Quick Reviews of Two New Games – Onitama and Letter Tycoon

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2-player games are always in demand. Simple rules and a lot of depth are important and this one, the third game added to Tom Vassel’s Dice Tower Essentials line (Sheriff of Nottingham and Royals are the other two) definitely has both. The first thing we thought when we heard about this one was, ‘hmmmm, sounds a lot like the Duke.’ If the designer said he wasn’t inspired by that game in making this one, we would say ‘YOU’RE A BIG FAT LIAR!’, possibly allowing a little bit of spittle to escape just to emphasize the point! That’s OK though. The Duke is great, but a little fiddlier to learn and teach, this game streamlines things a lot.

Game play

The object of the game is to either:
a) Capture your opponents Master
b) Move your Master to your opponents pagoda (the starting spot of their Master)

The board consists of a 5*5 grid, with each player starting with their Master and 4 students on the back line. In each game you will randomly select 5 cards from the 16 available. Two are handed to each player and one placed  in the middle. The two cards in front of you depict the moves you are able to take (all your pieces will move the same way). When you take a move, you switch the card you used to move with the card in the middle and then your opponent will take a turn, switching their card after they are done.



That’s it. You only have 5 total ways to move per game. The strategy is there. You need to watch carefully what your opponent can do and what you are enabling them to do when you give up a card. Each game play differently depending on the cards available, but they are quick and intense, lasting just 15 minutes or so. If your not a fan of abstract, chess style games, this probably won’t get you excited. For everyone else though, this one is a little gem. The box is amazing (I mean coffee table nice) and the theme fits really well with the game.

Letter Tycoon


Are you like me? You like word games but wish it wasn’t just about the words, because you don’t know all 106 two letter words and feel sadly proud when you manage a 5 letter word. Well your savior has arrived! Letter Tycoon is a word game and a strategy game in one.

Game play

You are trying to make the most money. You do this by making words and by investing in letters in order to make money off your opponents words as well. On your turn you try to make a word from the 7 letters in your hand and the 3 in the middle of the table. The longer it is the more it pays out. You can then take your money and invest in one of the letters in your word, e.g. your word is CANDY, you may now buy any of the letters C A N D Y if they are available. The more commonly occurring letters cost more and the least frequently seen ones have special powers associated with them. From that point on, every time one of your opponents uses one of your letters, you get a payout. Refresh your hand back to 7 letters and the next player goes. Keep going till one of you reaches a certain amount of money invested in letters and add up all your cash and letter stock values. Most money wins.



Its a word game and most of us enjoy word games. However, its not purely about the words, which gives us non-word people a bit more of chance against the Scrabble boffins. You can’t always make the word you want, because it doesn’t contain any letters you want to buy, or it pays out too much to your opponents. In other words there are still interesting decisions to be made outside of the word game, but it IS still a word game, don’t get me wrong there. However, if Scrabble is the only game that your Dad wants to play, ever, then maybe you can twist his arm to play this one. Oh and it also looks really pretty as well….word!!!

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