeTiC in a raffle at Blog On. I am under no obligation to write about it, but loved it so much that I decided to. Any link in this article marked * is an affiliate link and if you click through and purchase something from it then I receive a small percentage. It will cost you no more than going to Amazon yourself. Thank you for any purchases that you do make. They help pay for my vintage board game addiction. And Yorkshire Tea.