“I’d like to buy a vowel please…”


When my girlfriend Phuong and I are wanting to play a game together, Phuong usually suggests her go-to game “Scrabble”. And when we both play, we are highly competitive. Constantly, I’m looking at words that she plays on the board and I’m going “is that even a real word?” I get real frustrated with not being able to come up with words quick enough and feel more stupid when I can’t find a place to put them.

On the other hand, I always try to suggest something different. There was one time where I suggested “Dominion”, one of my go-to deck builders. But we played it once and she didn’t really like it because of the confusion of the repeated actions, variety of cards to pick from, and the buying phases.

So why am I saying all of this? Well, as I was perusing through YouTube, I came across a video from Geek and Sundry about a card game that mixed the deck building style of Dominion and the word gaming of Scrabble. It was called Paperback. I showed the game to Phuong and we were both intrigued as to how this game would play. After buying the game and trying it out, I think we’ve found a game that’s a happy medium in both genres.

Paperback is a deck building word game made by Tim Fowers. Players act as writers and using letter cards in their hands, players have to construct words that will help them essentially get more money. The money is then used to buy more cards that are put into the discard pile and can be drawn once a player’s draw deck has been exhausted. Some of these cards have special abilities that allow players to draw more cards from their draw decks, increase the amount of money that a player gets during the buy phase, or trash cards that are just starting to clutter the deck. In order to win the game, you must buy cards that give you the most fame points before certain decks run out of cards.

If you have ever played Dominion, Paperback plays almost exactly like it. You have the regular letter cards that offer stronger powers as the cost increases. You also have the fame cards acting like the Provinces and Estates of Dominion; they  help you win the game in the end, but essentially clog up the deck because they don’t pay out. Fans of Dominion will practically have the skill sets to tackle this game. IMG_7250

The hardest part of Paperback is not the strategy in playing cards, but rather forming the words themselves. In order to utilize the powers of the cards, you must be able to play a legal word. At the beginning of the game, you’re playing simple words, but give you very little coins to buy new cards. As you start buying  and adding new cards to your deck, your brain now has to unscramble the letters received in your hand in such a way that you both maximize the amount of points you earn on your turn while getting as many actions as possible. In addition, the game balances well the value of the card with the difficulty of using the card. The 2  cent cards are all vowels, but are trashed after use. The 3 and 4 cent card piles are a combination of blended consonants, and vowel and consonant combinations that have some straight forward powers. The 8 – 10 cent cards utilize Qs, Zs and Xs, but have the highest point value and have strong abilities.

IMG_7252The most appreciated aspect of the game is its ability to customize for any gamer. The game comes with additional expansions such as awards, special abilities, cubes to allow for different rules of the game, and extra common cards that allow players to switch the double letters or even let players play two words at once. I really like this aspect because I’m able to tailor the game for different groups of people. When I play with Phuong, I take out the attacking cards, and play with the regular common cards. When I play with more vindictive groups (Connie and Alex…) I put the attacking cards in, consider switching the double letters, and allow players to give hints to others. The game is very flexible and can be adjusted for any gamer.

Paperback is a cute deck builder that pushes the limits of your own vocabulary. You will be constantly saying letter combinations out loud and slurring letters together in the hopes that you will find a word in the mess of cards you own. Due to its customization, the game is great for hardcore players who are looking for a challenge and also good for casual gamers, or even players who are just starting off in the board gaming hobby. Paperback definitely demonstrates a beautiful union between wordplay and deck building and I recommend getting a copy of this game.


  • Deck building unites with word play.
  • Easy to learn and teach.
  • Can be customized to suit players’ needs.
  • Small game; very portable


  • I honestly can’t think of one…It’s a really good game

2 thoughts on “Paperback

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