It’s a combination of Boggle, Words with Friends and Risk, where you have to make words from the 25 letters in a square, but when you use tiles, they change to your color. It gets a bit complicated, as you can “own” tiles that get a darker color, if your tiles surround them, preventing your opponent from taking those tiles from you. You get one point for each tile that’s your color, and the game ends when there are no more white tiles, or when both players pass, if there are no more words they can make.
I’ll admit that it’s a bit confusing at first, and a friend and I started playing yesterday and went through a few games, pretty much stabbing in the dark. But following Lex’s advice, we persevered, and the strategy needed to play slowly became more obvious. (Read Lex’s Macworld review to better understand the gameplay.)
Letterpress uses Game Center to set up games and manage moves. I’ve had a few problems with moves that couldn’t be sent, which have been resolved by quitting the app and re-launching it; these problems are related to Game Center, and it’s not clear whether they are due to the app itself or Game Center. I have to say, I’ve never really used Game Center much before, but yesterday, I added a whole bunch of friends (mostly my Macworld colleagues and other tech writers), many of whom are regular Words with Friends opponents, and all of whom have adopted Letterpress as well.
Letterpress is free, but for $1, you can unlock the full version which adds two important features. You can play more than two games at a time (I’ve got a dozen going on already), and you can see a list of words you’ve already played. Because there’s another twist: if you play a word with a certain root, it can’t be used again. So if you play “follow,” then no one can play “followed,” “follower,” etc.
There are only two things missing in the game. First, there’s no way to chat with your opponent. Second, you can’t ask for a rematch without going through Game Center and making a new game request; that’s a multi-step process, whereas tapping a button to request a rematch (as you do in, say, Words with Friends) would be much easier. (This also looks like something that will be huge on Facebook, and I don’t know if Facebook integrates with Game Center at all.)
Try Letterpress for free, and you may find yourself hooked. The extra buck to unlock more games is necessary, because two games at a time isn’t enough. It’s a fun, attractive game, perfectly suited for those who like non-real time turn-based games and who like finding words.