Letter Tycoon is a word game where your goal is to form words using the cards in your hand as well as 3 community cards. The longer the better. You earn money and stocks from the words you build. Money you earn allows you to buy letter patents. Owning the patent for a letter will earn you royalties when other players use them to build their words. Some letter patents have special abilities that will help you increase your earnings. When the amount of patents owned by one player meets or exceeds the goal the last round is triggered. Players add up their patents, coins, and stocks. The player with the most wins. There is one tie breaker in case of a tie.
Each player will take a turn cutting a card from the letter factory deck. The player with the card closest to letter Z is the start player and gets the zeppelin marker to keep in front of them for the entire game. After shuffling the letter factory deck deal 7 cards face down to each player. The remainder of the deck will be face down. Three cards will be drawn from the deck and placed face up near the letter factory deck. This forms the community pool. Now lay out the letter patents in a way that is suitable for all players. We tend to leave the cream colored patent cards uncovered so all players can easily read the pantent card special abilities. Place the coins and stocks nearby. We keep the stocks and coins in the box insert. Players do not start with any coins or stocks. Set out the goal card so it’s visible to all and is appropriate for your game’s player count. Make sure all players get a scoring reference card.
On your turn you can do one of two actions. Build a word or discard cards from your hand.
Build a Word
1. Build a word using the factory cards from your hand and the community pool. At least one factory card must come from your hand.
2. Earn coins and stock based on the length of your word. You earn one additional stock for each letter over 7 in your word.
3. Each player earns $1 from the bank for letter patent you own when an opponent uses that letter in a word they build. You do not earn royalties from your patents when used in a word you build.
4. You can buy one letter patent per turn and for letters you use in the word you built. The cost of the patent is on the letter patent card and letter factory card. You pay for the letter patent using only the coins you have. Stocks cannot be used to buy letter patents.
5. Discard all played factory cards plus any cards you choose from your hand. Refill your hand back to 7 cards. If the draw deck runs out reshuffle the discard pile to create a new draw deck. Replace any community pool cards you used to build your word.
Discard any number of factory cards from your hand and draw back up to 7 cards from the draw deck. I’ve not used this choice because if I can build at least a 3 letter word I get points and I can then discard the other cards before drawing back up to 7 cards. In other words I can refresh my hand and get at least 1 point.
After a word has been played but before the next player starts their turn, any player may challenge a word. If the challenged word is found to be acceptable the challenging player pays 1$ to the active player. If the challenged word is not acceptable the active player returns the played letter factory cards to their hand and must discard one letter factory card from their hand and draw a new one from the draw deck. Their turn is over.
Letter patents earn you 1$ in royalties for each matching letter factory card played in an opponent’s word. Remember you don’t get royalties on your own letter patents. The letter patents for B, J, K, Q, V, X, and Z have special abilities that can be used once per turn.
When any player controls an amount of patents equal to or greater than the appropriate goal card, the last round is triggered. Each player clockwise from the start player (remember the start player has the zeppelin) that has not had their turn yet will be able to get that final turn. The winner is the player with the highest total of coins, stocks, and letter patents combined. If there is a tie then the tied player with the highest total value in letter patents wins.
This is a 3 player session where I cut the letter V from the letter factory deck and so was the start player. The last time in a 3 player game I was the start player. This isn’t always a good thing as player 2 in another 3 player game I played triggered the final round. Meaning I already had my turn as I was player 1 in that game too. I tied player 2 but lost on the tie breaker. Had I got another turn it is very likely I would have won.
I use the T and N from the community pool and build the STRAIN. Not enough coin to buy a patent. Player buys the B patent and player 3 buys the M patent. Right away I’m thinking the other players are off to reach the goal of 34 as fast as possible. Good news, I have more coin than they do for round 2.
I build THORNS and buy the O patent. Yep, as I had hoped, the other 2 players do not buy patents this round.
Should I? Could I? Yes! So I build WOULD and buy the U patent. Player 3 buys the X patent. At the end of this round I notice I have two vowels. Could this pay off later? Initially I did not plan on going after the vowels but the start of this game seems to make this a good path to follow.
Juxtapose. No that’s not the word I built. I wish! With 9 letters, the letter X, and the letter J is a patent with a special ability. Yeah it would have been nice. Instead I build RAZE. I do not have enough for the vowels in that word but I buy the Z patent. Player 2 buys the V patent. To this point I’m not sure what plan the other 2 players have. Maybe they don’t have one. Maybe one of them has the letter Q and is sitting on it waiting for the best time to build a Q word. So far I’m still the only player that has vowel patents.
Bad, bad, bad. Not much I can do with my cards and the community pool. So I build SHE. One coin is all I get and not enough to buy the S patent. To make it worse player 2 and 3 both get a patent. Player 2 buys the S patent. Player 3 buys the R patent. But guess what? I get the Q letter card. Double score here we come.
I build JADES and buy the J patent. This would turn out to be a good buy. Player 2 buys the H patent and player 3 buys the K patent. I’ve seen games where players get that K patent and really run with it. I’ve played in games where the K patent was important in helping a player win. But the J patent ability would really help me this game. So why is J so good? Because if I can build words that are least half vowel I can double my score. I like this for another reason. I can build 4 or 5 letter words and keep a few cards in my hand that will help me build a really good Q word.
RAID is what I build and as you might guess I buy the A patent. Three vowel patents now belong to me! Picture this: Scrooge leaning over a table continuously rubbing his hands just over a pile of coins. Only instead of a pile of coins picture a pile of vowel letter factory cards and instead of Scrooge it’s me. Not only that player 2 and 3 build words so my O and A patents earn royalties. Not only that (again) I use the J patent to double my score. The word (game) has turned. Too bad I couldn’t build DOOMED because that is exactly what I think player 2 and 3 are now. Oh yeah, DOOMED would have a good one to use the J ability with.
VAIN and I use the J ability again. Yes, I buy the I patent. At this point I think the other players see where this game is headed and that the vowel patents I got previous to this along with the J patent sealed the deal. Since I had the Q letter factory card I wasn’t worried that another would play it and move ahead. Vowel royalty earnings for this round total $5. Player 3 buys the L patent.
At the end of round 8 and before I took my turn in round 9 I counted my patents. There were $29 worth of patents on the table in front of me. This time I build DOZE use the J ability and buy the E patent. This triggers the last round as I now have $39 in patents. Even though the other 2 players get one last turn I can see they very likely won’t catch my total. Remember, too, the Q letter factory card is still in my hand so no end game heroics there. The final score break down went like this:
Player 1- $51 ($39 in letter patents, $10 in coin, and $2 in stock)
Player 2- $28 ($23 in letter patents and $5 in coin)
Player 3- $30 ($26 in letter patents and $4 in coin)
I did not plan on going for the vowels until after I got the first 2 and there was a third vowel there for me to buy. I don’t know why the other players didn’t stop me after the first 2 vowels. The J letter factory card ability really helped me out. The more I play this game the more I tend to go with what I’m dealt and make the best of it. I don’t really count up scores of other players as the game plays out. When I first started playing Letter Tycoon I used to focus on trying to get high scores all the time and keep trying to get cards to build, say, a Q word. Loving to read is, I think, a big help to grow a deep vocabulary. Which is probably a nice advantage in a word game.