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These optional rules provide variants for Hardback. You can choose to use any combinations of the following variant rules to add complexity and challenge to the standard Hardback rules.

Literary Awards

Literary Awards are optional Prestige bonuses that you can add to the game to encourage players to compete more directly and spell longer words.

Setup changes: During setup, stack the Literary Award cards next to the Prestige tracker board. Stack the Literary Awards face-up in order, with 7 on the top and 12 on the bottom.

Gameplay changes: When you spell a word with the number of letters on any Literary Award cards in the stack, you receive that Award card. Take it from the stack and place it in front of you.

Remove all Literary Awards cards with a lower number and return them to the box - including those in the stack as well as those claimed by other players. There can be only one claimed Literary Award card at a time.

For example, Edgar spells a word with 7 letters and claims the 7-letter Literary Award card. Later, Jane spells a 9-letter word. Jane removes both the 7-letter and 8-letter Literary Award cards from the game, and Jane claims the 9-letter Literary Award.

Literary Award cards are worth the amount of Prestige points shown on the bottom-right corner of the card, but only at the end of the game.

When you claim a Literary Award, do not advance your token on the Prestige tracker - your Literary Award might be outperformed by another player at any time!

In the same way, Prestige points from Literary Awards do not count toward the 60 Prestige points needed to end the game, but these points will certainly help improve your total Prestige in order to win.


Even the most seasoned authors occasionally need help building their public image. Adverts allow you to purchase Prestige with Coins earned during the game.

Setup changes: During setup, give each player an individual Advert tracker. Each player should / then place an Ink token on top of the card, above, the 6 ¢ option. *

Gameplay changes: Purchase Adverts during the Purchase phase of your turn. To purchase an Advert, pay Coins equal to the next available Advert slot on your Advert tracker.

You immediately gain the number of Prestige points indicated on the Advert tracker next to the Advert you just purchased. Then, move the token on your Advert tracker one space down.

Each Advert can only be purchased once and must be purchased in order as listed on the Advert tracker. You can buy multiple Adverts (in order) during your turn.

For example, after purchasing the Advert for 6¢, add 3 Prestige points to your score on the Prestige tracker and place your token on the 6 c slot on your Advert tracker card. The 9 c Advert is now available for you to purchase.

Player Powers

Every author is different, with their own unique flair. Your player power provides you with a literary advantage you can use to out-wit your opponents.

Setup changes: During setup, all players decide together whether to use the Passive or Aggressive player powers.

Passive player powers are on the side with the brown wood, and Aggressive powers are on the side with the gray wood.

Each player selects a Player Power card and places it on their Player card. Alternatively, Player Power cards may be distributed at random to each player.

Gameplay changes: On your turn, you may pay your power's cost in Ink tokens as shown on your card to use the power. The cost is the same no matter how many players it affects.

Passive powers can be used multiple times per turn, while Aggressive powers can be used only once per turn.

List of Passive Powers

  • Unnatural Creation (3 Ink): You can use a card from the Offer Row in the word you spell. You gain all of that card's Benefits as if the card had come from your hand. Unless purchased, the card remains in the Offer Row at the end of your turn.

  • Lyrical Prestige (2 Ink): Immediately gain one Prestige point.

  • Deck Exploration (3 Ink): Name a genre. Draw cards from your draw pile until you draw a card of that genre.

    Place an Ink token from the general supply (not from your supply) on that card - it must be used in your word. Shuffle the other drawn cards and place them on top of your draw pile.

  • Unsightly Card (2 Ink): Draw a card from your draw pile and use it face-down as a wild card in your word.

  • Pint-Sized Proficiency (1 Ink): Look at the top card of your draw pile, then choose to either put it back on top of your deck or discard it.

List of Aggressive Powers

  • Bizarre Love Triangle (3 Ink): Select a card from each opponent's discard pile and temporarily remove it from play. When its owner shuffles their discard pile, return the card to their discard pile.

  • Disfigured Letter (3 Ink): Flip over the top card from the Offer Deck. All opponents must use that letter in their next word. They do not receive any Benefits provided by the card. Once each opponent has used the card, it is returned to the box and removed from the game.

  • Miniaturize Supplies (X Ink): Discard any number of Ink tokens from your supply. All other players must discard twice as many Ink tokens (or simply discard all their Ink, if they don't have enough).

  • Mechanical Rap Battle (2 Ink): The next time each opponent draws their hand, randomly select one card from their hand and place it in their discard pile.

  • Wild Journey (3 Ink): For each opponent, look at their hand and choose a card. They must use that card face-down as a wild card in their next word.


Events provide an added challenge and are ideal for the veteran group looking to test their authorial skills.

Setup changes: During setup, shuffle the Events deck and place it next to the Prestige tracker board.

Gameplay changes: For each individual player, each time you enter a new decade on the Prestige tracker (10s, 20s, 30s, ..)., draw an Event card from the deck and discard your current Event card, if any.

Keep your event card face-up in front of you.

When you draw an Event card, review it and choose whether to keep it or exchange it with the current Event card of any player who is ahead of you on the Prestige tracker. As long as an Event card is in front of you, you must adhere to its requirements.

Cooperative Anthology

In this cooperative variant, 1-4 players work to win or lose together against your archrival, Penny Dreadful.

Setup changes: During setup ...

Instead of placing a Prestige token for each player on the Prestige tracker, place one token for all the players together and one for Penny Dreadful.

Additionally, track which lap each team is on by placing an Ink token and a Remover token on the first circle at the top of the Prestige tracker - the Ink token for the players and the Remover token for Penny.

Select one of the following genres to be Penny's signature genre:

  • Adventure: any time at least one Adventure card is on the Offer Row, Penny receives one Prestige point for each card the players purchase.

  • Horror: any time at least one Horror card is in the Offer Row, Penny gains one Prestige point for each Ink the players use.

  • Romance: each time Penny removes a Romance card from the Offer Row, Penny gains double the Prestige points earned for that card. See below for an explanation of how Penny earns Prestige.

  • Mystery: each time Penny removes a Mystery card from the Offer Row, Penny also removes the lowest priced card in the Offer Row. Penny does not gain Prestige for the second card. Replace both cards following the normal rules below.

  • None: Penny gains no additional effect.

Gameplay changes: Each player takes a turn as normal. After each player's turn, Penny Dreadful takes her turn. On Penny's turn:

  1. Remove the card in the Offer Row furthest from the Offer Deck. Slide the remaining cards in the Offer Row away from the Offer Deck, then draw a replacement card.

  2. Move Penny Dreadful's token on the Prestige Tracker board the number of spaces equal to the removed card's price.

During cooperative play, there are a few core game rules that are altered:

  1. Players are unable to flush the Offer Row, and must work with the Offer Row cards as they are dealt.

  2. Another player can use your Timeless Classic cards without discarding them. Instead, a Timeless Classic card is sent to your discard pile if a card of the same genre is drawn from the Offer Deck on your turn or on Penny Dreadful's turn immediately following your turn.

The game continues until one side - either the players or Penny Dreadful - completes the Prestige tracker a number of times equal to the number of players (not including Penny).

Each time a side crosses 60 Prestige points, advance their Ink or Remover token to the next circle on the Prestige Tracker board, place their player token on the number of Prestige points past 60 they obtained, and begin their next lap.

If the players complete their final lap first, they win the game - their collected writings become instant classics! However, if Penny Dreadful completes her final lap first, the players lose - and suffer the shame of seeing Penny's name on the best-seller list.

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