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Letter Tycoon

October 11th, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

I did a double-take when I read the name of the game for the first time, more out of surprise than anything else.  See, I cover a crap-ton of video games and when I come across the word “tycoon”, it usually relates to some kind of business simulator.  I was surprised to see the word in a tabletop game’s title, though after playing it, the name is pretty apt.  Essentially, your goal is to form the longest words you can so that you can earn both money and stocks. You can actually buy patents for the letters you use, collecting royalties from anyone else who uses those letters in the future.  I immediately bought the game upon discovering that particular mechanic, because it just sounded so darned awesome.  So did the game meet my high expectations?

 

Letter Tycoon

Letter Tycoon: 2-5 Players, Ages 8+, Average Play Time = 30-45 Minutes

 

Components

The game includes 102 Letter Factory Cards, 26 Letter Patents, 35 Coins, 18 Stock Certificates, 5 Score Cards, 4 Goal Cards, 1 Zeppelin – Start Player Token, and 1 Letter Factories Poster 8.5 x 14.

Setup & Gameplay

Each player takes a turn cutting the deck to reveal a letter.  The player who gets a card closest to “Z” goes first and receives the zeppelin token.  The factory deck is shuffled and each player gets seven cards along with a score card.  Three factory cards are then played face-up in the middle of the table to form the community pool.  The letter patents are laid out from A-Z, with the coins and stocks being placed nearby.  Lastly, a specific goal card is laid out, based on the number of players.  When a player earns the target value in letter patents, the game ends.

On a player’s turn, they can either discard any number of factory cards and draw that many from the factory deck OR play a word. All words labeled as a part of speech are allowed provided they are at least three letters long and are not abbreviations, proper nouns, or words requiring an apostrophe or hyphen.  Letters are used from both a player’s hand and the community pool, though at least one letter must come from the former.

Once a player has played a word, they’ll earn coins and stocks based on the length of the word.  The longer the word, the bigger the reward (there’s a chart in the manual).  Each opponent then receives $1 in royalties (from the bank) for each factory card played that matches a letter patent they own.  Players do not earn royalties on their own patents and patent abilities to add to a word do not pay opponent royalties.

After that, the active player can buy ONE patent.  The letter chosen must have been used to form the word.  The player then pays the cost to the bank.  It’s important to note that only coins are spendable…stocks are saved for endgame scoring.

Lastly, any factory cards used from the community pool are replaced and any factory cards played are placed into the discard pile.  The active player then draws back up to seven cards.

This continues until a player controls an amount of patents equal to or greater in value than the goal card to play, in which case the last round is triggered.  Players who haven’t played yet for that round get to take their turn.  The player with the highest combined value of patents, coins, and stocks wins the game!

Editor’s Note: The above doesn’t cover all of the rules found in the manual, but should give you an idea as to how the game is played.

The Review

I liked this game for a number of reasons.  The most obvious one revolves around the fact that it’s educational and can be played with children.  It’s a bit more advanced than “Word on the Street“, but that might just very well work for older children who are growing bored with easy-to-play word games.  While the rules state which words are legal and not, I don’t see why you couldn’t live a little and let things slide as necessary for the benefit of younger kids or casual play.  The game is flexible enough to where player’s can choose their own patent goal value, making the game shorter or longer as they see fit…another plus in my book.

I appreciated how the lesser-used letter patents came with special abilities.  The “Z” patent, for example, allows you to add an “S” to the end of your word.  “V” allows you to lay down two words, while “J” earns you double coins AND stocks if vowels make up at least half of your word.  I love this idea because suddenly, I have a reason to want to spell out the word using those difficult letters (like “Qua”).  After all, you can only buy a letter patent IF you’ve used it to spell your word on your turn. Of course, you can bypass those and go straight for the common letter patents like “E” and “S” so that you earn royalties from your opponents on a regular basis.

My only real complaint was the price tag.  As of today (10/11/15), the game is retailing on the official website for $35.  I personally would have been more comfortable with the $20-$25 price range.  Yes, the game is a good.  Yes, the game is fun.  However, most word games on Amazon sell for between $15-25, making “Letter Tycoon” a bit difficult to recommend to folks on a budget.  If money isn’t an issue however, then I wholeheartedly recommend it for its educational value and its unique way of incorporating patents and abilities.

Final Verdict: 7/10

Buy Letter Tycoon: http://breakinggames.com/products/letter-tycoon

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