How to Play Jotto

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Having fun is one of the most ancient Christmas traditions, and, in centuries past, a controversial aspect of the holiday, as well, because of the perceived tension between boisterousness or frivolity and the religious or sacred aspects of the holiday.

Today, however, Christmas is expected to be a fun holiday, and is normally celebrated with parties.

The Christmas Game honors this tradition with a card category for Games. However, not all games are created equal. In our experience, video games and many other types of modern games are as likely to separate people as to bring them together.

Instead, we favor the kind of parlor game that brings people together. The 19th century was famous for such games, but even in the 21st century brilliant new ones are being invented regularly.

The Christmas Game is the perfect home for such games, and the Christmas Game books and cards will serve as a rich resource for discovering wonderful games for the entire family.

Card 60 features a game called "Jotto," which is a logic-oriented word game that was invented in the 1950's and was quite popular in its hey-day. The game is sometimes referred to generically as "Five Letter Words," and obvious variants include three-letter words, four-letter words, and six-letter words.

The standard version of the game requires no equipment besides a pencil and paper for each player, although for convenience generic Jotto gamesheets can be downloaded for free here at The Christmas Game website.

The game is played as follows:

Each player picks a secret word of five letters, and the object of the game is to correctly guess the other player's word first. Players take turns guessing and giving the number of Jots, or the number of letters that are in both the guessed word and the secret word. The positions of the letters don't matter: for example, if the secret word is OTHER and a player guesses PEACH, he gets a reply of 2 (for the E and the H, even though they're in the wrong positions). Using a written-out alphabet, players cross out letters that are eliminated with Jot counts of 0 and other logical deductions.

Allowing duplicate letters increases the difficulty of the game.  So, for example, if the secret word is MUMPS, then the guess FLAME would count a one jot (one of the M's), the guess MADAM would count two jots (both of the M's), and the guess MOMMY would count also count two jots (two of the M's would match the secret word, but not the third M).

Although Jotto is a two-player game, additional players may get involved if there is a Jotto tournament, or if some of the players are assisted by advisors for guessing and interpreting the responses.

Card 60 will be appreciated by any family that enjoys word games, but may be particularly useful for any portion of a Christmas Game that is spent in transit (for example flying or driving to a relative's house), when movement and equipment are impractical.

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