What is it? Dominion meets Scrabble
The deets: 2-5 players, 45 minutes
Designer: Tim Fowers
Paperback has been out a few years now, but this was my first chance at playing it, and I don’t think we’ve written about it before on iSlaytheDragon.
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re at least passingly familiar with the deckbuilding genre. If you’re not, quick overview: you start with a rather generic deck of cards, and over the course of the game add and remove cards from your deck so that your hands are more efficient and more effective at scoring points.
Paperback takes the deckbuilding concept, and instead of actions and drawing cards and stacking up money and trashing and all those special abilities, it gives you letters. Yep, just a few letters. You play cards from your hand by spelling words. Most of the cards do have a form of currency on them, which you can use to buy new letter cards to add to your deck, increasing the possible words you can create.
Some of these cards do have special abilities, such as allowing you to draw extra cards or re-use letters to make your words.
You earn points by completing books – that is, spending your money on the book cards, which serve as wilds in your deck, and also spelling long words using the current “common” letter. The game definitely rewards spelling longer words – you get more money to spend on new cards, for one, and you’ll need extremely long words to save up for the best books.
The common letter is typically a vowel which anyone can use as part of their word. If your word has enough letters in it, you get to add the common letter to your deck. This changes the common letter and increases the letter requirement to take the next one, until the final common letter is claimed and the game ends.
The nice thing about this game is the theme is inherently accessible. Most people recognize the idea of spelling words where they might not recognize anything about Dominion or Ascension, so some core concepts are already built into their brain. My mom, who isn’t all that into dominion, might be willing to try a word-spelling game.
On the other hand, there is an inherent skill gap. The game requires coming up with long words, and if you can’t think of something with the cards you have in hand, you’re in big trouble. You can’t play multiple small words to keep up, so that might frustrate some players.
But, there are plenty of bookworms and scrabble players and the like who would get some enjoyment out of the game. If it sounds interesting to you, if the word creation draws you in, give it a look.
I struggle to see the appeal of this game. I Kickstarted it, and it was okay, but there are much better word games, in my opinion. Mostly, I thought the decision of how to build your deck by adding letters was boring. What makes one letter better than another? Any letter can be situationally useful. Drawing letters from a bag? Interesting–you get the joy of surprise, of using random letters and trying to make something. Drawing letters from a deck you compose yourself? It removes the joy of making words with the tools you’re given.
But, obviously, I am in the minority on this one.