Wok Star, Paperback

Tim Fowers' Kickstarter Double-Header: Wok Star and Paperback

Kickstarter Tabletop Games
Wok Star
Wok Star is finally back!

When I first reviewed Wok Star nearly three years ago, Kickstarter was still a new thing for board game publishing. Gabob, the game company behind Wok Star, ran a pre-order campaign on their own: they raised enough to have a first run professionally printed. Then they signed on with another company and … the game sort of vanished into publishing limbo. I’m extremely pleased to announce that Wok Star is back!

So what is it?

Wok Star is a real-time cooperative board game designed by Tim Fowers in which you and your fellow players manage a Chinese restaurant. You have to ready ingredients and prepare dishes for the customers together, all while the sand timer ticks down. Serve a dish too slowly, and the customer eats free. Turn away too many customers, and you’re sunk.

Wok Star
Wok Star game in progress (prototype components). Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

In between rounds, you take the money you earned and spend it on better equipment, new recipes, and advertising (which brings in more customers). By the last round, you’ll need to make enough to pay back your restaurant loan. It’s a fast-paced, chaotic game that has been a hit whenever I’ve gotten it out, and the time pressure means that it’s much harder for one person to be the alpha player making decisions for everyone.

While I still have my copy of the first print run, Fowers explained that there have been tweaks to the gameplay to streamline it—cutting it from 6 rounds to 4, for instance, and boosting the player powers so they’re no longer once per game. In case you’ve played the original version, you can see the outline of changes here.

The Kickstarter campaign, run by Game Salute, is already fully funded with a few stretch goals still in the works. You can get yourself a copy for $39 (or less, if you get a couple friends together and buy a 6-pack). If you like cooperative games, you really shouldn’t let this one go by. Click here for the Kickstarter page.


But wait—that’s not all!

Tim Fowers, the designer of Wok Star, is also running another Kickstarter campaign simultaneously for a new game, Paperback. You’ll notice that one of the reward levels on the Wok Star Kickstarter will get you both games.

I got to try a prototype version of Paperback. The easiest way to describe it is a cross between Scrabble and Dominion: it’s a deck-building game, but you make words.

Wanna buy a vowel? Or a consonant? (Paperback prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Each player starts with a deck of the most commonly used consonants—R, S, T, L, N—and a few Wild cards, which are also worth victory points. On your turn, you draw five cards and make the most valuable word you can, which then gives you money to buy more cards.

Paperback cards

The cards you buy don’t just give you more valuable letters to work with, though. Many of them also have special effects if you manage to use them in a word, like drawing more cards for your next hand, increasing your word score, or letting you weed cards from your deck. Some cards have two-letter combinations that help you make longer words with fewer cards.

There’s also a common vowel on the table, which anyone can include in their words. Create a long enough word with it, and you get to claim the vowel, which is worth points. Finally, there are the victory point cards: they’re different types of novels, like mysteries and romances and westerns. They cost more than most of the letters, but at the end ofthe game they’re all that counts. In your hand, they function as Wild cards, so they’re not as useless as Dominion victory point cards, but they won’t add to your word’s value.

Paperback is a neat bridge between fans of deck-builders and fans of word games. Maybe you can use it to get your Scrabble-loving friend to try Dominion or your Dominion-loving friend to sit down to a game of Scrabble. That is, of course, if you don’t just sit down for another round of Paperback.

You can get a print-and-play version without final art for a $5 pledge, or the full game for $25. For more about the game, visit the Kickstarter page.

Disclosure: GeekDad received prototype versions of Paperback for this review.

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1 thought on “Tim Fowers' Kickstarter Double-Header: Wok Star and Paperback

  1. I’ve kickstarted both games as my 9 year old son really enjoys playing cooperative games with me. That said, Paperback is the game I’m most excited about of these two. I grew up playing word games with my family, and while I enjoy them, sometimes they feel a bit too luck of the draw (Scrabble, I’m looking at you:) ). I’ve printed out a copy of the PnP version and my son, wife and I all enjoyed our play of the game. Since you’re buying letters, you’ve no one else to blame for your terrible letter combinations:) I also appreciate being able to buy as many cards as I want with the money I have (unlike Dominion, where you are restricted to one card). If there’s one thing that may need to be revisted, it might be the cost of the higher VP cards…as someone pointed out in the Kickstarter comments, since you can buy as many cards as you can, I don’t think there’s enough of a cost to point differentiation between the higher point value cards and the lower ones.

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