#642 – Movable Type

Box

Base price: €20.
2 – 6 players.
Play time: ~30 minutes.
BGG Link

Buy directly!
Logged plays: 3 

I’m dusting another game off of the vault! I didn’t have many options since I had to move some parts of my schedule around in a hurry, but I have an emergency buffer for precisely this reason. I do try to maintain regular content cycles, and all that. But let’s get right to the game.

In Movable Type, you play as dueling wordsmiths trying to build the best words and impress famous authors throughout history. However, nothing matters but the final round, as only that will determine who wins. Will you be able to make the greatest word?

Contents

Setup

So, there are a few things, here. There are Round Marker cards:

Round Cards

Set those aside, but put Round 1 on top. There are also Vowel Cards. Shuffle those, set them in a stack:

Vowel Cards

Author Challenge Cards are the next thing you should look at. Shuffle the set and flip three. If you’d like, you can just throw out the Lovecraft card because who needs to play  with a card devoted to a huge racist:

Author Challenge Cards

Finally, shuffle the main cards, and deal each player 5:

Cards

The last thing you should do is flip two cards from the main deck and one vowel; those will make up the Common letters. Like Letter Tycoon or Paperback, you can use these as well when you need to spell a word. More on that later, though. If you’ve done all that, you should be ready to start!

Setup

Gameplay

Gameplay 1

So, Movable Type, at its core, is a word-building drafting game, similar to Sushi Go Party! or Orc-Lympics or other light drafting games. Your goal, each round, is to take a letter from your hand and then pass your hand left or right. Repeat until you’ve taken five cards from the hands you’ve been passed. Once you do that, you need to spell a word.

A word has a few caveats to it, but the important thing to note is that each letter has a point value, so spelling words with the highest value letters will win you the round. Other caveats:

  • No slang. You can relax this one if you want, I suppose. House rules are up to you.
  • No proper nouns. This is kind of a rule for every word game, to be honest.
  • You may use any letter as a double-letter. This means if you have the letters {B, A, L, O, N} in your final hand, you may spell the word BALLOON without any issues. The one thing about this is that using them as a double-letter does not mean you get twice the points for the letter; you only score each card once.

Gameplay 2

The player who spells the highest-point word will win the round, sure, but there are also other considerations: the Author Challenge cards. If you qualify for any, you may choose from the ones you qualify for and take one. If multiple players are tied, well, nobody gets it (unless the tied players choose other AC cards, leaving only one player able to take it; that doesn’t happen often). When you take an Author Challenge card, place it face-down in your Collection (off to the side).

Now, scoring. Organize players into places based on their scores (breaking ties by highest-value letter, then word length). Each player gets to claim a certain number of cards based on their place and the player count:

1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
2 players 2 1
3 – 4 players 2 2 1 1
5 – 6 players 2 2 2 1 1 1

As you can see, you’re not taking too many cards, but you do get to claim some no matter your place. The cards you’re allowed to claim include:

  • Any cards in any played words
  • The common cards / vowel in the center

All other cards are off-limits. Take the cards you want and add them to your Collection, again, face-down. Your Collection is essentially the spoils you get from the cards you acquire from each round, but you cannot look at it. You just kinda have to remember what’s in there.

Gameplay 3

Play continues until the 5th round, in which it pivots to a new challenge. You’ll still have the three common letters, but now your goal is to take the letters in your collection and spell the best possible word that you can! Once everyone’s done that, reveal, and the player with the most points wins!

The game is also soloable, but as of press time I haven’t had a chance to try it, so I won’t include that in my review beyond “a solo mode exists”.

Player Count Differences

The major difference at various player counts is the struggle for Author Challenge cards becoming a bit more intense, as there are only three no matter how many players you’re playing with. Expect more ties and fewer cards to be in play, which makes winning rounds matter a bit more because these high-value cards likely won’t be making it into a lot of collections.

Unfortunately, the game will also slow down a bit with more players, especially if any of them tend to overanalyze the game (as happens a lot with both drafting and word games). I played a six-player game of this once that took almost an hour, which is a very long time. I’d probably shy away from a six-player game again unless I knew everyone in the group played pretty quickly, but at smaller player counts it’s a very light, pretty quick little word game.

