Game Buzz: Wok Star/Paperback

The fourth post on this blog, back in 2010, was all about a new game called Wok Star.  At the time, it was only released in a limited run by Gabob Games, but it was getting an incredible amount of buzz coming out of the convention circuit.  Soon after, it was announced that ZMan was picking up the rights to the game, and many gamers (myself included) waited excitedly for its general release.  It never came.  In early 2013, designer Tim Fowers announced that is was no longer with ZMan, and would be coming out on Kickstarter soon.  Well, it’s here, courtesy of Game Salute:

image by BGG user Fubeca
image by BGG user Fubeca

Wok Star is a 1-4 player cooperative game set in the fast-paced world of a Chinese restaurant.  Players are attempting to satisfy customers while making enough money to upgrade the restaurant, buy new ingredients, and satisfy the bank at the end of the game.  As I’ve already covered the game twice (once in the original post, and once in a review after I had played the game), I’m not going to rehash the rules.  Instead, I’m going to focus on what’s new, then I’m going to highlight another project Fowers is running concurrently on Kickstarter.

From what I can tell, there are two component changes in the game – the original came with two sand timers.  This new version comes with an electronic timer.  I personally liked the sand timers, and thought it was a novel way to keep the game moving.  However, electronic timers are more precise, so we’ll see how that goes.  It also looks like there are now 20 event cards, instead of 13.

The biggest change in the game is that it has been shortened from 6 rounds to 4.  Each round still follows the structure of Action/Accounting/Purchase, but there are changes within those phases.  Originally, each player got a recipe they were responsible for, and when a customer came up that wanted that dish, they were in charge of making sure all the ingredients were there.  Now, play proceeds in player order so you always know when you’re in charge of a customer.  It looks like the concepts of serving a customer late or turning them away if you can’t serve them is no longer present in the game – either you serve them, or you don’t.  The rest of the Action phase seems as before.

During Accounting, you won’t be collecting dice as before.  Instead, you will just increase the money based on collected customers.  Bad publicity is resolved here – for each customer not served, you lose $1.  This is opposed to the turned away customers forming a deck that can lose the game for you.  Tips are added, giving players a dollar for each of their dice that were played on their preparation cards.

The only change I can see in the Purchase phase is the elimination of advertising.  The potential customer deck is eliminated in this version, meaning new customers only come into the deck when you buy new recipes (and possibly from events, I don’t know).  The game ends after the 4th round, and if you hit your target money goal, you win.  If not, you lose.

I liked the way the game was, but apparently there were complaints that it was too long, so that’s been adjusted.  The rules have been streamlined a bit so there’s not quite as much to think about.  It seems like it still holds onto its intense feel, and that’s a good thing.  I’m just glad it’s coming back into print – I loved it then, and I’m sure it will still be a lot of fun.

Now, on to Tim Fowers’ other game on Kickstarter:

image by BGG user Fubeca
image by BGG user Fubeca

Paperback is a 2-4 player word-based deck-building game that takes around 45 minutes to play.  Fowers is running this campaign simultaneously with Wok Star, but I don’t believe that Game Salute is involved with this one.  The theme is that you are a paperback author trying to finish novels for your editor.  We’ll see how well that works.

The game comes with 200 cards.  These cards have a letter or a question mark (wild), a cost, and a score.  The wild cards also have VPs, and some other cards have special abilities.  Each player begins with a starting deck consisting of the letters R-S-T-L-N and five $2/1 VP Wild cards.  The remaining wild cards are combined by genre – Western, SciFi, Romance, and Best Seller.  Each pile has two cards per player (only one per player for the Best Sellers).  The remaining cards are separated into shuffled piles by cost – $2, $3, $4, $5, $6, $7, and $8-10.  The top card for each pile (except $2) is taken off the top and set next to its deck as an alternate card.  There’s also a pile of common vowels which is shuffled into its own pile.

Players begin with a hand of five cards.  On your turn, you create a word, score the word, buy cards, discard, and draw.

CREATE A WORD: Form a word from the letters in your hand plus the common vowel on top of its pile.  Standard Scrabble rules apply.  Letters in your word that have abilities are activated.  This includes giving you more cards the next turn, allowing you to trash cards, adding to your score, making other cards wild, and others that I don’t know because they’re not in the rules.  You then check the word’s length.  If the length of your word is longer than the current threshold (7 for the first vowel, 8 for the second, 9 for the third, 10 for the fourth), you get the common vowel in your discard pile.  The game is over when the last vowel is taken.

SCORE: Add the scores in your word (upper left corner, not VPs or cost).  Be sure to count the common vowel if you used it.

BUY: Using your score, purchase visible cards.  You can buy as much as possible, but you are limited to your score total.  If you purchase the alternate card, replace it with the top card of the pile.

DISCARD and DRAW: Discard all cards and draw a new hand of five, plus any cards gained from special abilities.

The game ends when the common vowels are all gone, or when two of the VP piles are gone.  The player with the most VPs in their deck wins.

I’m not a huge word game fan, but I do like finding different ways to play them.  This one seems very unique – I like a lot of the ideas of building a word, using actions, and scoring certain numbers of points to buy new letters.  Also, having the VPs be wilds makes them all the more valuable for your deck – they don’t just sit there, as in other games that I promised myself I wouldn’t mention because I’m always talking about them whenever I talk about a deck-building game.  But, they also have no score, so they don’t help in buying cards – so there’s that.  The theme of writing novels is kind of ridiculous – I would like to see a novel consisting of the words used in this game.  Still, it gives you a loose structure.

I think the game looks pretty good, and it’s one I think I’d enjoy playing.  At the very least, it would be good to pull out with Scrabble players to introduce them to a whole new genre of gaming.  If you’re interested in backing either of these games, they both end on the 16th of July.  Wok Star can be gotten for $39, Paperback goes for $25, and you can get both as part of either campaign for $60.  The price will go up when they hit stores, so now is the time if you’re at all interested.  Thanks for reading!

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