Published on March 19th, 2014 | by Luke Turpeinen1
Play This Instead: Scrabble / Paperback
I’d Like to Buy a Vowel
Word games are a very popular subset of board games, but they unfortunately don’t seem to saturate very deeply into the board game subculture. There is something about this family friendly, casual subset of games that keeps them selling at Target and Barnes & Noble but never gets them into the specialty game stores. Paperback is a game that blurs the lines between those demographics and offers a fun and engaging deck building word game that everyone can enjoy.
Paperback is an improvement on the classic word game, Scrabble, in almost every way. Wilds are much, much more frequent but vowels are fairly rare. This means that you have more flexibility in the kinds of words you build, but it never seems over powered because you’re always starved for some of the most common and essential letters as well. Paperback is better for beginners than Scrabble, and it looks to have just as much potential longevity.
Paperback is a deck builder, which means that the entire game is played through the use of cards. The card stock seems to be typical of nice playing cards and is moderately textured. I really liked the packaging- the box was very similar to Magic: the Gathering Fat Pack boxes and it is a simple, effective packaging method that utilizes space more efficiently than most card game boxes.
We did have some complaints about the design of the cards, but they ended up being tangential to actual play. The color of the cards is really awesome for sorting the cards during set up and clean up, but the colors are all the same darkness and are similar on the color spectrum. This makes identifying the different colors pretty hard in low-light conditions or if you have any sort of color blindness. Also, the iconography of the game was somewhat muddled- the difference between Score, Victory Points and Cost was initially confusing for us.
Paperback plays much like any other deck building game: you start with a deck of 10 cards, you draw five cards a turn and you discard every card at the end of each turn, drawing back up to five again. The difference here is that your cards are either letters (starting cards are R, S, T, L and N) or Wild cards. Cards with letters give you Letter Scores (starting cards all have a score of 1), while Wild cards are always a score of zero.
You use the cards in your hand to form words, much like you would with Scrabble. After forming a word, you tally the Letter Score of the cards used to make that word and you can use those points to buy additional cards. Cards are divided and displayed by their cost, which is typically also indicative of how hard they are to use in a word. Letters like Q and J are nine and ten cost cards, but they get you a huge Letter Score if used.
Points are scored by buying special Wild cards that are only differentiated by their Victory Point value. This means that you’re incentivized to buy more Wilds as you play so that you don’t get stuck with a bunch of single letters and no way to connect them together.
There are also features like the Common Card that everyone can use, but which you can only get by making an especially cromulent word. Certain cards may also have special abilities, like a high cost U that doubles your word score but you have to remove it from the game after using it.
Paperback was a really fun time for our entire group, even the people who don’t usually like word games or feel that they aren’t good at them. The games we played lasted between 20 and 30 minutes, so it’s a good game to play as an intro to a longer game, or when you only have a short time to play something. Set up and take down were very easy due to the coloring on the cards, which is always a plus. Now that I have Paperback, there is no reason for me to ever play a game of Scrabble ever again, it is a universally better game and it scratches that same itch.