Do you ever look at a game and know for certain that you are going to enjoy it? From the art down to the rules explanation, every minute details sounds exactly spot on for your tastes. This phenomenon doesn’t happen often, but when it does, ho-boy is it exciting.
So picture this, I’m at the UK Games Expo press preview wandering around talking to miniatures and taking silly photos. Eventually, I rock up to the Movable Type stall. I start chatting with designer Robin David and his passion and enthusiasm are contagious. I was already intrigued, but now I know I need to play this game. After gladly taking a review copy, we cut to later that evening and I finally get to play Movable Type, and it is exactly what I expected and wanted it to be – an elegant, satisfying word game.
The first four rounds of Movable Type sees players starting with a hand of five cards (letters) and a pool of three for anyone to use. Next players then pick one and pass the rest to the next player – in classic drafting fashion. Once everyone has their picked five cards, they get work trying to make a word from the assortment of letters they’ve collected. You then tot up the points on each card they have used and that is their score for the round. Making the word creating phase far less stressful/ time-consuming is a rule that if you need duplicates of the same letter e.g. banana, then a player can use the same card multiple times but they only score points for the cards they have.
The player with the most points gets the first choice of the cards used to make words this round. This is important because the all-important, game-winning final round, is played using these cards. You need to carefully plan the letters you collect each round as it doesn’t matter if you’ve come last four times in a row – it’s the last round that counts. This is a fantastic catch-up mechanic, that rewards careful planning and allows players to come back from the brink to win it all.
The extra dash of game-y-ness thrown into the mix is the famous writers. These give players specific goals to work towards each round. Fulfil their requirements and you get that card. This might mean that H.G. Wells or Agatha Christie can join your team for the final word crafting round. Each author has a lovingly drawn portrait and a way of gaining the card that fits, sort of, thematically with their novels. H.P. Lovecraft, for example, requires you to win first place using no vowels from your hand.
And that is pretty much the entire game. Each round is quick and builds to a wonderful crescendo in the final moments of the game. The famous authors add an extra layer of thought to the game, meaning that you aren’t simply aiming for the most points all the time. The most amazing part, though, is how you might make rubbish words for four rounds, but suddenly with a linguistic flourish, show off the best word ever in the final moments of the game.
The fact that the winner is decided in the last round takes away a lot of the pressure. When it comes to word games, you can often feel like there is that one perfect singular word you need to spell. This might be using all of your letters each round in Scrabble or finding that right balance of cards in Paperback. In Movable Type, you know that the final round is important, so even if you struggle in the ones before you can come back to win it all. It means that Movable Type has teeth but in a friendly way.
It rewards careful planning and forethought, rather than a large vocabulary. This helps to level the playing field and makes each game unpredictable. Fused onto this like a compound word, is some fantastic risk-reward when it comes to choosing which cards to keep at the end of the round.
You always pick from any of the used cards. This might mean playing it safe by grabbing some low point scoring vowels or you may want to pick up some higher scoring letters like J, Z or W, planning your final word strategy around them. If you pull it off, then you are far more likely to end on an impressive and possible game-winning score. However, you might also find that you haven’t picked enough vowels or other letters to form your victory word. This same thought process occurs throughout the drafting rounds.
This is likely going to sound strange, but Movable Type resembles poker in an entirely unexpected way. You know those scenes in movies when a poker player reveals a hand of cards and the crowd gasps? This is then followed up with an even better hand leading to a raucous explosion of cheering? Well, each round of Movable Type has a similar arc. Players are all secretly forming words and revealing their word has the same flourish as showing a hand of poker cards. The table is elated by an excellently formed word and players will groan when realise they have been outmatched.
If you like words, then you owe it to yourself to get a copy of Movable Type. It scales well from 2-6 players and there is even a solo mode. Packed into this box is a lot of strategy and planning, and the artistry of revealing a truly amazing word. By having the winner decided in the final round, nobody feels left out or like they can’t win. It’s so simple to teach and immediately enjoyable, that you will find yourself playing it all the time (I know I do). This all comes in a delightful little package with gorgeous typography and artwork.