Word Domination (Preview)
Word games like “Scrabble” are all well and good, but they often reward the players with the most vocabulary floating around their heads. This makes playing with children somewhat difficult, unless you limit yourself to three or four letter words that don’t earn yourself a whole lot of points. “Word Domination”, a game that’s coming to Kickstarter late August of 2016, doesn’t have that problem. Before I go into why that is, I’d like to thank Jeff Beck from Uproarious Games for providing me with a prototype copy for preview purposes. It’s important to stress that prototypes are not often reflective of the final product, making everything you see here (including the rules) subject to change.
Setting up everything proved fairly easy in that players will be preparing a grid of letter tiles, the size of which depending on the number of players. In a two player game, for example, you’ll use sixteen letters in a 4×4 grid by drawing randomly from the box. After that, each player draws an additional random letter from the box to form their starting hand. Players then choose a color and receive the associated tokens.
A player’s turn consists of three main actions:
1. Place your tile – Firstly, the active player will place the letter from their hand somewhere along the outer edge of the grid.
2. Spell a word – Then, the active player will spell a word using any of the letters in play, though it must contain the newly placed letter. The letters of the word need not be adjacent, though the same tile cannot be used twice. If a letter has been stolen it cannot be used (more on that later). Once finished, the active player will place a token of their color on each of the tiles used.
3. Draw a new tile – Lastly, the active player draws a new random tile from the box.
Okay, so you’ve got the basics down…but why are you placing tokens of your colors onto letter and what is stealing all about?
Players in this game take on the role of evildoers, looking to steal priceless artifacts. Letter tiles in this game represent a single priceless artifact. Whenever you place a token of your color onto a letter tile, you’re essentially looking to steal it on a future turn. If you spell a word with someone else’s token already on it, it is displaced by yours and the other player gets their token back.
To steal a letter, you simply need to use it a second time while your token is still on it. In other words, if your opponents can’t make words from the letters you used, your tokens won’t be displaced. Then, on your following turn, you have the chance to use the letter tiles containing your tokens to form a word and steal said letters (but only the ones that contain YOUR colored tokens). You can steal multiple letter tiles on a single turn.
Stolen letters are removed from the grid and placed in front of the player who stole them. The player will fill the grid’s gaps by drawing random tiles from the box but placing them “stolen” side up. The player who stole the letter(s) puts a colored token on each so that they can claim infamy points at the game’s end. Stolen letters can only be used by the player who stole them, no one else.
There is one exception to the above rules: Arsenal letters (they represent super weapons and gizmos). These are light blue in color as opposed to the standard dark blue letter tile. Each time you spell a word using an arsenal letter, you can use its special ability for that turn only. Stealing an arsenal letter works the same way AND you can use its ability when you use it on your turn.
There are some other miscellaneous rules to go over, like lending a hand and forcing your hand. To lend a hand, you can give clues to the other player as to the word you’re thinking of…how many letters it has, how many letters that player could steal using that word, and which letter in the word you would like as payment for your services. The active player has the option to accept or reject the offer, though if accepted, the helping player reveals the word and the active player must use it. When placing tokens, the helping player puts one of their own on the letter specified during the offer. It’s possible that every player may make an offer that you will reject, in which case they can force your hand by making you move within sixty seconds or your turn is skipped.
Turns continue until the sixth round is complete (a round is complete when everyone has had a turn). At this point, players add up their infamy points. Each stolen letter on the grid is worth one infamy point, though players receive a bonus point for each letter in a group of three or more adjacent tokens of their color. This is what I was referring to at the beginning of the article when I said that the person with the best vocabulary and longest words may not necessarily win. Strategic letter use can allow anyone to pull ahead via grouping. Diagonals, by the by, do not count as adjacent. Whoever has the most points once the smoke clears, wins!
It’s important to note that I didn’t cover ALL of the rules found in the manual (like what each arsenal letter does), but it should give you a general understanding as to what you’re in for should you decide to support this game.
I personally love “Word Domination”. Like other word games, your goal is simple: earn the most points. What makes this game so unique however are the rules and flow of play…everything from stealing letters and using special abilities to making offers and gaining a possible cut as a result. My prototype copy didn’t come with a box so I can’t comment on that, but the gameplay itself was so good that I can’t wait to see what the final product looks like. I can safely recommend this game to just about anyone, though it would have been nice if it supported up to five players (the size of our gamer household) instead of four.
“Word Domination” is truly a step up from the word games in my collection and for that, it’ll have a permanently reserved space on my gaming shelf.” At the very least, go check this gem out via the Kickstarter link below…you won’t be disappointed!