Movable Type is a card-based word game whose second edition was released this year by Uncanny Cardboard. This small box game could be described as Sushi Go! meets Scrabble. Players start the game with a hand of cards, each with a letter (or two) and a point value. Players select a card, place it face down in front of them, and then pass the cards to the player next to them. Another card is selected, the hand is passed, and so on until a player has a stack of five cards in front of them.
It’s at that point that players try to spell the most high value word they can using the letters they selected as well as three common letters in the center of the table. Doing so enables you to pick up some of the cards that have been played so far and add them to a victory pile of cards to be used later.
When’s later? Well, in the final round, you will take all the cards that you have collected over the course of the game and use those to spell the final word (together with those vowels). Whoever has the highest scoring final round wins!
So Many Letters!
A few other mechanics add some extra fun to the game. There are also cards that represent different authors, each of which has a special requirement. Should you meet that requirement, you can claim those author cards, which can be used in the final round as letters for big points.
The game has a very approachable feel to it for those that have played some of the more introductory games of the hobby. Word games like Scrabble have been around for a long time, and Sushi Go! and 7 Wonders have brought the drafting mechanic into many homes. So for your more experienced gamers, the rules of Movable Type can be taught in no time. Even for people newer to the hobby, this one doesn’t take all that long to learn. After one round, everybody should have the hang of it.
From a Different Time
The game uses a ton of cards, which makes a lot of sense for a drafting game. So understandably, the artwork is a bit simplistic, with most cards featuring a letter and a point value in two corners, as well as a classically illustrated version of the letter in the center of the card.
While the artwork isn’t necessarily bad, I would certainly describe it as uninspiring. Combined with the box art, and you’ve got a game that doesn’t really come across as one that was released only two years ago. Artwork isn’t everything, but there is something to be said about table presence and the excitement that builds for players just by looking at something. When you bring Movable Type out, you’re often going to have to be excusing how it looks before you start explaining the rules.
The core mechanic is fun, and while I like the idea of a drafting word game, that mechanic does present some problems. You have very little idea what letters will be coming around to you, so you have to be very careful in what letters you select from each hand before you pass. Often, you’ll just select the more common letters which will allow you several options but are worth significantly fewer points. You might choose to take a risk and go for some higher value cards, but it’s likely that you’ll never get the other cards you need for a good word, so you’re left spelling something simple that gets you next to nothing. I feel that a modified version of the game – something like keep two or three and pass the rest – may have helped players feel a little more successful.
Given the lack of success with word spelling, the additional element of recruiting authors often becomes useless. When we played, only one or two authors would be drafted throughout the entire game. While I believe it should be challenging, it often felt downright impossible to get your hands on these valuable cards.
Let Me Spell It Out for You
In a world where Letter Tycoon, Word Domination, Hardback, and (one of my favorites) Paperback all exist, where does Movable Type fit in? All of those games have also come out in the past few years, but they have immersed themselves in theme and beautiful artwork, and they can draw in gamers who may not even like word games. Movable Type isn’t in that league. So what does it have going for it? Well, it’s certainly more portable, it costs half as much, and the rules are a little simpler and easier to introduce. If those are the qualities that you’re looking for in a word game, then you may want to consider picking up a copy of Movable Type.
You can pick up a copy of Movable Type through the designer’s website. One Board Family was provided with a free copy of the game, but this in no way impacted our review.
- Pretty easy to learn
- Uninspiring artwork
- Not as engaging as other word games