Game Review – Word Domination

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WANTED: Calling all criminal masterminds for the biggest heist in history! Get ready to S-P-E-L-L your way to victory with Uproarious Games’ Word Domination – a masterfully blended word/strategy game.

Designer:  Jeff Beck
Artist: Ryan Goldsberry
Publisher: 
Uproarious Games
Genre: Word Game, Area Control, Tile Placement
Players: 2-4
Play Time: 20-45 minutes
Number of Logged Plays: 3

Skip ahead to find out:
Game Overview
Game Play
What He Said
What She Said
Our Pros and Cons
The Verdict

Game Overview

IMG_4104In Word Domination, players take on the role of a criminal mastermind attempting to increase his/her infamy by stealing precious artifacts from around the world. But this is no easy task as other masterminds will be vying for the same artifacts, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. Each artifact in the game is represented by a letter that masterminds use to spell words. Knowing the biggest words in Word Domination won’t guarantee a victory as artifact placement and stolen artifacts score players more points if they are clustered together. After six rounds, the masterminds add up their infamy from all stolen artifacts. The player with the most infamy is the winner.

Game Play

At the beginning of the game, the heist (play area) of the game is setup based on the number of players. Each mastermind receives a single tile that makes up his/her hand for the first round. Each round consists of the following three actions:

  1. Place the tile from your hand
    The tile from your hand can be placed anywhere in the play area, as long as it’s adjacent to another tile (diagonal isn’t considered adjacent).
  2. Spell a word
    A word must then be spelled utilizing the tile that the mastermind placed for this round. Letters used in this word do not need to be adjacent to each other. Masterminds are allowed to use any letter in the play area regardless of their location.

    • IMG_4092Place your zeppelins
      The corresponding mastermind’s zeppelin is placed on each letter of the word spelled.
    • Displace your opponents
      If any fellow mastermind’s zeppelins are on the letters being used in this word they are removed and returned back to their owner.
    • Use arsenal abilities
      More challenging letters such as X and V will give masterminds a special ability that can be used this round if they are used in the word being spelled.
    • Steal letters
      Any letters that have two of your zeppelins on them after the word is spelled are considered “stolen.” The mastermind who spelled the word removes it from the play area and place it into their personal stolen tile area. Any letters in a mastermind’s stolen tile area can only be used by them when spelling words. The stolen tile in the play area is replaced with a “stolen” tile from the game box and a zeppelin is placed on it to indicate which mastermind stole it.
  3. Draw a new tile
    The mastermind draws a new tile that represents his/her hand for the next round.

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You may be wondering “What happens if I can’t think of a word?” and the answer for that is that you can ask for help. As criminal masterminds, we’re all working towards the same goal. That’s not to say that asking for help won’t come at a price. The helpful mastermind will declare the number of letters in the word they’re thinking of, the number of tiles the word allows the current mastermind to steal, and which one letter in the word you want to claim as payment. If the offer is accepted, that word must be used and the payment honored.

At the end of the sixth round, the stolen tiles in the play area will be added up to determine how much infamy each mastermind has earned. Any “stolen” tiles in a group of at least three tiles will be worth two points each, while tiles in groups of two or less are only worth one point each. This means that it’s critical that you group up your stolen tiles in at least a group of three to get as many points as possible.

Variants:
Mastermind Abilities: In this variant, players can use their mastermind’s special ability on their turn by paying the cost required with tiles in their stolen tile area. These are very strong abilities that will probably only be used once or twice in the game.

Mastermind Weaknesses: Each mastermind has a defining weakness that is spelled out on their criminal card. Whenever a player uses any letters in their weakness, they are not allowed to steal any tiles during the next round.

Cooperative/Solo Mode: Players work together to put together the perfect heist: stealing the Eiffel Tower! In this mode, players work as a team avoiding the patrolling security guard and curious tourists that might notice something fishy going on. The Eiffel Tower is represented by four 2×3 clusters of letter (representing the four legs of the Eiffel Tower). For the heist to be successful, each leg of the Eiffel Tower needs to be stolen. If the security guard catches three of your minions or if the group of tourists gets too big, the jig is up and all the masterminds get arrested.

He Said

IMG_4088I like to keep an eye out for word games because I know Mandee really enjoys them. So when I saw Word Domination, I knew this would be a game she would like because it has more elements to it than just spelling big words. This was also a big plus for me because that means that there’s a slight chance of me winning if I can get a good cluster of letter tiles. With simple rules, Word Domination is really easy to pick up and play and being stored in such a small box makes it very portable.

Quality Over Quantity
In most word games, you’re usually scrambling to come up with new words to spell, but in Word Domination you’ll only be spelling six words per game. This puts a lot more value in the exciting parts of word games, which is coming up with big words that allow you to swath your zeppelins all over the play area. The six rounds in Word Domination feels just right because the number of words you can spell starts off pretty vast, but as the rounds go on the number of words you can spell from the board dwindles. It’s a nice natural progression of the game that speeds it up near the end of the game as players use smaller words to get their zeppelins on as many tiles as they can.

Another thing that I thought was nice about the game was the rule that doesn’t allow other players to use the same base word other players have spelled is nice. This prevents other players from tacking on an “s” or “ing” onto a word that has already been used for easily stealing tiles. This rule combined with the requirement of spelling a word utilizing the tile in your hand challenges players to come up with good unique words.

