One Board Family: Composition Preview
Word card games can often be difficult to review. They are often very niche: those who like word games REALLY like them, and most other people would prefer to play any other type of game. There are so many word games out there to choose from, like Paperback, Moveable Type, Wordsy… games that can scratch the itch of any word game enthusiast. So how can a game like Composition enter the arena and make its mark? By having fantastic artwork and executing each facet of the game really well!
In Composition, players become one of a variety of characters, each seeking to become the maestro by making the best “music.” These characters are all very fantastical, ranging from an anthropomorphic cat to a big pile of mud. Each of the characters is incredibly illustrated, lending a wonderful sense of fun and whimsy to the game. Each of these characters has a special power, as well as a three letter name that lets you know which three letters you’ll be starting the game with.
The game is played over a series of rounds, each of which begins by players adding new cards to their collection. Most of these cards feature a single letter, with a few exceptions that serve as wilds or double letter cards. Once all the cards have been taken, players will try to play words using the letters they have collected that round to score as many points – or roses – as possible.
Some of the cards feature special powers that give you bonuses for where the letter is placed in a word or for the other types of letters in the word. Players then return their used letters to the discard pile while having the option to hang on to up to two unused cards. More letters are then laid out and play continues.
All of this spelling is done to earn Awards and Ovations, which provide the only points that are counted at the end of the game. Ovations are expensive cards (costing 20 roses each), but they do stay in your hand as opposed to most cards which have to be discarded at the end of each round.
Awards are earned by meeting certain criteria when forming your words. For instance, you might need to spell a word with three vowels, or maybe you have to spell a six letter word that also uses all your starting cards. Play continues until either all the Awards or Ovations have been taken, at which point players total up these cards and the one with the most wins!
When I first played this game, it felt incredibly similar to Paperback, a deck building game I really like. You are trying to spell words to acquire cards that are worth more points, letting you score even more points in the future. However, there are some key differences that I believe make Composition a more approachable and altogether different gameplay experience.
First, you don’t actually add cards to a deck. Sure, you’ll acquire cards each round, and some of those cards will stay with you. Most of them, however, will be discarded at the end of the round. While this may feel limiting, it actually eliminates one of the major problems of deck builders. You see, in those games, you can buy a new card near the end of the game and then never see it again because you have too many cards in your deck. In this game, you’ll get to use the cards you buy immediately, so you won’t have to worry about what words you’ll spell several turns down the road.
Another big difference here is the way in which cards are acquired. At the beginning of the game, the number of “note” cards (the main letter cards) available for acquisition during the round is equal to the number of players. However, that number increases by one for each Ovation that has been purchased. A few of the note cards in the deck can also increase how many are available. So whereas Paperback always has the same types of cards available the entire game, this game expands as the game progresses. It’s almost like it levels up with you. Thus, you’re able to spell bigger, more complex words as the game progresses.
Overall, I feel like Composition is a more manageable game than others in the genre. The way in which the game ramps up definitely lends itself to being an easy game to teach, as most players will have mastered their technique by the time they have a handful of eight or ten cards.
There are a few wrinkles in the game that add some flavor, but I’m not sure how I feel about them yet. Some of the character powers are a bit complex and I don’t really feel they’re worth it (I’m looking at you, Rex). In addition, some cards feature different types of tomatoes, and these can change up the game a bit. One of them, for instance, has to be played in your next word or you lose all your money. This provides an extra little challenge for players, which I enjoy, but then that card gets passed to the next player instead of being discarded. Thus, if it shows up early in the game, it becomes more of a pest than a challenge.
I honestly feel like this game is the best offering in the genre to bring the whole family together. The cutesy art will appeal to players of all ages, and given how much less you have to keep track of, I think younger gamers will be able to master everything.
I also think that those players who don’t necessarily enjoy word games will be more easily drawn in by the artwork and the ease of play. So if you don’t yet have one of these games in your collection, this might be a good place to start. And if you love Paperback or Hardback but sometimes struggle to get it to the table, perhaps Composition will be more palatable for your gaming group.
Composition launched on Kickstarter on March 26, 2019. Reserve your copy of the game today!
We were provided with a prototype of Composition before the launch of the Kickstarter. This in no way influenced our opinion on the game. Previews are a glimpse into an upcoming game with the pros and cons that we experienced prior to production of the game.