Hardback Review

Look: Hardback

Designer: Jeff
Beck and Tim Fowers

Artist: Ryan Goldsberry
Publisher: Fowers

of Players:
Ages: 10+
 45–60 minutes
more info on 
is the second deck-building word game from Fowers Games (Paperback is the
other). Although you may think that one is very much like the other, there are
distinct differences that makes each of them stand out on their own. Although
they may have the same generic theme of building a deck of letters, just like
writing differences for a pulp paperback market and a literary novel, you can
play one and then the other and have a completely different experience.
is also the case of playing several games of Hardback back to back. There is
enough randomization with the set up and what becomes available to allow
playing Hardback multiple times in the same gaming session.
balance of play makes Hardback a good for players of different ability levels. When we played, there were college-educated players along with other who
are still in high school. One player enjoys other word games with friends,
where the more elaborate words score better, and they were on equal footing
with the younger player with far less experience. This balance made the game
enjoyable for everyone involved.

player starts with a beginning deck of 10 cards. Eight of the cards are the same
for everyone. The last 2 cards are dealt randomly from a set of 10 remaining
the middle, 7 Offer Cards are turned up. These are the card available for
purchase by players to add to their deck.
available on the table are ink and ink remover.  These are also purchased during gameplay and
can be used to add additional cards (i.e. letters) into your hand or when purchasing
more cards for your deck.
goal is to score Prestige points. When one player reaches 60 points, play
continues until everyone has had the same number of turns and the highest score
has their latest masterpiece accepted and they are proclaimed the finest author
of the age!
Set up and ready to play
Shuffle your personal deck and draw five cards. Then create a word using those
cards. That part is pretty straight forward. But there are some wonderfully fun
ways of getting there, depending on the cards you use. As your deck grows, different cards become possibilities and they have abilities that come into
play when the letter on the card is used. Or, if you play the card face down in
your word, it’s a wild card.
of the cards have Basic Benefits and the Offer Cards include Genre Benefits.
Every card that is face up allows you to gain the Basic Benefit. Genre Benefits
are earned when 2 or more cards played (face up) are of the same genre. Some of
the cards are Timeless Classics (which are identified because they are faced
sideways), and they have benefits that can carry over.
Classics are not immediately moved to the discard pile. They stay in front of
the player who used it and remains there for scoring purposes on subsequent
rounds. The player doesn’t have to use the Timeless Classic Card again to score
it. The Genre Benefits are gained if another card of the same genre is played
in a later word. However, other players can also use the letter in their
creation of a word. When another player uses the letter, they don’t score any
of the benefits, but the card is moved to the owner’s discard pile. Opponents
have to decide if it is worth getting rid of the card or going for their own
you play your word, you collect the benefits. You count the prestige you earned
and score it. You also collect earnings that allow you to buy Offer Cards and
Ink for later use. Some benefits allow other actions to be taken, like getting
Ink Remover.
Our initial Offer Cards
of the additional cards purchased become part of your deck for later hands. Ink
can be used later for buying more Offer Cards or to add cards to your hand from
your deck. Cards added this way have to be used as face-up cards in your next
word unless you have Ink Remover. Ink Remover allows the additional cards to be
turned into wild cards.

and Mechanics
use of words and letters for a deck-building game works well. The limit of five
cards keeps the hands moving quickly. The option of purchasing more cards from
your deck to include in your next word provides a risk-taking element that can
be used for people who want to score more points. This creates an option for
players who find they are getting behind in the score and attempt to make a
bigger, thus higher scoring, word.
addition of the backstory being set in the past gave some of the players a feeling of not having to compete with modern styles. I’m not sure how that came
about, and they weren’t able to give a solid explanation; however, it does
allow for some fitting artwork and a little calligraphy.
First word of the game
and Components
is illustrated by Ryan Goldsbery. Goldsbery has done a lot of illustration work
and has done a number (if not all) of games from Fower Games. His work fits the
theme of the game with the look of the 19th-century setting put
forth in the backstory. The look of the style and characters is completed
throughout all aspects of the game.

  • Easy
    to learn
  • Good
    balance for all player; the best vocabulary didn’t win our games
  • Variant
    rules are included
again, we were pleased with another game from Fowers Games. We only played the
basic game to see how everything played out and are planning a return to the
game table to try one of the included variations. There is even a cooperative
variation that has everyone working together to write an anthology.
Who Like
  • Deck
  • Word
Some Offer Cards including Timeless Classics

Check out Hardback on:


Daniel Yocom – Reviewer

Daniel Yocom does geeky things by night because his day job won’t let him. This dates back to the 1960s through games, books, movies, and stranger things better shared in small groups. He’s written hundreds of articles about these topics for his own blog, other websites, and magazines along with stories, after extensive research. His research includes attending conventions, sharing on panels and presentations, and road-tripping with his wife. Join in the geeky fun at guildmastergaming@blogspot.com.

See Daniel’s reviews HERE.

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