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Who invented Word Chains?

The game itself was invented in the late 19th century by Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland. It was originally called 'Doublets', but is more commonly known today as Word Chains, Word Ladders or Stepwords.

What are the rules?

The rules of Word Chains are simple. You are given a start word and an end word, and you must gradually morph one into the other. To do so you may perform one of four possible actions at every turn. You may:

  • Add a letter - i.e. you can turn FOG into FROG

  • Remove a letter - i.e. you can turn HEARD into HEAD

  • Change a letter - i.e. you can turn WELP into WELD

  • Create an anagram - i.e. you can turn RATES into STARE

Note that when adding, removing or changing a letter, you can not change the order in which the letters appear.

Every action must result in the creation a valid, English-language word. If it is not found in our dictionary, it can not be played. All words played, at any step, must be three, four, five or six letters in length. Words longer or shorter than this will not be accepted.

The game is won when the player has successfully created the given end word.

Are there other variations of this game?

There are numerous variations of Word Chains, each with its own unique ruleset. The original game 'Doublets' game allowed only letter substitution, so that every word in the chain must have the same number of letters. Other variations allow you to add, subtract and change letters, but do not allow you to create anagrams. Still other variations require that each word in the chain have some contextual relation to both the beginning and end words.

Our version at Wordchains.com allows four types of plays - letter addition, removal and substitution, as well as anagram creation.

Should I play "Previously Played" or "Random" games?

All new players should select from our collection of "previously played" puzzles, as these are guaranteed to have at least one valid solution. Most puzzles in fact have multiple solutions. By playing these puzzles you also have the chance to challenge those who went before by completing the puzzle in fewer steps than your predecessors.

More advanced players may prefer the challenge of our randomly selected word pairs. These are pulled from a vast database of common-usage English-language words between three and six letters in length. It is estimated that approximately 94% of all randomly selected games have at least one valid solution. However, certain words simply can not be morphed into anything else ("auto" and "madam" are two examples), and so not every random game is solvable. Some may find this irritating - others may enjoy the added challenge and the sense that they are playing a puzzle that has potentially never been played before.

Whenever a randomly generated puzzle is solved, it is automatically added to our "previously played" section, so our database of solvable games is growing exponentially with every passing day.

I played XXXXX but the program told me it was invalid. Why?

Our word database contains nearly sixty thousand words between three and six letters in length. However, there are some words which are common in certain parts of the world which simply aren't yet considered "valid" dictionary words. Spelling variations also exist which may not be in our dictionary. If you feel a particular word is not in our dictionary, and probably should be, please let us know and we will be happy to consider it for addition to the database.

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