Letter Tycoon 

It had been awhile since I went to one of my favourite board game stores, Sentry Box. Most of the time, it was because I could either purchase my games online and wait a few days to get it, or purchase the games at Pips because of my staff discount. But when I get the opportunity to go, I usually head straight for the new games section and check out some of the innovative stuff that other designers have been making.

One game on this shelf caught my eye. It was called “Letter Tycoon”. The reason why it intrigued me was because both Phuong and I love word games. Usually these types of games are ones that we can sit at a table casually and just enjoy playing it. So I decided to pick it up and try it out. It definitely did not disappoint.

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Letter Tycoon is a word smithing game created by Brad Brooks and has earned the “Mensa Select” recommendation. In this game, you construct words using the cards found in your hand as well as in the community pile. The bigger the word you make, the more money you get. The money essentially can be used to purchase patents of letters. These patents make you money when one of your opponents use those letters found on the patent.

Set-up is straightforward. Each player starts out with seven cards in their own hand. Three cards are dealt onto the table and they will act as the community cards for the acting player. Twenty-six patent cards are also laid out, each one with a different letter of the alphabet. From there you are good to go.

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On your turn you can either discard some cards from your hand and get new ones from the factory deck, or create a word from your hand and with the community cards available on your turn. Generally speaking, the longer the word you make, the more money you earn. In addition, if you are able to make a word that is at least six letters long, you earn a stock, which adds to your score at the end of the game. After you get your money, you can use whatever you have earned to buy an available patent. You buy patents to earn more money in the event one of your opponents use that letter in their word. When buying patents, you can only buy one and can only purchase patents that were featured in the word you played.  The patents reflect well the frequency of letters found in English words. For example, the E patent is the most expensive patent, costing ten dollars, but is practically used all the time in words and essentially almost guaranteeing you money when your opponents play their word. Other letters such as V, X or Z cost two dollars, but allow the player to gain a special ability such as being able to play two words instead of one, or add an extra S at the end of a word. The game ends when a player invests in the required number of dollars in patents, and when all players have received an equal number of turns.

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Letter Tycoon is definitely a lighthearted game with really interesting elements of strategy. Players are constantly rearranging their letters to efficiently earn money for themselves. And since the community cards are changing so often, players often have to adapt and think on the fly as to what word they are going to play next. However, this also means that you can’t really plan for a word until it was your turn, which makes the game more lengthy than expected.

In addition there is a bit of strategy when purchasing patents. The question that came up often for me was whether I should buy early and take a cheaper patent and use special abilities throughout the game, or save up my money in the hopes of purchasing a better patent that can pay out more often. There is always a timing pressure as well since many other players are also vying for the same patents as you are. And once a player buys a patent, the other opponents start to reconsider their own letters and try to avoid using any that are owned by other players. The community set of cards also influences your decision to buy a patent. If a player needs to use one of those cards on their turn, you might just be guaranteeing one or a few dollars on their turn.

I really like Letter Tycoon. It’s definitely a casual card game that any player can get involved in. It’s simple to teach and really simple to set up. Letter Tycoon is a great appetizer to any board game night, or is even a game for those who are just looking to socialize while hanging out. This is definitely a game people should pick up.

Pros: 

  • Simple game that’s really quick to get into.
  • Great game for players who enjoy word smithing.
  • Cool strategic elements that need to be considered to maximize the amount of money earned.
  • Super lighthearted game; definitely for those who want something casual.
  • Components are well designed. Love the artwork.

Cons: 

  •  Not much depth to the game.
  • The community cards change so often that it’s more beneficial to just come up with words with your current hand.
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