Kickstarter Alert: ‘Word Domination’—Boardgame Review

Image: Uproarious Games
Image: Uproarious Games

For some of us, word games are where the world is at. These games of creating words with just a few letters present a challenge that is unique every time we sit down to game. Classics like Scrabble, and show-stopping new games like Paperback, have a new rival in Word Domination. This treasure-hunting word adventure plays the heartstrings of word nerds of all stripes. It launched on Kickstarter today, and has already shredded its goal.

Based on a mechanic new to word games, Word Domination features letter tiles that assemble to become the board. Players place a new letter tile each turn, creating words that allow them to steal precious treasures, landmarks, and wonders (the letters), so they have exclusive access to that resource.

Photo: Rory Bristol
Photo: Rory Bristol

The board starts out as 5×6 for a 4-player game, or smaller with fewer players. Players must make a word using only these letters. Common English letters are repeated quite often, making it easier to make long and unique words. On their turn, each player adds a new tile to the edge (wherever they like), and then makes a word using their placed tile letter. For each letter they use, they place a token on that letter, showing they’ve marked it for poaching.

Other players do the same, with a catch: If the next player(s) use the same letters as previous players, they boot off the previous markers. Since a player’s marker must last until the player uses that same letter again, strategic word choices can drastically change the pace of the game.

To spice things up, some letters grant special abilities. From forcing another player to play two tiles on their next turn to rearranging the board, these abilities can shift the game in a moment.

If the player’s turn comes around and a letter still has a token on it, they may use that letter in their next word and steal the letter from the board. The player takes the tile from its current location and replaces it with a face-down token, marked “stolen.” The player replaces their token on the newly placed tile, showing that they’ve claimed that spot. The claimed letter now resides in front of that player, and only they may use it to make future words!

Scoring is the sum of the number of tiles the player has stolen, plus a group bonus for having many stolen tiles in a cluster on the board. This area control mechanic means that sometimes players will be playing small words just to claim nearby tiles.

Let’s look at some turns, to illustrate the mechanics, shall we?

Photo: Rory Bristol
Photo: Rory Bristol

Orange takes the first turn. She places her tile, an A. Note, she doesn’t get a choice. The letter she draws is the letter she must use. Taking advantage of the many S tiles, she crafts the word “masses,” placing a token on each of the six letters. Also note that she cannot use the A tiles already in play. She must use the tile she placed. This makes tile placement tricky, as you’ll see further down.

Word Domination Grid 3
Photo: Rory Bristol

Yellow takes the second turn, placing a T tile and making the word “resists.” Yellow, too, is taking advantage of the many S tiles, and displaces three of Orange’s tokens! Here, Yellow is hedging her bets on tile placement. She’s placing her new tile next to a tile that also has her marker, but she’s also spreading the letters out, to try to claim letters in spaces that might be less desirable to other players.

Photo: Rory Bristol
Photo: Rory Bristol

Now Green takes a turn. She plays “posies” after placing the letter O. In doing so, she displaces four of Yellow’s tokens, bringing Orange and Yellow down to three claimed tiles each. She focuses her letters in the top right, hoping to keep her letters in a cluster for later scoring.

Word Domination Grid 5
Photo: Rory Bristol

White is more aggressive than the other players. She plays “bassist” and displaces two more of Yellow’s tiles, and three of Green’s. She now has eight marked letters, with her opponents dramatically displaced. This is definitely a game that favors the last player.

Photo: Rory Bristol
Photo: Rory Bristol

On Orange’s next turn, she realizes that White’s skill with a quill is undeniable, so she places her F tile and tackles the field with “pacifists.” This displaces five of White’s tokens, another of Green’s, and leaves Yellow’s single marker alone. Because Orange used her initial letter A again, she removes the tile and replaces it with a random face-down card, and puts a token on it, to mark her territory. This space cannot be stolen again, and she has many pieces set up around her first stolen letter, in preparation to create a large group.

Word Domination End

Here we see the board at the end of the game. The game lasts six rounds, so with a 4-player match, that’s 24 total turns. As you can see, half of the letters have been stolen, which makes every turn more difficult, as letters are removed. Near the middle of the board, you can see that White and Yellow contested the middle quite hotly, with White and Yellow splitting each other’s groups. Orange and Green played it safe, securing pieces on the edges.

In this image gallery, you can see the tiles claimed by each player. Orange and Green claimed five tiles each, with Yellow and White having claimed eight each. Because White was the only player to secure a group of three or more, she’s the only player to receive the group bonus: 1 extra point for each tile, bringing her to the victory with 13 total points.

TL;DR:
Word Domination is a 2-4 player game for all ages. As a word-based game, the ability to spell is required. Games can take 5-30 minutes, depending on the speed of your players. Word Domination is a great game for any group, and is a must-have title for players who thrive on word-building challenges such as Scrabble or Paperback. It is currently on Kickstarter, and has already funded.

Disclaimer: Uproarious Games provided a prototype copy for review purposes. Game pieces will appear differently in the final production.

Rory is a newly appointed stepparent to two awesome geeklings. He also writes for mental health awareness at Terminally Intelligent.