Earn Infamy by Stealing Letters in Word Domination | Casual Game Revolution

Earn Infamy by Stealing Letters in Word Domination

Word Domination

You are an evil mastermind, determined to steal all the letters and earn infamy points. Will you be the most villainous of them all?

Published by Uproarious Games, Word Domination is a word game with a fun theme and an unusual scoring system for this genre. So how well does it work?

Gameplay

A grid of letter tiles is laid out in the center of the table. A small number of tiles are black; these are arsenal tiles and have special abilities when used. Each player is also dealt a tile, which they keep face-up in front of themselves for everyone to see. Finally, each player takes zeppelin meeples in their player color.

On your turn, you play your tile, placing it adjacent to any tile along the outside of the grid. You must then create a word, using the letter on the tile you just played as well as any letters on the tiles in the grid. Each tile may only be used once in your word, the tiles you use can be anywhere in the grid, and the word you create cannot be a word or a version of a word already used that game.

After you create your word, you place one of your zeppelins on each tile you used in your word. If another player’s zeppelin is on the tile, you remove it to place yours. If you already had a zeppelin on a tile and you go to place a second one, you instead steal the tile. You remove it from the grid and place it in front of you, in your stolen area. A random tile is then taken from the draw pile and placed stolen side up in the grid and your zeppelin is placed on this. The stolen side does not show any letter. On future turns you can use letters on the tiles in your stolen area when creating a word. Another player cannot use your stolen tiles nor steal them away from you.

If you use an arsenal tile’s letter in your word, then you get to activate its ability. Abilities vary and include things such as removing an opponent’s zeppelin from the board or preventing anyone (including yourself) from using a tile until the end of your next turn. If you steal an arsenal tile, you may still use its abilities each time you use its letter in a word.

On your turn, if another player sees a potential word you can create, she is allowed to offer you a deal. She will tell you exactly how many letters are in the word she sees, the number of letters the word would let you steal, and which one letter tile from the word she wants in exchange. Other players can also offer you their deals and you may choose whose to accept, if any. If everyone has offered you a deal, they can insist you either choose one or come up with your own word in the next sixty seconds or pass your turn. If you pass your turn, you may discard the tile in your hand and draw a new one.

At the end of your turn, after you have spelled a word, you draw a new tile into your hand. It is now the next player’s turn. After each player has had six turns, the game ends.

You earn one point for each zeppelin on a stolen tile in the grid. You also earn one point for each zeppelin in a set of three or more adjacent stolen tiles you control. While zeppelins on none-stolen tiles are not worth any points, they do act as a connector between stolen tiles, potentially helping to form sets of three or more scoring zeppelins. The player with the most points wins the game.

Word Domination components

Photo by Erik Yurko (kalchio on BGG), licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.

Review

Word Domination combines some fairly standard word game mechanics with an unusual scoring system that encourages a lot of back-and-forth interaction between the players. The opportunity to do some wheeling and dealing on an opponent’s turn keeps players more engaged throughout the game, and is a nice option when you find yourself totally stuck on coming up with a word.

Players will find themselves wresting control over specific letters throughout the game, with some tiles in higher demand than others (such as the arsenal tiles). Some of the arsenal abilities are pretty powerful, and can sometimes feel a little unbalanced. The scoring system is interesting, however, and you’re not just trying to come up with long words but also long words that will allow you to steal letters in sets in order to maximize your points at the end of the game.

The game does come with a couple of interesting variants, such as giving each player a unique character ability that costs stolen tiles in order to trigger (your zeppelins remain on the stolen tiles on the board for scoring purposes at the end of the game, you simply cannot use the stolen letters in words again) and a fully cooperative game mode.

While the theme is basically for aesthetic purposes, it is a thoroughly fun one and it’s nice to see a word game being given a little bit more table presence through its artwork. The components are nice quality, with the zeppelin meeples being fun to place and the tiles sturdy and easy to read. The arsenal tiles, however, do not list their abilities on the tiles themselves. The abilities are shown on the individual player cards, but if you are playing with character abilities, it’s on the side you don’t have face-up — so it’s a little clunky to keep having to check. At least some iconography on the arsenal tiles would have been a nice addition.

Word Domination is still very much a word game. If you are not a huge fan of the genre, there’s nothing here really that’s going to change your mind. However, if you do like word games, between the scoring systems, tile stealing, and player interaction, there’s some fun additions that make it worth checking out.

Pros: Thematic, scoring system, lots of back-and-forth interaction between players

Cons: Arsenal abilities do not feel entirely balanced, lack of iconography on arsenal tiles

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.