Hardback – Fowers Games – Review


Hardback - Fowers Games - Review 1

Publisher: Fowers Games

Game Type: Word Game, Deck Building

Designer: Tim Fowers

Designer: Jeff Beck

Initial Year of Release: 2018

Artist: Ryan Goldsberry

Theme and What is it?

*Note* Copy of the game provided by the publisher for review purposes.

In Hardback you are a novelist. You’re setting out to write your great novel. Well, you’re setting out to write a novel. In this game you’re a working writer, so you’re going to have to create a lot of words to win. It’s a race to the top in this word based deck building game. Will you write a best seller or is you book not worth the paper it’s printed on?

Gameplay Mechanics

Hardback is a mix of two types of games; word games and deck builders. It follows a pretty standard format for both types of games. However, I want to make sure we’re all on the same page. (Book Puns!)

For the deck building portion of the game. Every card in the game has a letter on it. You start with a base deck of standard letters. You draw five cards and play those to create words and generate additional effects. Some cards give you money and some give you points. The first person to score 60 points wins the game. Money is used to purchase additional cards to be placed in your deck. The various cards represent a letter and a genre. Different genres have different effects. Some horror cards allow you to remove cards from your discard pile thus thinning your deck. Adventure cards have lots of victory points attached but offer little or no money. At the end of your turn you discard your entire hand, everything you purchased, and draw five new cards. If your draw deck is empty then you simply shuffle your discard pile and finish drawing cards. You repeat this till victory is achieved.

For the word game portion of Hardback. Every round on your turn you use the cards in your hand to create words. The word you create must appear in the dictionary, though which dictionary you use is left up to the players. While your hand is only five cards this can be adjusted. First any card can be used as a wild by flipping it face down. This helps give you more freedom and prevents you from getting stuck with an unplayable hand. Second, you can purchase ink and ink remover with the money generated by your card play. Ink is used to draw an additional card. You can play as much ink as you want to draw as many cards as you like. However, each card drawn with ink must be used in your word. You have to use each letter and you can’t use them as blanks. Ink remover lets you remove the penalty of not being able to use a word as a blank.

There are also several modules included that mix up the rules a little. They were fine. None of them really jumped out at me.

Initial Impressions

I’ve played Scrabble for years. I’m also a writer and enjoy storytelling and word games. I’d also heard good things about this. I was pretty excited to try this game. I play scrabble with my family and we have a ton of fun doing it. Because of that I was very interested to see how well they would do with this game.

Game Build Quality

Hardback - Fowers Games - Review 2

The cards are very nice quality. I don’t think they need to be sleeved but you might want to think about it. The drawback there is that the box is incredibly tight. I don’t know that sleeved cards will fit back inside. The score track is a bit small and was hard to read for my grandmother. She asked that I make a specific note of that. The score track could have been a bit larger. I actually agree with this as well.

The box. I’ve already mentioned that it was small. There was one other problem. The lid has an insert so that the box doesn’t close too far and crush anything inside. It’s structural component for when stacking things on the game. I get that this was done to keep the box small and take up less shelf space. It’s just that one of my cards got caught on the insert and was mangled. It was one of the extra cards so it doesn’t affect the base game. It’s something to watch out for when closing yours up. I get that the publisher wants his games nice and compact, but an extra half an inch all the way around would have been wonderful here.

Artistic Direction

There isn’t a lot of art in this game. The graphic design of the letters is very well done. Each genre has its own font and color that make them stand out. However, some of the choices were a little rough. For example, the stylized “T” in the romance section was easily confused with a “G” or “C.” Fortunately, the letter also appears in the upper left corner of each word in a standard font. This makes it easy to check, but when you lay the words out your eyes are automatically drawn to the large, brightly colored, letter in the center of the card and it can be distracting. It doesn’t break the game but does slow it down a little bit.

Fun Factor

Hardback - Fowers Games - Review 3

This is a very thinky word game. You’re going to spend a lot of time looking at your hand trying to figure out what to spell and whether or not you want to draw extra cards. If you enjoy Scrabble or other word games then I think this will be right up your alley. It’s that type of fun.

I will say that I heard a lot of people talk about how this was a very family friendly game. Because of that I went out of my way to play it with my family. They are not board gamers. They mostly stick to more traditional card games. We have played Scrabble many times in the past. They enjoyed this game. My grandmother had a bit of a problem calculating her score but she caught on after a while. If you’re looking to play this with family then I think you should be pretty safe.

Age Range & Weight

The box says 10+ and I will agree with that. When I said I played with my family I mean it. One of the people I played this with was my niece and she’s 10. She did spend a lot of time looking up words on a dictionary app to make sure they were real words and needed a bit of help from time to time.

As for weight. I think this game is a middle weight game. It can go a bit in either direction depending on some of the modules you plug in and how you want to play the game. Overall I think it sits pretty much in the middle.


I like this game. I enjoy word games and that helps. There is a lot of fun to be had here and they made it very accessible. Being able to use any letter in your hand as a blank, deciding which dictionary to use, and even the additional modules gives you a lot of freedom.

You get five cards for your turn and using ink you can draw more. You can also use ink as money to get you that card you’re one cent away form. Being able to pick which dictionary you’re using is a great boon as well. I even think it’s okay to use two. For example Merriam-Webster and the Hogwarts dictionary. Why not use muggle, dementor, and alohomora? Are you going to have rounds where you use simple words like dirty, story, dirty, man, clinging, and wife? Absolutely. However, once you get stuck in and start getting new letters and genres you will be able to build around that to bigger things.

I think this game is fun. My family liked it, though they are still getting a handle on the deck building portion of the game and the strategies that go with that. Still, we had fun. I’m happy we all found a game we can play together and enjoy. Are we still going to play Scrabble? Sure. But occasionally, we’ll play Hardback. And that’s a pretty happy ending.


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