Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday 14 April 2016

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Paperback


PublisherTim Fowers

Designer: Tim Fowers


Paperback was on my list of wanted games for a long time, I even tried to pre-order a copy when I went to New York last year, but eventually, like many UK gamers, I was very excited to pick it up when a UK online retailer finally got Paperback in stock. Why was I so excited? We love deck-builders, they’re probably our second favourite style of game after co-ops. Before we really got into gaming we enjoyed really enjoyed the word game Bananagrams. Finally, I’d heard great things about Paperback as a two-player game.

In Paperback, like most deckbuilders, you start with a deck of 10 basic cards from which you draw a hand of 5. On your turn you try and arrange these letters to make a word and you earn the money shown on the cards you manage to play. You can also try and earn an extra 1c by using the central common card as part of your word. You can then spend the money to buy more letter cards, which might just be one letter with a higher monetary value than the ones you start with, but also might be two letters or a letter with a special ability to help boost your turn. 

You also have the option to buy different books, which are cards which give you larger numbers of victory points – these go into your deck and act as wild cards, which could be seen as filling your deck with weaker cards, so timing when you buy them is key. The final way in which you can earn victory points is from the common cards which are each worth 5 victory points. The first is earned by the first player to make a 7 letter word, the next by the first player to make an 8 letter word and so on. The winner is the player with most victory points when either two types of book have been depleted or when all the common cards have been won.

What I particularly enjoy about Paperback are the ways it forces you to think differently than just trying to make a long high scoring word. The central objectives often offer great bonuses for actions such as reversing two letters, or similar puzzles, which can be interesting to try and get your brain to work on. The bonuses written on the cards can guide you towards particular letter placement which might restrict your word length but actually gain you more points. It’s also been quite an evenly balanced game as the luck-of-the-draw element means that some turns you just have better scoring opportunities.

The game setup - looking really slick on the table for a word game!
As much as I personally enjoy the game, there are some definite drawbacks with Paperback;

  • The first one we came across was an issue with the number of books (victory point cards) available in the two player game. You use an even number of the two lowest victory point varieties and our first two games therefore resulted in a draw as we were quite evenly matched and each ended up with the same number of victory cards. We now simply ignore the advice of the rules and add an extra victory point card to increase the chances of a clear winner.

  • My second drawback is analysis paralysis. When we play with just the two of us, we’re pretty disciplined with what is an acceptable amount of time to keep the other person waiting whilst you think of a word, however we’ve been quite nervous to bring Paperback out with other players because of how long they could spend trying to make the longest word they can. The game could drag far too much in these situations.

  • Finally it has to be clear that although this game slightly rewards some skill in building a useful deck with good combos, there is actually a greater skill in knowing your personal strengths in making words and therefore knowing which combos suit you. Ultimately I’m pretty sure the winner of this game is more often going to be the person better at making words than the person better at deck-building.

For me Paperback is a great blend of two styles of game I enjoy, so I am happy to give Paperback an 8/10.

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