Solo gaming: Paperback Adventures (2022)

One of the Kickstarters I have been anxiously awaiting was the solo spelling card battle game (yes, you read that write) PAPERBACK ADVENTURES from Fowers Games, designed by Tim Fowers and Skye Larsen. This game is from the same universe, you might say, as another game published by Fowers Games, Paperback, which is a competitive spelling game for a group of friends to play. In that game, you’re trying to create a deck that can beat your friends with the best words and collect the most money for those word. In Paperback Adventures, you’re playing solo, helping the writer Paige Turner fight against her writer’s block by battling the fantastical creatures in her mind. Both games embrace their themes and make it all word within the deck building game play.

Similar to FINAL GIRL, this is a solo game that has a CORE BOX you need to buy and also character boxes, which contain the other half of the game. One won’t work without the other. I, with my usual lack of chill and FOMO, went all in on the Kickstarter so I have the game and all the character boxes plus I threw in the playmat to be a bit extra.

The core box contains the base decks, with letters and items while the character cards have a character that you play as plus the lackeys and bosses you will be dueling. The characters have unique items and skills, as do the bosses, so you combine the different boxes to setup the game.

My game arrived earlier this month so I haven’t had a lot of time to play, but I did manage to battle it out as the Damsel against the first lackey – the rats in the sewers – and the boss, the swamp troll. The game has a “training mode” set up, which made it a bit easier to survive (which is good because I did try this out on Tabletop Simulator while waiting for it to ship and the regular mode was rough while still learning!).

The game is all about spelling words with the cards in your hand. Each letter has a specific power, depending on which way you spell the word and what side of the playing card is exposed. “Splay left” and you might see more defensive shields to guard against the monster’s attack. “Splay right”, and you may gain energy and fight back. The top most card will have a special action you might be able to activate, allowing you to apply extra damage, gain energy or cast a hex on your opponent.

The game trays are really nice, a sturdy plastic, and the markers for health, energy, power, and hexes are little metal trackers. They take a bit of force to insert the first time, but Fowers posted on Kickstarter that after a few plays, the plastic starts to loosen up a bit.

The character card are double-sided so you can have a little cheat sheet up the whole time or flip it over to just enjoy the aesthetic. I love the artwork and the whole look of the game.

The first battle took me a little while to get through since I had to teach myself, but the rule book was well laid out. Set up does take a minute – like other crunchy solo games, this takes up as much space on the table as a game with multiple players, but you’re on your own setting up all the special decks. I think that first set up might have taken me 30 minutes? With all the separating and shuffling as I read through the booklet.

Game play moves quickly once you’ve got down what you have to do each round. If you manage to survive, there are a few steps to follow for rewards from the enemy. A single game is made up of six battles, 3 lackeys and their 3 bosses. In between battles, you gain new cards, earn rewards, heal and shop, so that first game is a bit slower as you learn all the extra bits of cleanup and upkeep.

I’m really excited to get this back to the table over the long holiday weekend. It will be perfect for a quiet winter afternoon, especially if I want to unplug for a bit. That’s what draws me to solo games, a chance to get away from a screen but still keep my brain going and engaged. I’m curious to see how different the other characters feel from each other and if I have a favorite. You can mix and match with the different characters and bosses too so replay is going to be infinite. So nice to have a solo game that doesn’t involve me being horribly killed by a monster…death by word play seems a bit kinder and more in the spirit of the season.

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