Strategy

  • Get Author Challenge cards. I mean, don’t get them to the detriment of getting other cards, but definitely shoot for them. They’re often higher-scoring variants of existing cards or cards that have more than one letter on them, which may allow for better combos or more bang for your card-taking buck.
  • Get good at memorizing. You should at least have a vague idea of what letters you have in your collection. One variant allows players to look at their Collection at any time, but I worry this would slow the game down even more so I generally just don’t mention it to players. Plus, I don’t love memory games either, so, it feels somewhat fair.
  • You don’t need to spell the best word. Especially after the first round, players are already diversifying their approach. The best possible outcome for you is often to take an Author Challenge card and like, 2nd or 3rd place so that you can get three cards per round. That means you go into the final round with 12 cards to everyone else’s 8ish.
  • Don’t forget prefixes and suffixes. They’re usually easy ways to quickly increase your score in a game (and the length of your word). Try RE-, try -ED, and especially try -ING, if you can swing it. That should help you earn plenty of points.
  • Keep track of what letters you’re seeing. Some of them might eventually work their way back to you, especially if they’re “bad” letters like V or X or something that people can’t easily use. If that happens, you might be able to preempt a bad final letter by building a word to anticipate it.
  • Always have a working word. You should always have a word when you play cards, if you want to play it safe. If you don’t, you risk getting a hand that’s essentially useless when you’re trying to score points. On the plus side, you’ll always have a vowel, so it’s unlikely that you’ll get totally screwed over, but you might be in a bind if you’re not careful.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • I really like word games. This might be the closest I’ve gotten to a “fast” word game, given their sort-of-notoriety for causing aggressive analysis paralysis for players.
  • It’s super colorful! I really do appreciate the gradient of colors available on letter cards; it makes the game pop and it makes it look fun to play.
  • The Authors are fairly diverse. Could have done without Lovecraft, but, there are plenty of other diverse authors to try and actually use in the game, so I appreciate the effort made there to be inclusive.
  • Very portable. Fits easily in a Quiver and can kinda just slide into a backpack or bag and then you’re good to go.
  • Simple to learn, as well. It’s just Sushi Go + Scrabble, or a fairly light word-building drafting game. I appreciate that.
  • I like that winning every round isn’t required to win the game. It makes the game feel a bit more in every player’s control, even if there’s no explicit catch-up mechanism.

Mehs

  • The lack of an explicit catch-up mechanism makes the game feel not optimized for players with different experience levels. That’s fine because it’s a short game, but I’m not over the moon about it. I’d love to see something for the player that scores the fewest points each round, or something, just to make sure one player doesn’t fall totally behind in the game. The best I can say is that the Author Challenge cards are somewhat designed to work this way, since many of the points-based ones will not win you the round in the right groups, but that’s not always the case with those.

Cons

  • The cards are pretty flimsy. They’re kinda thin and they wear super easily — I’ve only played three games and I’m seeing some roughness around the edges of mine, which is genuinely disappointing. I worry with rougher / more frequent play that they’re gonna get damaged.
  • As with all word games, there’s a lot of potential for serious overthinking / analysis paralysis. You can get around this a bit by reminding players that the most they’ll gain from thinking about it is one, maybe two cards, but it can still get pretty lengthy pretty quickly, if you’re not careful.
  • I actually just threw the Lovecraft card out of the game. No time for racists, especially this week.

Overall: 7.5 / 10

In Progress

Overall, Movable Type is pretty solid! I like the colors and the drafting, and I think the Author Challenges are a nice way to make the gameplay more than just “build the highest-scoring word”, as many word games often are. The mechanics are simple enough for most, and there aren’t quite enough letters in play to lead to actual agonizing over what to play (even if some people will occasionally slow the game down a bit more than I’d like). If you’ve got someone who loves Scrabble and is looking for something new, this might be an awesome recommendation for them, or if you’re looking for a light and pleasant word game, I’d suggest giving Movable Type a whirl!


If you enjoyed this review and would like to support What’s Eric Playing? in the future, please check out my Patreon. Thanks for reading!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s