Word Domination Review

Word Domination
Uproarious Games
Jeff Beck (II)
Ryan Goldsberry
2-4
Clever spelling games

Word Domination is a really clever spelling game with a few nice twists - area control, variable player powers, and a unique letter-stealing mechanic which will have you working hard to spell not only the best words you can, but targeting specific letters for your devious heists.

Spelling games are a classic genre, and, I admit, rarely my favorite.  Recently, there have been some real standouts (Gil Hova’s Wordsy, Tim Fowers’ Paperback, to name a couple), but for the most part, there is something just a little tiresome about them, isn’t there?  mean, how challengng s t to wrte out a…

Andrew:  Wat, what s happenng here?

Jess:  Oh, I’m sorry, were you trying to use the letter ‘I’?

Andrew:  Was  tryng to use the letter ”? Uh, yes.

Jess:  Then I’m afraid you’re the first victim to fall prey to my dastardly plot for Word Domination!  You see, I have stolen the letter ‘I’ and now only I may use it!

Andrew:  ‘m so confused rght now.

A unique hybrid of area control and spelling mechanics, Word Domination has players taking on the roles of daring villains who are steal letters (somehow) and the various treasures associated with them.  Featuring phenomenal art from Ryan Goldsberry (whose work on Paperback inspired us to put his art up around our home), Word Domination looks really neat on the table.

I love that the player markers are little zeppelins.

The game starts out with a randomly-drawn grid of tiles, each one representing both a letter and a treasure.  Each turn, players will take the following steps, in order:

  • Expand the Grid – Each turn, you will add a tile to the grid, adding letters which can be used
  • Spell your word – Using the letters in the grid (and letters you’ve stolen), you will spell out however long a word you can possibly manage.  For each letter you use, you will place one of your player markers onto that letter.
    • If you place where an opponent’s marker currently sits, you kick them off!
    • If you place a second of your own markers on a tile, you…
  • Steal tiles – Any tile which has two of your markers on it after you spell your word gets pulled from the grid and added to your personal tableau.  From then on, you can always use that letter in spelling words.
How else would a master criminal begin than by being a ‘gentleman’?

Andrew:  So you’ve stolen the letter ”…that letter, eh?  Well…me can choose my words carefully, and two can play at ths game…

Jess:  h yu THINK s, d yu?….Damn it, did yu stle the ”?.

Andrew:  THAT’S RGHT, ME STOLE THE ‘O’!

As you claim tiles and take turns, the board will expand and change shape.

For each tile stolen, a player gets to place one of their markers permanently on that spot.  This will begin to create areas of the grid which each player controls, and that’s important for end-game scoring.  A game of Word Domination lasts for 6 rounds, after which players add up their points:

  • 1 point for every stolen tile they own
  • 1 point for every tile in a group of 3 or more orthagonally adjacent tiles.

Andew:  Ae you statng to econsd you lfe of cme?

Jess:  Why wuld I, when I nw wn this beautiful ‘R’?

Andew:  …Ths means wa.

We really appreciate that every tile gets unique art, even when its the same letter.

Not only do stolen tiles aid you in spelling words and get points, but some special tiles, called Arsenal tiles, even give you special powers which will help you pull off your dastardly deeds or block your opponents’!  Some Arsenal powers are really, really good, so you want to make sure that you upend your opponents’ attempts to get their greedy mitts on them.

And make no mistake, upending your opponents is something you’ll definitely want to do.  Word Domination is a short game, and there’s always plenty of back and forth on controlling letters.  It’s a little bit of take-that which doesn’t go amiss given the theme and nature of the game.  But since it’s all predicated on clever use of the letters present, it all hangs together in a really great way.

But that’s not all Word Domination has up its sleeve.  Optionally, you can add villainous player powers, which come at the great cost of paying stolen tiles, but which might swing the tide in your favor.  Of course, with power comes vulnerability, and each player will also get a weakness in the form of a word whose letters they will be unable to score during the game.  There is even a cooperative variant which can be played, should you want to form a villainous super-group to steal the Eiffel Tower.

Lots of characters to choose from.

Je:  Give it up, yu dn’t tand a chance againt my nefariou chemes!  Ki yur ‘T’ goodbye!

Andew:  No so fas!  Me don’ hnk you’ll be kssng ANYHING whout hs ‘S’!

Je:  Wait, yu dn’t want me kiing thing?  Thing like, perhap, yu?

Andew:  …Me didn’ hink his hrough.

Let’s get this straight – Word Domination absolutely is a spelling game.  The theme, that of supervillains planning daring heists to steal letters, is completely tacked on, though we think it’s absolutely cool.  And the area control mechanism is of course integral to the winning of the game, but it’s got much less to do with the gameplay than the spelling component itself.

The turn tracker

Overall, we really enjoyed Word Domination.  It’s relatively quick and accessible, and the rules don’t do much to get in the way of the puzzle of spelling the biggest word you can given the letters available to you.  The area control segment of the gameplay is a neat twist, but as we said, Word Domination is a spelling game at heart, and a really well-done one.

While some of the Arsenal tiles can feel really powerful (and it sucks when your opponent gets one or two and you don’t have the opportunity to do the same by the luck of the draw), if you’re clever with your spelling, you’ll at least make it tough for them to do so, keeping the balance of the game in a good place.

If you’re lucky enough to encounter the designer at a convention, you may find yourself facing him in game…

Between that, the cooperative mode, and the variable player powers, there’s just a ton of really fun game in Word Domination, and we highly recommend it for those who love to get their spelling game on!

You can order Word Domination directly from Fowers Games here!  (And grab Paperback while you’re at it!)

(Gameosity received a review copy of this game.  We were not otherwise compensated.)

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