December 16, 2015
Letter Tycoon (from Squirmy Beast and Breaking Games) is the last of the four games we played at Will Shortz’s Wonderful World of Words weekend, and it was a huge hit. The illustrations and graphic design (by Mackenzie Schubert) of the game are spectacular, and mesh perfectly with the gameplay created by Brad Brooks and developed by Peter Vaughan). The game pieces are also sturdy and well-crafted -- totally worth the slightly higher price-point. Best of all, it’s an original, fascinating word game.
One warning. Learning the rules and setting up the paraphernalia takes a bit longer than most word games, but to compensate, the instruction pamphlet, eight large pages of profusely illustrated material, is as helpful and lovely to look at as any I’ve ever seen. And you don’t have to remember all the details -- many reference guides are presented so you can learn as you play.
Once you get started, game play is remarkably fast and hassle-free. Letter Tycoon is a combination word game and stock market game. You form words using your own letters combined with three “community cards.” The longer the words you form, the more assets (in the form of cash and stocks) you earn. If you accumulate enough cash, you can buy patents in the letter(s) you have used to form your words. These patents function like houses and hotels in Monopoly; you get paid every time another player forms a word using “your” patented letters. As you’d expect, it costs more to buy a patent on the most frequently-used letters, but some more obscure letters possess special powers that can make them valuable.
Letter Tycoon is the opposite of a disposable game. It takes awhile to figure out what the best strategy is for even common situations. Is it better to buy the frequently used “R” or to purchase the less-expensive “B” that offers double the stock and cash if you form words that begin and end in vowels? Should you form a shorter word in order not to use letters patented by your opponents? This kind of push-and-pull is what will keep players coming back to Letter Tycoon.
[For 2-5 players, age 8+. Letter Tycoon is available directly from Breaking Games]