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Subject: Paperback: This game deserves a hardback rss

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Andrew J.
United States
Missouri
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Paperback is a 'novel approach to deckbuilding.' In Paperback, you start with an initial deck of 10 cards: R S T L N, and five wild cards. Each turn, you will make words with your cards, which earns you points, which you'll then use to buy more letter cards to make bigger and better words. Alternatively, you can buy victory points cards, which also serve as wild cards.

That's the gist of the game -- it's a pretty standard deck builder, very similar to Eminent Domain, Star Realms, or Dominion. But I found Paperback completely engrossing and enjoyable. Maybe it's because I'm a word person, but I was immediately captivated by this game and its concept.

There's more strategy to this game than first appears. I played my first games and lost all five badly -- embarrassingly, even. I finally scratched out a win on my sixth game, and then promptly lost the seventh one just after. With so many options of cards to buy, I was able to execute good, valuable words, but wasn't very informed about what to buy with the cents I was earning.

With so many options, there's a million different ways you could execute your strategy. You could buy card-burners, which reward you for trashing cards out of your hand. Or you could buy cards which augment your hand size the next round -- giving you 7 or 8 letters to work with instead of only 5. Or, you could invest in attack letters which limit other players from using certain features or purchasing certain cards.

Unfortunately, this makes Paperback overwhelming at first blush. I definitely took a while to ramp into the strategy and my wife has taken even longer. Part of this is because I don't have a ton of exposure to deck-builders (my skill in Paperback improved once I tried Star Realms, a very similar deck-builder). I'm not sure if this is inherent to the game or just me, but it's a big detractor for including it at our game group.

I also found that the higher-cent letters (7, 8, 9, and 10 cent cards) were really a little underpowered, since the game ends when two fame card piles have run out completely. Generally we found that 5 or 6 cent cards are the sweet spot for really powerful cards, though a few well-placed 7/8 cards really work well. We found that adding more fame cards to the pile made for a longer, and more intense game. I'm not a huge fan of games you have to tweak to make playable, though.

Still, you've gotta give the publisher credit: Paperback packs a whole lot into its tiny box. There are mini-expansions: theme cards that reward you for making words in a certain genre; special powers that give each player a different, unique ability; even rules variants for more replayability. I short, I've been really impressed by how much Paperback crams into its tiny box, and how challenging its strategy is to grasp.

Update:
There are a few annoying cards in this deck that introduce some balance issues. We've found that the 'Double-Word' card can end the game prematurely because it's pretty much the only way that the 17c wild card will be bought, and especially in a two-player game, can swing the entire course of the game in a very short time. That's, overall, a minor ding from an excellent game, however.



Paperback


Gameplay
.. Abstract --♦-------- Thematic
....... Luck -------♦--- Skill
.... Simple -----♦----- Complex
. Strategic --♦-------- Tactical
... Friendly ----♦------ Cutthroat

Other
Graphic Design/Components: 5/5
Insert: 5/5 (very creative box solution)
Rules Clarity: 4/5

Overall: 4/5

tl;dr: Paperback truly is a 'novel approach to deckbuilding,' and one of the better deck-builders I've played. Its combination of wordbuilding and deckbuilding is one of the fresher games I've played in 2015.
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Candace Mercer
United States
Olympia
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Re: Deserving of a hardcover
Thanks for the review! I have had my eye on this, trying to trade or get a low cost copy. My biggest concern would be getting it to the table. My partner just thinks it is "too scrabble." And I do the anagram puzzle in the paper every day so I would have that advantage. You made me want the game anyway! Good job!
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JoAnna Spring
United States
Indiana
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Re: Deserving of a hardcover
I don't like scrabble at all, but love Paperback. In fact, before this game, i would describe myself as intimidated by word games. I think I've beat my husband in each of the three plays we've had, and he has a way better vocabulary and spelling ability than i do. The bonuses on cards, and the deckbuilding strategy aspects really level the playing field/table. In some instances it's better to leverage a card's bonus than to spell a fancy word. There are also tons of wild cards which really helps.

To me, it doesn't feel much like scrabble at all.
 
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Andrew J.
United States
Missouri
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JoAnnaSpring wrote:
I don't like scrabble at all, but love Paperback. In fact, before this game, i would describe myself as intimidated by word games. I think I've beat my husband in each of the three plays we've had, and he has a way better vocabulary and spelling ability than i do. The bonuses on cards, and the deckbuilding strategy aspects really level the playing field/table. In some instances it's better to leverage a card's bonus than to spell a fancy word. There are also tons of wild cards which really helps.

To me, it doesn't feel much like scrabble at all.


I agree with Joanna, if you're a gamer you'll still be able to exploit the card's special powers and come off nicely -- though people who are wizards at word-building have an advantage of their own. My mother-in-law is a schoolteacher and she kills us at this game. I sadly, am neither wordy nor incredible at games, so I rarely win Paperback -- but that doesn't stop me from enjoying it!
 
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Flop Adrop
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California
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The sequel is coming! http://statelyplay.com/2017/03/14/hardback-a-prequelsequel-t...
 
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