Since my initial review, Letter Tycoon has slowly become the game that my wife and I play the most.
“What game do you want to play?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Should we just play Letter Tycoon?”
Letter Tycoon is all about using letter cards to make words. The longer the word you make, the more money you get for it. So you want to make the longest words you possibly can.
However, making longer words isn’t the only way to get more money. You can also buy letter patents. The general function of the patents is to give you money when other people use a letter you’ve patented. Crucially, though, some of the patents also double the score you get for making certain words:
- B Patent: Earn double if your word begins and ends in vowels.
- J Patent: Earn double if vowels are at least half your word.
- K Patent: Earn double if your word has only one vowel.
Additionally, you also earn double if you make a word that contains the letter Q (presumably because it’s hard to use the Q because you typically also need a U).
Each turn, you have 10 letter cards at your disposal: seven in your hand and three in the center of the table (and, by the rules of the game, you must make a word that uses at least three letter cards). But, here again, some of the patents provide abilities that could lengthen a word beyond 10 letters:
- X Patent: You may use one letter card twice.
- Z Patent: You may add an S to the end of your word.
You can probably see where this is going. With the right patents and the right letters, you could pump up the length of your word so it will score more, plus double that score multiple times.
Now, it’s not technically possible to use every power in Letter Tycoon on the same word. The only way you could get a 12 letter word is by using the ability to add an S to the end, which would mean it doesn’t begin and end with vowels. Similarly, you obviously can’t make an 11 letter word that is both half vowels and only contains one vowel.
But, if the stars aligned, and you’d bought the right patents, and you got the right letters, you could potentially get some serious points. Just how many points are we talking about?
To find the best possible words you can make, I wrote a Perl 6 script. This script uses the Collins Scrabble Words list, also known as SOWPODS. There are larger English word lists out there (the Debian Linux distribution provides an alternative words dictionary that is so big it is literally described as “insane”), but using a Scrabble list is a reasonable alternative here because Letter Tycoon and Scrabble have more or less the same restrictions: no captialized words, no hypens, and no apostophes.
Also note that Collins is not the same as the Scrabble Official Tournament and Club Word List, which is also not the same as the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary. (Seriously Scrabble people, get it together.) I picked Collins because it appears to be the largest and most inclusive of the three.
If you want to peek ahead to the full results, the script produces a CSV spreadsheet that includes every word that uses at least three of the Letter Tycoon doubling powers.
The best words
The best words you can possibly make are those that are half vowels, begin and end with vowels, use a Q, and are 11 letters long after using one letter twice. If you have the right patents, a word like this could net you $88. (Letter Tycoon pays you for your word in both dollars and stocks, but ultimately they’re added together at the end.)
For comparison, a typical five-to-seven letter word will get you between $3 and $7. I’m not sure I’ve ever scored $88 in a whole game, let alone on a single turn! And there are actually quite a few of these 11 letter words out there:
Slightly longer words for slightly less points
Because any 12 letter words must be made with the patent power that allows you to add an S, you can’t also take advantage of the power to double your score for a word that begins and ends in vowels. But you can still make some 12 letter words that will get you a ton of points. Some of the possibilities include:
Little words that could get you big points
Recall how it’s impossible to use all of the Letter Tycoon powers at once because, for example, you can’t make a word that both begins and ends in vowels and contains only one vowel. Well, that’s only sort of true. And that’s because of Y, the sort of vowel. Letter Tycoon elegantly sidesteps forcing you to go out and get an English degree to determine whether Y is acting as a vowel or not in a given word: the rules allow you to consider Y as a vowel or not in the way that is most favorable to you.
Consider the word “yappy.” Do I get to double my score because it begins or ends in vowels? It begins and ends in Y, and Y is a vowel if I want it to be, so yes. On the other hand, do I get to double my score because it only contains one vowel? Y is not a vowel if I don’t want it to be, so the only vowel is an A, so yes. In this way, you can use all of the doubling patent powers on the same word.
Unfortunately, there is no word that allows you to use all three doubling powers and also double your score for using a Q. Should such a word exist, it would manifestly be extremely weird. It would either have to somehow use a Q without a U; or else it would have to start with Y, end with QU, and not use any other vowels. The closest you’re going to find is probably yaqona, which uses a Q, is half vowels, and begins and ends with vowels—although unfortunately it has two vowels instead of one.
But there are quite a few short words that use multiple powers. Some of them include:
What can we take away from all of this? It’s hard to say. Let’s be real: the universe is almost certainly never going to shine on you and allow you to score $88 in a single turn. But there are probably a few practical tips we can pick up.
First off, Q is an extremely powerful letter. If you have a Q, it might make sense to hold onto it until you can also buy a doubling power so you can quadruple your score for a word. On the other hand, I actually tried this yesterday, and was able to score $20 in money and stock for a single word—and I still lost the game because my wife bought up all of the vowel patents while I was trying to get my ducks in a row. So… who knows.
As powerful as it is, Q is just a one-time doubler. Buying patent powers allows you to double your score every single turn. Even if you buy patents that seem to not go together, like half vowels and only one vowel, they can still be used together—if you have a Y. So Y is a very valuable card to players with doubling patent powers, whether that’s you or your opponent.
Also, buying the doubling patent powers can help lessen the pressure of needing to think of a big word every turn: you can still make a ton of money off of the right kind of small words.
Ultimately, at this point, $88 per turn appears to be the theoretical limit. Hopefully we’ll eventually hear more about the long-rumored Letter Tycoon expansion, which will likely put even more powers into our hands, allowing us to come up with even more exquisitely acquisitive words.