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How To Play Paperback


If you enjoy the challenge of making words and want a change from scrabble, then Paperback is the game for you. It starts off pretty easy, but gets increasingly complex as you try to score as many points as you can and become the most renowned novelist on the block! Read on to find out how to play.

Set Up

Each player in Paperback gets a starting deck comprised of 5 wild cards and five of the most commonly used letters in the English language.

Then arrange the remaining letter cards (leave out the attack cards for your first game) as shown.

This is ‘the offer’. The illustrated cards at the bottom of the offer are Fame cards and you’ll need to put out the correct number of these for the player count after consulting the table in the instructions. The top card on the pile of common cards may be used by any player on their turn, and offers an extra point when you score your word.

A Closer Look At The Cards

You’ll see that each of the letter cards (including those in your own deck), and the Fame cards, has a number in the top left corner. This number is added to your score for any word you spell using it. The cost of the card is in the bottom left corner. A card may also have a special ability which comes into effect if you use it in a word. For example, ‘double the score of an adjacent card’. Finally, in the bottom right corner of some cards is a yellow Fame score. You’ll probably forget all about these in your first game, as you get carried away with your clever wordsmithing, but in fact, it is only these Fame points that are counted towards your final score at the end of the game.

On Your First & Second Turn

Deal five cards from your starting deck face up in front of you when you first play Paperback. This is your hand and it will look something like this:

Now use the cards in your hand, plus the common card if you like, to make a word with as high a score as possible. You don’t have to use all the cards. Those with a novelist depicted beavering away at the typewriter are wild cards, but score nothing (remember it’s the top left number that gives you points). With the hand dealt in the photo, you might spell ‘lentil’, making use of the common E, and scoring 4 points.

Next, convert your points into cents and buy cards from the offer. In the example, you could buy a card worth 4 or 3 cents, or two 2 cent cards. Any card you can see in the offer ie cards at the top of the pile, is available for purchase. This includes the Fame cards. However, in this example, we haven’t earned enough cents for a Fame card this turn.

Having made your purchase(s), put the five cards from your hand (the ones you dealt out) and any you have just bought, into your own discard pile. Also replace the ones you took from the offer with a new card off the top of the appropriate stack.

Finally, from your starting deck, deal the next five cards face down ready for your next turn. It may seem silly to do this now rather than at the start of your next turn, but later you’ll see why it’s easier – things get more complicated!

Subsequent Turns

At the end of your first two go’s of Paperback, you should find that your starting deck is all in the discard pile. Now, and at any point when you can’t deal yourself the next card you require, shuffle the discard pile and continue to deal your hand from this newly shuffled deck.

Start as before, by placing the five (or possibly more) cards you dealt yourself at the end of the last turn face up on the table. You may now have higher scoring cards available from which to build your word, and/or cards with abilities requiring specific placements. For example, ‘if this is the first letter of your word, gain 2 cents’. Make your word, again scoring as highly as you can.

Now that you might have more letters, you need to check if you have earned the right to keep the common card. If you’ve used seven letters or more, take the common card, revealing the next one available, and move the remaining stack down the length track to show ‘8 letters’ – the new target for earning the next common card.

Then score your word, remembering to check for any extra points scored by using card abilities.

Buy cards as before. It’s probable that you can now afford one of the all-important Fame cards now, but it’s not a simple choice. Although achieving fame is the ultimate aim, you can only hope to increase your word scores by buying bigger scoring letters with point scoring abilities. If you do buy a fame card, it goes into the discard pile and is treated as a wild card from now on.

Game Over

When two of the fame piles is empty, or someone claims the last common card (this will be a very clever person with a ten letter word!), the game is over.

Scoring is easy. Just add up all the fame points on the cards in your hand, in your deck and in your discard pile. The most famous novelist wins!


Paperback offers you a few optional rules to experiment with. You can also play cooperatively. The co-op game is great fun and by far my favourite way to play it. It’s really difficult to win but you feel like you were nearly there every time – let’s just have one more game!

That concludes our guide on how to play Paperback. Did this help you? Let us know your thoughts and tag us on social media @zatugames.