Paperback

RRP: £29.79
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You are a paperback author trying to finish novels for your editor. Complete Westerns, Science Fiction, Romance or even the rare Best-Seller. Live the dream — and maybe pay the bills. Word-building meets deck-building in the unique game Paperback. Players start with a deck of letter cards and wild cards. Each hand they form words, and purchase more powerful letters based on how we…
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Category Tag SKU ZBG-GABPAPERBA01 Availability Out of stock
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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • An accessible but challenging word game
  • Competitive and Cooperative modes of play
  • Additional modules add replay value
  • The fantastic in-built storage solution

Might Not Like

  • Niche appeal
  • Simplistic artwork won’t be for everyone
  • Co-op mode requires odd tactics
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Description

You are a paperback author trying to finish novels for your editor. Complete Westerns, Science Fiction, Romance or even the rare Best-Seller. Live the dream — and maybe pay the bills.

Word-building meets deck-building in the unique game Paperback. Players start with a deck of letter cards and wild cards. Each hand they form words, and purchase more powerful letters based on how well their word scored. Most letters have abilities that activate when they are used in a word, such as drawing more cards or double letter score. Players buy wilds to gain victory points. Variant included for cooperative play.

 

Paperback tasks 1-4 players with building the best words they can from their own ever-evolving decks of letter cards. Designed and published by Tim Fowers (the same great mind behind Burgle Bros.), this wordy wonder is a niche classic that is adored by many gamers, myself included. Let’s dive into this novel deck-building card game to see what makes it tick.

A Solid, Leathery Spine

At its core, Paperback follows the classic deck-builder formula; each turn, you draw a hand of five cards from your personal deck and use them to buy better cards from a common shop. Where Paperback deviates from this, however, is that your cards are only worth anything if you can spell out a word with them. Each card has one or two letters on them, while each deck starts with five valueless wild cards that can be used as any letter to facilitate your wordsmanship.

Using these, you’ll gradually improve your deck as you fill it with more expensive letters that will then net you more and more money on future turns. The ultimate goal in Paperback is to earn the most Victory Points, which are usually found on the expensive Fame Cards. These also function as wild cards, and once two stacks of Fame Cards are emptied, the game will end. On its own, this is a tantalizing premise for anyone that enjoys a good word game, but we’re just getting started.

Many of the expensive letter cards you’ll purchase from the shop will also have added abilities that might be worth more if they’re used at the start or end of your word, or may let you draw more cards next turn. These can only be activated if you use those cards in a word, however, which adds a brilliant layer of strategy between taking the cards with the best abilities and the letters you’re most confident spelling with. 

Small complimentary modules help to expand on this formula by introducing variable player powers, common themes to aim for and more, but the cooperative rules are the real star of the show. Instead of fighting for possession of the Fame cards, players instead team up to purchase them from a pyramid structure before a round limit expires. This tears down any barriers between you and your cohorts and levels the playing field. Suddenly you’re all pulling in the same direction, offering buying advice and shouting out possible words for your allies to form. Though it does require some intricate deck-building requirements to buy that final 17c card, this mode is incredibly enjoyable. 

Lovely, Neat Pages

As strange as it might seem, one of the most charming aspects of Paperback – for me, at least – is the neat organisation featured inside the box. Despite being quite small, it’s tall and long to accommodate your entire library of cards, with dividers for each denomination of card making setup and teardown simple and satisfying. There’s even enough room leftover to fit in the Unabridged Expansion if you like! Considering the great lengths that board games go to in order to entice us with miniatures, tokens, and trinkets, I really wish more would feature tidy storage solutions like this.

The artwork and visuals of Paperback may not be such a clear-cut victory, however. While some detractors may see the basic colors and simplistic drawings as plain, there’s an amazing level of clarity in the cards. The bright colors make the letters pop without getting in the way of the card text, and the worn vignettes provide the believable appearance of real pages and covers from your favourite novels.

Pobody’s Nerfect

One of the biggest weaknesses of the deck-building genre are bad draws, and a couple of unlucky hands can really spoil your fun. This problem is certainly prevalent in Paperback, as a hand of exclusively consonants can make forming a word into a real challenge. This problem can even be exacerbated if the only cards you can afford in the shop all have awkward letters like C, V, or RE. Thankfully, Paperback does try to alleviate these issues in a couple of ways.

Firstly, players can offer their hand up to their opponents, challenging them to spell a better word than the one they’ve made. In return, the player that crafts a word which the owner decides to use will receive a discount cube for use on a subsequent turn. This is great for short-term assistance, but don’t expect it to close the gap between you and your cryptic crossword-solving in-laws; players that are just naturally better at word games still have a large advantage.

Of course, this is true of any word game, and players should be aware of this going into it that they may have an uphill battle against their wordsmith relatives. There is another equalising factor, however; there is always one Common Card available – usually a vowel – that helps to reduce the impact of bad hands. This is a great way of improving your scoring chances, but having an I, U or spacebar may just throw more spanners into your literary machine.

Final Thoughts

Paperback can be easily described as “Scrabble meets deck-building”, but this clever little card game is so much more than the sum of its parts. Not only is it delightfully illustrated and organised, but it’s also an excellent introduction to deck-building mechanics for newcomers to modern board games. If your parents or extended family are happy to play a round of Scrabble but contort their faces in bewilderment when you try teaching them anything from this decade, Paperback may just be the game to break that deadlock. The flexibility of playing it competitively or cooperatively is not to be underestimated, particularly if you’re playing with multiple generations of gamers.

Paperback does also have a sequel from Tim Fowers in Hardback, though I’ve found the simplicity of Paperback makes it a more welcoming experience. There’s even a great digital version for iOS and Android that adds AI opponents and online multiplayer! This helps to alleviate the relative difficulty of finding the physical game – which is undeniably nice to have and to hold – but I think we could all benefit from some aids to socially-distanced gaming at the moment, don’t you?

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!

Variations

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.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • An accessible but challenging word game
  • Competitive and Cooperative modes of play
  • Additional modules add replay value
  • The fantastic in-built storage solution

Might not like

  • Niche appeal
  • Simplistic artwork wont be for everyone
  • Co-op mode requires odd tactics