Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Pulp Diction - "Paperback"

Our game of Small World flew by so quickly that Mike had a chance to bust out his copy of Paperback.


So, what exactly is Paperback? Well, in a nutshell, it's Dominion meets Scrabble.

Desirous of a less abstruse rubric? Then unerringly peruse the subsequent delineation via the endeavor's conclusive thermionic infobahn:

"Paperback is a word game where players create words. It's 2-5 players and takes about 45 minutes. You score words in order to buy better letters with cool abilities. But scoring won’t win the game – you must finish novels to make it as a paperback writer. All Kickstarter extras included - even a cooperative mode! Sturdy Two-piece box, 200+ grey-core linen-finish cards, full color instructions, wooden counters, dividers for organizing."

Wanna read the full rules dictionary? Then click on the following link to plow your way on through from Chimpan-"A" to Chimpan-"Z".

For the sake of full disclosure we used the following Optional Rules:

"Bounty" If you get stuck forming a word, your opponents can provide assistance. If you accept someone's help, they're given a wooden cube token which can be turned in later for a 1¢ bonus.

"Discount" When a card is purchased off the top of an offer pile, the corresponding alternate card gets a wooden cube token. Each token on a card reduces its cost by 1¢.

We also used the following Common Cards:

"Spacebar" Create two words with the cards in your current hand to score a bonus 1¢. If you end up taking the card into your deck, you can use it to create two words whenever it comes up.

"Dyslexic" Play it to reverse the order of any two-letter card. If you end up collecting the card, you can use it to reverse a two-letter card whenever it's played.


Like most deck-builders, everyone starts with the same load-out of cards. In the case of Paperback all players get a set of 1¢ letters  ("T", "R", "S", "L" and "N") plus five 2¢ Wild Cards. After this deck is shuffled thoroughly you draw five cards offa the top to begin the game.

I tried to supplement my initial card assortment with a slew of new ones, including a few 2¢ expendable vowels, a 4¢ "S" and two 5¢ acquisitions: a "D" and a "Y". Since there are a lot more options to choose from than say, a basic game of Dominion, the memory component inherent to all deck-building games becomes even more important. For example, I somehow ended up with two 5¢ "Y"'s even though I certainly didn't want them both.

Showcasing the importance of the two-letter cards, Andrew started building more and more complicated words. I tried to compensate for my initial oversight by snatching up a 4¢ "A"+"R" as well as a 3¢ "E"&"S". With these resources now available to me I began to construct more and more valuable words. Eventually I parleyed these into a decent little pile of Fame Cards.


Having played the game before, Andrew seemed to have his strategy locked down cold from the get-go. He quickly invested in a lot of two-letter cards which gave him a quick jump on building some pretty advanced words. As a result, he quickly out-paced the rest of us in money which allowed him to snap up all of the Common Cards. Like, literally, all of the Common Cards. During this time he leaned heavily on the "Spacebar" card, giving him a 1¢ bonus whenever he came up with such erudite word combinations as "PENIS LOVER". Ah, Andrew...always keepin' it classy.


In stark contrast, Matt kept things well above-board, coming up with some pretty impressive words along the way. He did quite well for himself under the "Bounty" rule, offering sage advice to both Mike and Andrew at times. He also snagged a respectable amount of Fame Cards but Andrew always seemed a step ahead of us in snapping up the Commons.


And then there was poor Mike, bless 'em. If I'd didn't know any better I'd say that he was picking letters completely at random. Occasionally he got a bit stuck and had to dole out a few "Bounties", but I also seem to recall him helping out Andrew at least once. In the end, he just seemed content to replicate Kevin Smith's career and spell "FART" over and over. Sure it was amusing, but it didn't earn him a lot of Fame Cards.


FINAL SCORES

Mike...24
Matt...33
Me...37
Andrew...77 (!!!)

***

PROS
  • The game is super-easy to learn n' play: you just draw five cards, play 'em, make a word and then buy something new. We all jumped into it right away and never looked back. The only thing that gave us brief pause was determining whether or not a certain word was legal. Just keep a Scrabble dictionary or a Google machine close by and you'll be fine. 
  • The theme is engaging and interesting. Between this and Star Realms, Dominion is deader to me than disco. 
  • I love the graphic design, which includes a cool-looking box, a charming mascot named "Paige Turner" (natch!) and some delightfully-trashy-looking Fame Cards. Nice!
  • Even though it helps to have a voluminous vocabulary, players familiar with the game's scoring will still have an edge. Just look at how Andrew destroyed the rest of us by maximizing compound letter cards, snagging Commons and then using longer words to score big payouts to buy those heavy-duty Fame Cards.
  • Even within the parameters of the basic game there are still plenty of interesting choices to make every turn. Do I snap up a bunch of practical but one-shot vowels? Should I pick up more exotic letters like "Q" and "V" just for their raw monetary value? Or do I recruit certain letters purely for their special abilities? When it comes to the end game, should I the trust the "Wild" capabilities of the Fame Cards or snag those Expansion Commons to improve my earning potential? Like I said, there's a lot going on in this deceptively small-looking box.
  • The play options here are positively prolific. Even though we used the "Bounty" and "Discount" optional rules as well as the "Spacebar" and "Dyslexic" Common Cards, there are also "Attacks", "Player Powers", "Awards" and "Themes". Hell, there's even a "Co-op Mode", fer Crichton's sake! 
CONS
  • For the first few turns I kept mixing up the cost of a new card, shown in the lower left hand corner, and the money you make from a word, which is shown in the upper left hand corner and referred to in the rules as the letter's "Score". I'd clarify things. I'd like to see "Money Earned: ___¢" clearly indicated on each card. Trust me, I teach games to people all of the time and the more visual assistance and reminders you have working in your favor the better. 
  • Yes, the game is positively chock-a-block with options and replay value but that north-of-$40 price point is a deal-breaker for me. Right now the only feasible way to get a copy at a decent price is directly through the designer so, needless to say, that's really driving up the cost quite a bit for us Canuckleheads here in Canada. I'm confident that Paperback'll get a wide distribution sooner rather then later which should lower its production costs and, ultimately, it's retail price.
***

Paperback is a ton of fun. Yes, the deck-building mechanic isn't a new innovation, but it's still super-exciting whenever theme and mechanics are so perfectly married together. This thing is compulsively playable, easily teachable and a definite must-buy for me as soon as the price dips into the realm of sanity.  

As such, the game earns five pips outta six with a huge tilt up towards that triple-word score!



***

Looking to score mondo cash with such poetic phrases as "ASS_GOBLIN" and "TURD_BURGLAR"? Then click on the image below to learn more about Paperback and help this blog spell "SUCCESS"!

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