[In the Lab] Towers of Battle

As is often the case, a twitter discussion led to some fun game ideas. Initially the discussion was about some hybrid of Scrabble and Battleship. My thoughts soon drifted to a totally different theme set in the days of ancient Babylon. Ancient builders compete to create the tallest tower, hiring mercenaries to pick off each other's towers brick by brick. Somehow scrabble figures into this. Above you see a veerrry loose mockup of something in my head.

On your turn, you draw up to seven letter tiles at random. Then you can do one the following basic actions...

Build: Then you may play a word on your side of the board along the lowest row of unoccupied spaces. You may build more than one level at a time, building one row on top of the other as a rising "tower" of words. You and your opponent may each only have one word in the same row. Your words may not run into each other. There must always be at least one unoccupied space between the words. In the example above, the right player just played ZIPPER and added it to the top of her tower.

Repair: You can add letters to one existing row of your tower, as long as the resulting combination of letters is a legal word. In the example above, the left player had the word LOP. He added another O to make it LOOP.

Hire/Move one Mercenary: You can also discard seven tiles to hire a mercenary. A mercenary begins at the lowest level of your tower, but may move one level up or down on subsequent turns. Your mercenary's movement is restricted by the height of your tower, he can't go any higher than that. In the example above, the left player has one mercenary at the top of his tower. The right player has two mercenaries in her tower, one at the top and one still rising.

Attack: Your mercenary can attack your opponent's tower to gradually disintegrate it. First, note which level of your tower your mercenary currently occupies. Gather one die for each letter in that comprises that level of your tower. As a row loses letters, it's okay if that resulting combination doesn't make a legal word anymore. In the example above, the left player's mercenary would attack with six dice, because WINTER has six letters. For each die result 4, 5, or 6, the right player would lose one letter from DIM, her word in that row.

If a row ever loses all its letters, then any rows built on top of the destroyed row are also lost. If a player loses all letters, he loses the game.

You gain a victory point when you begin a turn with the tallest tower on the board. I imagine there will be other ways to get victory points, like special tiles, themed words, combos, etc.

There is a strategic tension between building a tall tower fast, with several short words, or building a wide defensible position. Short words create weak rows that can be easily attacked by a lucky roll. You could focus on creating long words that are strongly defensible, but you sacrifice victory points in doing so.

Or something. Like I said, this was a very loose idea cooked up on the intertwitters. :P


  1. I would think that if your tower reaches a certain row, that's when you start accruing VP each turn. That would get players more willing to throw in some shorter words on the lower levels, making them easier to attack.

  2. You didn't tell us a win condition other than destroying all of the opponents letters, hence victory points are irrelevant. Maybe there is a score counter etc? The difficulty with score counters is that you need a fair bit of play testing to get game length right, and to balance with letter destroy.

  3. Yeah, that part is still nebulous, hence the game still being in the lab.


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