If you like the general idea of Scrabble - making words from a small set of letters - but would prefer something a little more modern, Paperback offers a neat twist on the formula.
Developed by Fowers Games and ported to iOS and Android last year, Paperback is all about a struggling author trying to finish paperback novels. It's not really about the novels though, because the game plays out more like Scrabble crossed with Dominion.
Each player starts the game with a series of letters and wildcards. The idea is to make words from what your hand, from which you'll earn a certain amount of cents and points depending on the letters used. Wildcards don't earn you any cents or points, but they get you out of a bind.
Early on, words are small, options are limited, and you're a long way from fame.
The eventual winner, however, is determined by fame cards. There are four piles of fame cards in the upper right, and the game ends when two of those piles are emptied.
Ordinarily, you'd want to just rush for those as soon as possible. But the novels don't offer any benefits beyond a standard wildcard once they're shuffled into your deck, which is Paperback's risk/reward mechanic. Either you try to end the game as quickly as possible, maximising your fame advantage, or you concentrate on building up your deck of options to make better, higher scoring words.
After each word, you can purchase new letters or a fame card from the top of the screen. The letters are sorted by their cost in cents, although sometimes the points value of something that costs 6 cents will be vastly less than, say, a letter that's more difficult to use.
The trickiest element is remembering what's most important between the score, cents and fame at any one time. Most of the time you'll be concentrating on just trying to make the longest words possible, because that's fun and also it gives you the most options anyway. Every now and again you'll also have to deal with whatever bizarre dictionary Fowers Games coded into Paperback, which rejects words like Amish, but not Catholic.
Robbed, I was.
The game supports up to four players/AI, with local and online play possible. You could comfortably play with two people passing an iPad around, although when you add four people into the mix there tends to be a bit too much downtime between turns.
But Paperback's a fun mix between Scrabble and Dominion, even if the game doesn't fullscreen properly on Android and there's no button to skip through animations. (They're pretty quick as-is, but gamers are an impatient lot.) Paperback is available on Android now for $5, or iOS for $6.