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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Monday, 6 August 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Movable Type

Game: Movable Type

Publisher: Uncanny Cardboard

Designer: Robin David

Year: 2016

Word games have often been a favourite style of games for us. Even before we really got into gaming, Bananagrams was a game we would take on ever holiday and enjoy with an evening drink. One of the reasons we get on with them so well is probably because Fi is often better at creating words from a bunch of letters more quickly than Amy, and Fi likes a game that she tends to win!

There are a number of different alternatives to the traditional Scrabble, like Paperback and Letter Tycoon that integrate new mechanisms and in particular introduce more modern gaming mechanisms into word games. Paperback has probably been our favourite so far, integrating deck-building, but Movable Type is the first game we've seen that integrates drafting. It is even described as 'Scrabble crossed with Sushi Go' in its BGG listing. Let's take a look at how its done and whether this makes a successful combination.


Gameplay

Movable Type is a drafting game consisting of 5 rounds. In the first 4 rounds there will be a drafting phase, during which each player will be dealt a 5 cards. From these 5 cards they must pick one card to add to their hand and pass the remaining 4 on. They will then receive the 4 cards that their neighbor didn't want a pick one before passing 3 on. This continues until each player has 5 cards in their hand, at which point players will use these 5 letters, in combination with the 3 common letters dealt each round, to create a word. Letters are worth differing amounts of points depending on their rarity in the English Language. The player with the highest scoring word wins the round, but there are also 3 reward cards that can be earned by playing in certain ways (such as not using any of the shared letters).



The player who played the best word will get first pick on which letters to add to their personal collection, you can select letters from anyone's hand or the common letters. Round 5 works differently, instead of drafting cards players will pick up all the cards in their personal collection and use those (along with the 3 common letters) to create a word. The player with the highest scoring word in round 5 is the winner.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

Movable Type is certainly a novel take on the word game genre. The drafting mechanic is very bare-bones but, especially in a two player game, it does incorporate a good amount of push your luck. You can aim to make the first word possible, feeling safe in your ability to at least play something before trying to add to your collection, or you can take a risk and go for the bigger words, hoping and praying that your opponents don't take all the letters you need before they get back to you. Being then able to pick which cards to add to your collection for the final round adds a nice twist to the game, doing well early on rewards you in the end game. As players who do well get 2 cards and players who do poorly only get 1 (and last choice) be warned that if someone does bad rounds 1-4 they likely won't enjoy their inevitable loss in round 5.


Of course Movable Type suffers from the same chance of AP that most word games have. Some people are better at rearranging letters in their head. Personally I've never been very good at anagrams. As such it tends to take me a little longer to think of my word, which has led to more than one occasion of "damn it this will do" when I actually had a much better word staring me in the face.

I think in essence what moveable type has done is introduce a modern game mechanic into what is otherwise a traditional family game. While it might not seem that impressive for gamers, Moveable Type makes for an excellent introduction to drafting. It's almost always obvious what cards you want and why you want them, everyone understands the core concept of making words. While it might be a bit of a novelty for game night, where Moveable Type really shines is as a game to introduce to family that are more hesitant to play modern games.


Fi’s Final Thoughts

I really like some of the concepts in Movable Type. Drafting is a mechanism I enjoy and when you're trying to make a word it's even more critical that you get the cards you want than in many other drafting games where you might be able to adapt and make do with something else. I like that I really have to plan and keep my letter selection agile to give myself options. I also find it intriguing that the whole game comes down to a final round where you make a word out of the letters you've banked during the game. I did find that we had to play with the variant where you can look at this pile rather than trying to memorise it and just finding the final round frustrating.

However, this interesting design for the scoring was not without its annoyances. Mainly, it felt like a foregone conclusion that the player who won the early rounds and banked more cards as a result just had better chances of scoring best in the final round. It seemed like there were ways to mitigate this, if the player behind focused on a shorter word with high scoring letters and taking some of the author cards that focused less on long or difficult words. However, the reality in a two player game was often that the person with most wins under their belt had the best chance in the final round.

I still found this game to be enjoyable, in particular because a lot of planning went into whether you could make a word at the end of each round. There's still the chance that you'll get unlucky in the draft and have a lot of letters that are hard to make a word out of, but a small part of that is always your fault. The one thing I'd like to add might be one wild card in the central pool of common cards that would just loosen the game up and avoid some of the analysis paralysis of trying to make a word that is common in a number of word games.

If people you know enjoy word games, then Movable Type could be a great way to introduce them to drafting mechanisms that might lead to some interest in other games.


You Might Like...
  • The drafting gives you an interesting chance to try and plan ahead, especially in a two-player game which can lead to some fun moments of frustration with you opponent's drafting choice!
  • It's interesting to work towards the objective of the literary characters as these sometimes reward words that are easier to make but lower point scoring, giving different chances to bank cards for the final round.
You Might Not Like...
  • The art style is pretty stark and basic, and won't be to everyone's taste, especially compared to the standard of games on store shelves these days.
  • It can be very hard to win in the final round if you've not had success in earlier rounds.
  • Trying to come up with a word based on your letters can be quite paralysing for some players.

The Verdict
6/10 Moveable Type does a great job at integrating drafting and interesting bonus powers into a word game. For us, it just relied a little too heavily on who has the best vocabulary or anagram ability and sometimes had a huge end game advantage for that player. A mechanism for wild cards would really have helped us to really love this game.

Moveable Type was a review copy kindly provided to us by Uncanny Cardboard at the UK Games Expo 2018.

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