Scryptic [$1.99] from LKS GameWorks looks like a traditional Scrabble game. It has a board and letter tiles sitting on a rack, but trust me, the gameplay is VERY different. Two players start in different positions on the board and use words to combat each other. Each player can either build up words defensively around their starting point (“city"), or spread out towards the opposition, in an offensive attack. Sometimes there’s additional city squares to be claimed, which can spark a word-race across the board to get there first, as cities offer extra protection.
There’s not a ‘double word score‘ or ‘triple letter score‘ in sight. Instead, the squares on the board each represent terrain, like mountains, forests and water. And the rules around each type of terrain make this game really interesting. I’ll give you two examples to demonstrate. If you want to place your word on a blue water square, you must form a bridge, by ensuring the first and last letter of your word are not in the water. Whereas ice squares will crack and turn to water if you place any “heavy" letters worth 2+ points on them, drowning your entire word. The game mechanics may seem a little complicated initially, but the game walks you gently through the rules with tutorial levels and help screens, so you learn it pretty quickly. Although I took some notes, which proved helpful.
How does the combat work? Well, you simply deploy a word on top of, or adjacent to, the opponents word(s) to attack them. This isn’t like scrabble where your letters need to fit in with the opponents words. You just link your own words together until your word-network reaches the enemy, then drop your word right over theirs to battle. The highest scoring word will be victorious, causing the defeated word to disappear. You can even cut off the opponents supply chain, by destroying connecting words to leave other words isolated and defenseless. It’s like playing two different games of scrabble on one board, against each other.
The terrain also has an impact on combat. If your word crosses a mountain square, you have a higher-ground advantage so your word is strengthened. But if your word crosses water, it’s weakened. And if you’re fortunate enough to find a power token in the game, you can create “elemental forces" such as volcanoes, firestorms, droughts and floods, to strategically modify the terrain. I haven’t discovered any of these yet, but I’m itching to flood my opponents words.
Your choice of words makes a difference, as the game is programmed to detect words associated with four topics: Attacking, defense, sneaking or deforesting. So if you place a word like “kill" or “sword" it automatically gains extra attacking power, whereas words like “fortify" or “shield" add defensive power. If you discover a word associated with one of these four headings is not rewarded, don’t despair – you can add words via the options screen, or advise the developers via their word feedback form and they’ll add it in.
The game ends when you capture your opponents city square(s) and you’re rewarded by some obnoxiously loud trumpet blasts. Seriously, the occasional sound effects are not great. The game also ends if the letter tiles are all used or when both players pass twice in a row, in which case the player with the most points wins. Phew! That’s enough about the rules. Although they are quite fascinating. It’s quite unusual for the rules of a game to be a highlight!
Scryptic manages to successfully turn Scrabble into a strategic combat situation. You can play against a friend using pass-and-play or battle the AI opposition on 21 unlockable terrain boards, of different sizes. But be warned, this is a game of skill and strategy, and once you’ve completed the easy levels, the AI definitely steps up his game. The larger boards can take ages to complete, so there’s many hours of game-play, plus 12 achievements and rankings via Game Center.
This game is perfect for Scrabble lovers, who enjoy competition and want to add combat to the mix. While playing the game for a few hours, I did experience one crash and a bug, but fortunately neither caused my game or progress to be lost. The developer advises he’s currently working on his first patch upgrade. With Wooords and Scryptic both being released recently, plus a new update for Wurdle, it’s a good time for word games!