Every so often a gorgeous-looking, intelligently made, incredibly addictive multiplayer word game creeps up to test our puzzling prowess and the depth of our vocabulary. After Lexatron's asynchronous take on a Scrabble-Snake mash-up, we're now treated to Letterpress.
This is word-based duelling of a different sort, though: more like chess than Scrabble, with the pieces replaced by letters and their moves replaced by the words in your vocabulary.
Words of power
The game takes place on a five-by-five grid of randomly generated letters, and your goal is to change as many of the letter tiles as you can to your colour. Each player takes it in turns to spell words, and any letters they use swap to their particular hue.
Players can reclaim letters by using them in their next turn, or protect letters by surrounding them with their own colour. A letter that's surrounded takes on a darker shade, and can't be stolen back even if it's used by the other player in a word. Once all the tiles are coloured in, the player whose colour is attached to the most wins.
It sounds simple, but in practice it's a game of tactics and ingenuity, where knowing the longest word isn't always going to be as important as knowing where to put it. You'll push and counter-push, make silly mistakes, and pull off glorious victories from seemingly impossible positions.
It's impressive how much tension a game can produce. You've seen a way to win, but you have to wait, fingers crossed, while an unseen opponent considers his next move. He might not even be looking at his iOS device. He might be making tea.
However long you have to wait, the quiet thrill you experience when he puts his word down and it doesn't interfere with your master plan is immense. This is asynchronous gaming at its finest.Letterpress is a brilliant little game. While it might not appeal to the guts and guns brigade, if you've ever done a word puzzle, or even just sat near someone doing a crossword, you'll absolutely love it.