IMG_4096Villains Monologue
With eight different Masterminds to choose from, players will have a good variety of abilities to try. The powers modified the rules a little bit and weren’t too extreme or swingy, which I feel is appropriate for a game like this. In the games we played, we found that you’ll probably only end up using your special ability once or twice a game because of the cost required to use them. I felt like this was a good way to reward players who go for those bigger words while also preventing players from using their power every turn.

The powers provided by the arsenal letters, on the other hand, were pretty strong if you had multiple words that utilized those letters. I found myself aiming for these tiles more than figuring out how to best use my mastermind’s ability. It can be challenging to reuse these tiles because the letters are more challenging to incorporate into words. There will also be games where there just won’t be any arsenal tiles placed out into the play area.

IMG_4107This leads me to the only thing that I could possibly see being an issue and that’s the random draw of a tile for your hand at the end of every round. If you get unlucky with this tile, it could be a bit more challenging and result in smaller words. Whereas if you get a vowel, chances are pretty good you’ll be able to put together a pretty good word. I think modifying the rule a little bit and allowing players to draw two tiles and choosing one to keep would give them more options. Our friend drew a Q tile one round and that resulted in a smaller word being spelled, which meant fewer zeppelins on the board. With only six rounds to work with, it feels like every round is crucial, so it doesn’t feel as gratifying to spell noon or quill versus a word like juxtapose. But like I said earlier, you don’t have to spell big words to win, you just have to be smart about what tiles you place your zeppelins on when spelling your word.

Final Thoughts
Overall, I enjoyed Word Domination because it’s a different take on the word game format that usually just rewards players for having a bigger vocabulary. We had multiple games where a player would spell multiple big words but ended up losing because their stolen tiles weren’t in clusters of three or more. I actually felt like I was able to be pretty competitive in this game against Mandee because I could focus on the strategic placement of my zeppelins with smaller words. That’s just one of the reasons that I felt makes this game really accessible, along with being very easy to learn. I would definitely recommend Word Domination to anyone interested in word games. It would also make a good game to play with the family or to start off a game night because it doesn’t take too long.

She Said

IMG_4098Growing up, my family had a weekly game night and one of our staples was the game Scrabble. As a writer by trade, I love word games. So needless to say, I was pretty excited to get Word Domination, a game that combines a few of my favorite things into one easy-to-play game. 

IMG_4093Breakthrough Novel
Word Domination manages to do what many games struggle with – maintain a strong theme with excellent and easy to understand gameplay. Players assume the role of a 1970s-era villain, such as Frau Flabette or Lt. Lynn Gwistic, working to steal priceless artifacts or landmarks. Each villain can be played with or without the special power, which costs tiles to use. The card also highlights the villains’ weaknesses which are often quite humorous.

The theme continues with the board setup as well. Artifacts/landmark tiles aka letter tiles are set up in a grid pattern (size depends on how many players). Players spell words by choosing any letter on the board and the one in their hand to make a word. To “travel” to each tile, you place a zeppelin on the tile, a very villain-esque method of transportation.

IMG_4097.JPGThe Great American Novel
Although this is a word game, it has a slightly different take. In this game, spelling big words doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to win. In fact, other than the first turn where you sort of mark your territory with your zeppelins, spelling big words doesn’t have a ton of benefit. It benefits you more to strategically place zeppelins around the board rather than all in one spot and the size and creativity of the word you spell doesn’t have a lot to do with it. We’ve played  multiple games where I’ve failed to diversify around the board and lost.

IMG_4094That being said, knowing unique words is helpful because it makes it easier to connect your letters in order to steal an artifact/landmark. I often found myself in a situation where I was trying to pair together many letters with the simplest words. Other than impressing your friends, using big and unique words is not necessary.

The other element that I like about this game is how interactive it is. I typically don’t like vicious games, but this game doesn’t feel mean when you take tiles from other players. Because the board is so small, you only have a limited number of tiles to choose from so it’s hard to feel annoyed when someone takes your tile from you.

Final Thoughts
Overall, this game checks all boxes for a strategic word game. I’d say it even surpasses my expectations. This is a unique, interactive, and entertaining word game that I’d recommend for anyone. I think players of many different ages could play and it’d even make a great learning tool for students. I’m excited for when our daughter is older and she can play this game (and many, many others!) with us. The thing I love the most about this game is that it makes even people who say they don’t have a big vocabulary feel like they’re a literary genius. And that’s a sign of a great game. This is a great addition to our collection and I really can’t think of many things that would make it better!

Pros and Cons

Pros:
– Easy to learn and teach
– Unique twist on a word game
– Accessible
– Great travel game (compact and small)
– Strong theme
– Nice components and artwork
– Variants add unique twist to the game
– Area control mechanism adds more strategy to the game than just spelling big words

Cons:
– Somewhat limited replayability – every game kind of feels the same
– Random tile draw can put players at a disadvantage
– Not a game for someone who dislikes word games

The Verdict

He gives this game 7.5 stolen artifacts out of 10.

She gives this game 7.5 grand heists out of 10.

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