A lot of the older games have found their modern day replacements. No more Monopoly, we have Settlers of Catan. No more Trouble, we have King of Tokyo. But what about Scrabble? Could a game about evil villains stealing the worlds most prized possessions take on the reigning champion?
Designer: Jeff Beck
Publisher: Uproarious Games
The worst thing I can say about Word Domination is that it’s a word game.
As much as I love word games, they make me feel dumb. Whatever word I come up with on my turn, I know there’s another, better word out there. I even know that better word and use it in every day. In fact the only time I don’t know the better word is when it’s my turn, then the only word I can can think of is yeet.
This doesn’t just affect me. I’ve sat through hours of people staring at jumbles of letters, trying to come up with answers they already know. Word games aren’t about coming up with the best word, but rather accepting the only words you can think of at the moment, while you’re hoping for some last-minute inspiration from the ghost of Shakespeare.
Your friends have all checked out.
Letterjam, another word game, swerves around these shortcomings by making it cooperative, Word Slam and Codenames avoid it by giving you a word and then having to guess it.
Word Domination has no such luck. And while there are rules to help, expect some long turns from this game. But this is a fault of the genre and not a fault of Word Domination.
If you choose to forge ahead, realising Word Domination is more Scrabble than Eye Spy, then you’re in for a treat.
The game starts with a grid of randomly placed letter tiles on the table, and an additional letter tile in your hand. You’ll be adding your hand tile to the grid, and then spelling out a word with wooden zeppelins tokens.
I don’t know if there has been a meeple equivalent word for zeppelins.
Whatever they’re called, you’re only allowed to place one on each letter per turn. So for zepples, you would need two different tokens and two different P’s. Over time, if you’re able to put two of your zeppelins on a single letter. Then you’ve stolen the letter, and it becomes yours.
However, when it comes to these tokens it’s highlander rules – there can be only one. So if an opponent uses an already occupied letter, they replace your zeppelin with one of their own.
This simple ruleset allows for constant attacking and defending of the high value targets. Your mindset often changing from spelling the longest word, allowing you greater coverage, to spelling a word that has three E’s. Because you’ll be damned if you let those vowels go without a fight.
It makes every turn exciting because your current objective varies with whatever you and your opponent does. You’re bouncing between ideas of what to spell because of what’s most important to you right now. This is what we have come to expect from modern board games, and Word Domination translates it exceedingly well to the word game format.
The scoring in Word Domination provides even more opportunity to strategise as though stolen letters give you points, groups of stolen letters is where the real money is at. But now you’re thinking of a word that is:
- Protects high valued assets
- Connects letters with letters next to your already stolen words.
That’s a lot to think about even without the special tiles that give you powers, and player powers for those who want something extra. But I was happy enough to play without them. For those wanting something extra-extra Word Domination also has a cooperative mode,
To bring it back to the title question, would I rather play Word Domination than Scrabble?
Jeff Beck has created a great little game with Word Domination. It’s playful design brings out the fun artwork by Ryan Goldsberry. But make no mistake, if you let it, it will lock you in the think tank and throw away the key. If that’s alright then you’ll love this fantastic, non-party word game.
Thanks for reading my review, I’m currently ranking all my board games in a wordy list. You can see Word Domination’s initial ranking below.
In playing for this review, the longest word I spelt was CONDORS at 6 letters. I was pretty proud of that result. Now it’s time for you to flex, what’s the longest word you’ve spelt in a word game?