With each additional player from the minimum of 2 the way players can plan ahead changes. Letters available from The Offer can drastically change with the full 5 players. Between turns if other players score high several decent cards could be taken. Some letters are also more commonly selected by players, especially in the case of the double letters or higher scoring letters. One example of this was ED, I have yet to see a game where the ED card hasn’t been instantly selected by a player whom has enough cents to pay for it. Not every double letter card is as easy to fit into a word though. Nevertheless, double letters are key to scoring well and to claiming the common letter cards so are a must at some point in the game.
When selecting a new letter at the end of your turn there are a few strategies available. These aren’t strategies to follow for the entire game, as flicking back and forth seems to present the best results. Option 1 is to take the highest scoring fame card. Bagging points and another wild card that can be used as any letter. Option 2 is to go for a letter that is commonly used in words to widen your chances of being able to create a variety of words in the future. Option 3 is the big risk, big reward choice. Different letters score different points and this third option sees players going for whatever letter offers the biggest score potential. These letters are usually slightly harder to use on the average turn, hence the risk vs reward.
Helping to tempt players into choosing them, some cards feature abilities that activate when used in a word. I often pick up letters mistakenly thinking I’ll be able to use them to score well. This is potentially why one of my favourite abilities involve trashing cards, completely removing them from the game. You don’t even need to discard an overly bad card but it offers players the opportunity to gain some quick cents towards a new card. Another ability which swings players is the double score bonus ability. Not every card has an ability and not everyone is as helpful as the two mentioned above. The ability of “If word is 7 letters or longer, +3c” for instance I’ve found a lot less useful than it initially sounds. Potentially it is due to it being situational thanks to the letters it is on. These are often on harder letters to use in a word, balancing the otherwise powerful sounding ability.
Combining the longer downtime in games with more than two players with the slightly more cutthroat side of a 1v1 game is why I found 2 player games of Paperback to be the most engrossing. With your turns coming up very quickly the game keeps your attention, allowing the game to draw you in. In turn players become more invested in the outcome and pretty much every single word being played. This does stack the pressure on players which some players didn’t enjoy. I found this is often when, despite having a strong grasp of English, players were not confident in their language knowledge. This showed in the hesitation of some players: when they played a word and looked up to check with other players that they had spelt it correctly.
In a similar way to Scrabble the game is accessible for everyone and can be enjoyed by anyone. Paperback would be a great game if used as a learning game, as it can easily incorporate all ages if players are nice to one another. As with most word games one issue is the preconception that anyone with a larger vocabulary has already won. They may win or put up a ridiculous fight but don’t rule anyone else out. There is an element of this in Paperback, as players like this will have the upper hand of knowledge. However, the usage of the wild fame cards that can be used as any letter and the randomisation of letters balances knowledge and luck nicely. Luck is by no means a huge factor in Paperback but it can affect individual turns.
Paperback offers some decent artwork for the fame cards but the majority are simple letter cards. This is where the art design, not in the way of beautiful artwork, in a sense of a clear stylish design shines though. The letters are large and clear to read when on The Offer, increasing the accessibility of the game. There is also a smaller version of the letter on the same card, at the top left, so it is easy to read the five letters in your hand without flicking though them. Letter card are left clean from additional art that would draw away from what the game is about. This clean approach extends to the cards with abilities with clear simple wording on the cards that is easy to read allowing anyone to understand instantly what it does.
If you dislike word games Paperback may not be for you. However, if you are like me whom is normally 50:50 on them this could just be the one for you. The deck building aspect means that Paperback offer a rather unique modern interpretation of Scrabble. The comparisons shouldn’t be looked at badly. It takes the word creation side of things but turns the rest of the game on its head. Players have choice about what letters to purchase or whether to go for fame cards instead. Choice being one feature that was sorely missing from games like Scrabble. Paperback is well designed and well-balanced enabling it to be a loveable card game that will hit the table at many gatherings not just with gamers. For that reason alone you should definitely check Paperback out!
[Editor’s Note: Paperback was provided to us by Tim Fowers for review purposes.]
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