This is a deck-building word game. While everything may not be perfectly balanced, it is still an excellent game that works with a lot of different people.
In a deck-building game, everyone starts with an identical deck of cards. These cards are used to acquire new and better cards during the game. All cards you acquire are eventually shuffled into your deck. This means that you will then be able to use the new cards you acquired, in that same game. In addition, all of the decks will diverge as each player makes their own card acquisitions.
Different deck-builder games handle scoring and end game in different ways. Some other deck-builders include but are not limited to: Dominion, Baseball Highlights: 2045, Star Realms, Thunderstone, and Valley of the Kings.
How to Play
Each player starts with a 10 card deck containing 5 wilds and the letters L, N, R, S, and T.
At the end of each turn, you draw 5 cards from your deck to use on your next turn.
On your next turn, you use up to all of the letters in your hand and the common vowel to spell a word. That word is worth a number of cents equal to the combined total of the value in the top left of each card used. For instance, if you spelled ‘s*lent’ using 4 of your starting letters, the common card, and 1 wild, it would be worth 5 cents. The wild is worth 0 cents.
With the cents earned from your word, you may buy new card(s). If you had 6 cents, you could buy 3 2-cost cards, 1 6-cost card, or any other combination that adds up to at most 6. Cards you buy go directly to your discard pile.
After you buy your card(s), discard all cards from that turn, whether you played them or not. Repeat this process until the game ends.
Card Type and Abilities
Cards are either Letter cards or Fame cards.
Letter cards have higher cent values (for purchasing more cards) than the starter cards. They can also have abilities that trigger when used in a word. For instance, there is a P that costs 5 cents to buy, is worth 2 cents when played, and, when used as the first letter in a word, it is worth 2 more cents.
Some of these abilities include drawing additional cards at the end of your turn, gaining cards, trashing cards (removing cards your your deck), and even giving a one-time double word score.
Fame cards are either wilds or common cards. Wilds provide 0 cents when used in a word, common cards provide 1 cent. Fame cards are important because they are what give you points at the end of the game.
Your deck starts with 5 1-point wild cards, and there are 4 other wild cards that can be purchased during the game. The higher the cost, the more points it is worth at the end of the game.
Common cards are worth 5 points at the end of the game. You get common cards by making words with at least 7 letters. To get the first common card, you need a 7+ letter word. The second common requires an 8+ letter word. 3rd requires 9+. Final requires 10+.
The game ends when 1 of 2 conditions is met.
- Any 2 piles of fame cards are depleted
- All of the common cards are depleted
I enjoy Paperback. I bought this for a family member that plays a lot of Words with Friends, and she loves this game. Paperback works well as a word game, and it works fairly well as a game in its own right.
As a word game, you get the same feeling of accomplishment when you create an excellent word. In addition, it’s generally not difficult to know the most potential points you can score in a hand, and it feels great when you find a word that does it. I generally see the word game enthusiasts chase after cards that let you draw more cards. This lets them create these impressive 7+ letter words which award the common cards. These long words are generally also worth significant cents, for buying.
For those of you who do not enjoy chasing massive words, you can go after individual high cents cards and fame cards. I frequently go this route. Doing this lets me buy the fame cards, and I am frequently the player that ends the game. As a gamer, I do feel like the balance of the cards might not be perfect; the 4 or 5 cent letters and the single-use double word scores are just so powerful.
The other downside of Paperback is the potential length. When a player takes an incredibly long time to think of a word, the game can drag on. This is especially true if there are multiple people in a row taking a long time. In gaming, this phenomenon is known as Analysis Paralysis (AP). The game does address this by allowing players to ask for help. The helping player then gets a reward. In addition, there is a cooperative mode, but I have not played it yet. There are also a bunch of other “expansions” included in the base game. The expansions that I have tried haven’t been great.
Overall, Paperback works excellently as a game I can play with casual players. It works particularly well for fans of word games.