Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap ($10 or less) game.
Once, not so very long ago, games were a friendly competition that celebrated the thoughtful and rewarded the clever. Then came a contingent for whom the sensation of winning was the only thing that mattered. These people invented performance-enhancing steroids, infinite ammo, and regenerative health. Games became abrasive and loud, lacking in subtlety. The thoughtful and clever did not die out, though; they merely evolved. And lo, the indie game was born, and with it a whole new generation of word games, because clever people are often nerds, and nerds have always loved word games. (Seriously, how great was that crossword last week?)
Which brings us to Letterpress, the latest App Store sensation. Mix the empire-building of Risk with the word-building of Boggle, and you’ve generally got the idea. (One important difference from Boggle: The tiles don’t need to touch in order to be used together in a word.) The strategy comes in blocking off groups of letters, essentially claiming them as your territory, so that your opponent can’t score those tiles. And you’ll want to play the longest, most suffixed iteration of a word that you can. Playing the word “houses” means your opponent can’t play the word “house,” for instance. Strategy! The game ends when every tile on the board has been claimed. It’s not just enough to have the best word—in order to win, players need to consistently come up with unique words, using more letters spread across the board. Like the Mongol invasion of Eastern Iran, so goes your “frozen” into your opponent’s “raspberry”—and just like the Mongols, scoring “Khwarezmid” could be quite the massacre.