Movable Type – Winning at Words.

When I unwrapped this game and looked at the cards, I felt I had opened a game which had been personally designed for me. I love word games – you can read more about some of the other Cards or Die word games here. One of the frustrating things for me is how little the rest of my household enjoy them and so I rarely get to play. However, my 13 year old and my 11 year old both enjoy this one and, even if they didn’t, there’s a solitaire version. One of the things the children particularly enjoy is the fact it’s quite tactical – you can start planning your final word in round one; pay attention to which letters others are collecting and thwart their plans. There is nothing my offspring enjoy quite so much as decimating each other in a game. I like the planning element and the fact you can deliberately place letters which win you author cards which help later. It’s also beautifully designed; they look like they’ve been meticulously carved and stamped. The choice of authors on the bonus cards is right up my street – among the authors you can win are Edgar Allen Poe*, Ada Lovelace, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Austen and I’m going to make William Shakespeare the last one I list here. They have chosen fantastic writers to champion your cause. And finally, I know a song about it. I have a song for most occasions and sometimes I have to resort to adapting one (see ‘We built this settee. We built this settee from i-keee-aaaahhh’ for reference) but not this time thanks to the marvellous Commoner’s Choir. I’m even in the video – bonus points if you spot me!!
*On World Book Day, I went to school dressed as a raven and spent the day freaking children out. That probably tells you most things you need to know about me!
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A synopsis
Movable type is a word building game played over 5 rounds. During the first four rounds you are collecting letters to use in your final word. It will be this word which decides the winner.
Players 1 to 6
25 minutes
Designed by Robin David, Visual design by Tiffany Moon and Additional art by Alisdair Wood.
Playing in a group
This game is equally enjoyable with 2 or 6 players. Obviously the more people who play, the longer it takes as people need thinking time to plan and then re-plan if someone pinches the letter they needed! If you want to go all out and allow dictionaries then it takes even longer – you have been warned. Although it rules out any unpleasantness and it’s nice not to have a relaxed game without time pressures. We have enough of those all day.
The key thing is to start collecting the most useful letters then formulate a reasonably flexible plan for the word you will play in the fifth round.
Playing Solo
When you play the solo version of the game you must pit your wordly skills against the formidable Bronte Sisters. At the end of each round you add some cards to your collection just as you do in the multi player version then all of your unused cards go to the Sisters. At the end of the game the word you spell from your collected letters must beat the total points those unused cards amount to. Throughout the first four rounds you can score bonuses which allow you to trash cards or add extra to your collection which allows you to play more tactically.
There’s three of them, they’ve written some pretty good books and they’re ganging up on you so this is not going to be a stroll in the park. Helpfully, though there are hard and easy modes available so you can beat them and then step up the difficulty which is a feature I always welcome.
The fine print
You begin by drafting your cards. You are dealt five cards and you must choose 1 to keep, passing the remaining 4 on. You repeat this process until you have a new (and if you’re me, a much crapper) set of 5 cards.
You then play your highest scoring word, or perhaps a word which fulfils one of the challenges and earns you an author card. To end each of the first four rounds all of you choose cards to add to your collection which you will use in the final round – the winner chooses more than the other players. So winning in the early rounds puts you in a good position.
There are common letter cards which can be used by all players and a single letter can be used as a double. So, for instance to spell the word ‘letter’ you would only need to play the letters ‘LETER’. I’m both regretting using the word letter as I feel I’ve overused it and also realising how many other words have double letters in them!
In the final round you use the cards in your collection, any author cards and any of the newly dealt common cards that you want to create (hopefully) the highest scoring word and attain literary greatness.
The conditions for a tie in the end say that the first person to publish a novel would be declared the winner. We had two issues with that. Firstly my partner’s Mum has published 6 novels so no-one wants to tie with her and secondly it implies that if no-one has published a book yet the announcement of winner is delayed till such time as the condition is fulfilled. Flash forward to a phone call from one of my delirious offspring announcing both the publication of their first novel and pointing out they are now the proud winner of that game of Movable Type we had 20 years previously. Boom. Double whammy!
I thought a few words from my daughter, Molly would be a fitting way to sum up our family’s reaction to this game:
Hi, my name’s Molly (I’m the one playing with the rubber
band in the top picture). I really enjoyed this game, it took us a few rounds to remember the rules – she says trying to remember the rules – some of them were slightly confusing so you would focus on remembering the rules then realise you need an “N” not a “W” to spell banker. I’m very good at English (as you can tell from my immaculate spelling during the game) which made movable type a bit easier although if you struggle with it, the game might not be as enjoyable. I really recommend this game for most ages, for people who love reading and love writing but always keep a dictionary on hand!
Movable Type is available to play at Cards or Die events
or you can treat yo’self to a copy here:

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