Duration: +-30-45 minutes
Distributor: Breaking Games
Letter Tycoon – Board Game Review
Things are getting rather bland after spending hours and hours playing digital ‘Tycoon’ games, and it seems you can’t help but wonder how to use your exquisite set of skills in the real world. You have been honing your skills for years and finally, you’ll be able to own a monopoly on all the letters of the alphabet! At long last the time has come to get out of your basement and earn money by charging cash per used letter (which holds your own fancy patent). Mom and dad will be proud, as you put your Scrabble skills to the test in this money based letter game. After all, the alphabet is the new gold.
- Zeppelin start marker
- 102 Letter factory cards
- 26 Letter patents
- 35 coins ($1 and $3)
- 18 Stock certificates ($1 and $3)
- 4 Goal cards
- 5 Scoring reference
Even though the game is pretty much all about combining letter cards to create words, earn money and buy patents, it was easy to presume that the appearance of the game would be rather basic. To our surprise Letter Tycoon looks amazing for the theme of the game, and has many well manufactured components, which immediately set the right atmosphere. It’s all about the money, and this feeling is properly invoked thanks to the wooden coins, the hard cardboard stock certificates and the very nice ‘factory’ illustrations on all of the letter cards. The patents all have illustrations that go hand in hand with the letter cards and last but not least, the zeppelin marker is a very nice touch, to indicate the player that is allowed to go first.
Everybody knows he won’t become a tycoon overnight and thus you’ll have to make money to invest, to make sure others pay you to use your products. In this case letters are the new hype and thus the goal of the game is to rise to the top by owning a predetermined amount of patents, which holds a total value, which is determined by the amount of players joining in on the letter war. Luckily, this game is easy to set up and you should get the rules down in a matter of minutes.
First of all, every player will receive seven cards, with either vowels or consonants on them, while in the center area of the playing field there will always be three face up letters. It’s up to the active player to form an as long as possible word with all the available letters (hand + playing field) in order to score himself some quick money. The longer the word, the better the reward. Every word will always earn you a minimum of cash (if it’s a minimum of three letters) and if they’re long enough, they will even earn you some stock certificates. While the latter will be accumulated to your final score, you will not be able to buy anything with your stock shares. After you decide to either keep or spend your money, you will have the chance to discard cards you don’t like and redraw until you have seven cards again. If cards from the playing field have been used, new ones will be placed face up until there are three cards once again.
Seeing you will have to get your hands on a specific amount of patents in order to win, you’ll have the chance to purchase one patent after you form a word. You can only choose between the patents of the letters you used in your word, thus sometimes you might get yourself in a situation where you can’t buy a single thing. Most of these ‘letter’ patents are quite simple, if someone uses the letter on your patent in a word of his/hers, you’ll receive one money token ($1). The price of the patent you desire often has to do with the frequency of the letter in the 102 letter cards, thus for example a patent for the letter ‘A’ is a lot more expensive than the one for the letter ‘Z’. Most patents are simple, while others have a special effect, such as granting you the ability to score double points if you only have one vowel in your created word, create two words in one turn or even copy one of your letter cards making sure you can come up with an even better word.
Don’t fret if you aren’t able to create a word during your turn, as you can simply discard cards you don’t like at the beginning of your turn, which might make sure you have some better luck during your next turn. Of course, discarding before you create a word will also end your current turn.
Luck or Strategy?
Letter Tycoon is a healthy mix of luck, strategy and not to be underestimated, the creativity of the players. While forming words depends heavily on the cards you have in your hand, as well as those open on the table, you’ll be able to start planning ahead in case some letters should turn up in the middle, if you already own nearly all the letters. Of course, it’s all a matter of luck from that point on.
If your hand tends to be rubbish, you can discard cards at the end of your turn, in order to draw new ones, which might boost your performance the coming turn. Even though everything mentioned here is still mainly about luck, and your (opponent’s) ability to form words, you can still plan which patents you wish to aim for. You can choose to either invest in cheap ones early on, keep an eye on which letters have been used so far, or buy those that collaborate with more frequently used letters. Different tactics seem to work, thus you can try out several things.
Letter Tycoon is a fun word game along the lines of Scrabble, but the developers did their best to add a lot of fun features to spice things up. Before you know it you’ll be waging a patent war, in order to reel in the most cash. The basic mechanics will be clear in a matter of minutes, which makes this an ideal family game. Spell big or go home!