Game Buzz: Hardback

The 2014 game Paperback combined deckbuilding and word games in a way that has been extremely popular.  Now, Fowers Games is Kickstarting a follow-up game called

image from Kickstarter project page

Hardback is a “pre-quill” to Paperback, designed by Jeff Beck and developed by Paperback designer Tim Fowers.  It’s a 2-4 player game where players are creating words, buying letters, and generally trying to out-prestige the competition.  This game differs from Paperback in a number of notable ways, and I’ll outline those later.

Hardback will come with 180 Letter cards, 4 player cards, a tracker board, player tokens, a first player token, 6 endorsement cards, 30 ink cubes, and 15 remover cubes.  Each player begins the game with 8 starting cards – A-E-I-L-N-R-S and T.  You also are dealt two starting Prestige letters, which could be C-D-G-H-M-O-P or U.  Players put their cubes on the zero spot of the Prestige tracker and on their player start on the Adverts track.  You’ll then shuffle up all remaining Letter cards and deal seven into what is known as the Offer Row.  Players draw five cards from their personal deck, and begin.

On your turn, the first thing you will do is CREATE A WORD.  Look at the five cards in your hand and play as many as you want to make a real dictionary word).  If you have any ink, you can spend it to draw more Letters, but every Letter you draw in this way MUST be used in your word (unless you use ink remover on it).  You can also choose to use another player’s Persistent card (which stays in play after their turn).  You get no benefit from it, but they discard it at the end of your turn.  The other thing you can do is turn a Letter face down in order to use it as a wild card.  You won’t get any benefit from the card, but it helps especially if you’re trying to make long words.  Any unused cards will be discarded at the end of the round.

Once your word is made, you look at all ABILITIES, COINS, and PRESTIGE you have in play.  Prestige are points, coins are used to buy new cards, and abilities can do different things for you.

Next, it’s time to PURCHASE.  Knowing how many coins you have, you may purchase cards from the Offer row up to the amount of money you have.  The Letter cards fall into four genres, each with its own special powers.  Adventure Letters give immediate prestige, or allow you to trash cards for coins or prestige.  Horror Letters are the only ones that give access to ink remover, and give choices about what you want (ink or remover, coins or prestige).  Mystery Letters may allow you to flip over adjacent wild cards, giving access to their text, or lock up cards from the Offer row into your own personal Offer row – no one else can buy it, and you can only have one there at a time.  Romance Letters represent trashy novels, and allow you to either trash another card or double an adjacent card.

You could also purchase ink for one coin each – this is good to do if you have some extra money left over.  The last thing you can do is purchase adverts, which are tracked on the board and give you extra points at the end of the game.

After purchasing, you can CLAIM AN ENDORSEMENT CARD.  The endorsement deck begins with the 7 on top, and goes to 12.  If you are the first to make a 7-letter word, you get the 7 endorsement.  However, if a player later makes a 9-letter word, they take the 9 endorsement and the 7 and 8 are removed from the game, even if they have been claimed by others.  There will only be one endorsement at the end of the game, and you will score it then.

Next, DISCARD all cards that you played or that are still in your hand.  Any ink used to draw new cards is also discarded, as are any persistent cards belonging to other players that you used.  DRAW a new hand of five cards, reshuffling your discard pile if you need more.

When a player reaches 60 points, keep playing until all players have had an equal number of turns.  The player with the most points is the winner.  Remember that endorsement cards are only scored at the end of the game, so they don’t count for the 60 point trigger, but could push someone ahead.

image by BGG user kaichio

I have sadly never played Paperback.  However, it is one that I’ve wanted to play ever since I first heard about its Kickstarter a few years ago.  This one is getting a lot of good buzz, and I’m hearing people say that it’s even better than the original.  The four card genres seem to be introducing the Star Realms card synergies concept – having lots of cards in the same genre tend to make your cards more powerful.  Using any card as a wild seems like a good idea as well – it introduces the decision of which cards to use in that capacity, and what abilities you can give up.  It seems like the kind of game where people who are really good at anagrams will excel at, but the wild cards will make it easier for anyone to make something.  So I think this one would be a good investment, particularly if you like deckbuilders or word games.

The Kickstarter campaign runs until April 26, and has already well funded.  You can get your own copy of the game for $27, and can bump up your pledge to $43 if you want to add on the Paperback expansion.  That’s all for today, so thanks for reading!

(Disclaimer: As far as I know, Fowers Games doesn’t even know I exist.  I’m not getting anything for this post, I just wanted to help with getting the word out about a game that looks really cool.)


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