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😡 Account issue? Contact Board Game Arena support regarding ELO, karma, penalties, reputation, etc.

🪦 "Outdated browser" error? Not a bug. Update to a browser from year 2020 or later (Chrome 87, Edge 88, Firefox 78, iOS/Safari 14).

📖 Word not accepted? Not a bug. Choose your preferred dictionary before starting the game. Note that proper nouns (Argentina, November), initialisms (FBI, USA), and words with punctuation (o'clock, twenty-four) are not accepted.

🪲 Other game issue? View and report bugs in Hardback.

How To Play

Hardback is a deck-building word game. Each player starts with their own deck of 10 Starter cards: The 8 letters (A, E, I, L, N, R, S, T) plus 2 random letters from the set (B, C, D, G, H, M, O, P, U, Y). Each player has their own draw and discard piles. A shared deck of 140 cards from 4 other genres is used to form the offer row. The 5 genres in the game are: Starter (grey), Adventure (yellow), Horror (green), Mystery (blue), Romance (red). A colored bar in the player panel displays the current composition of each player's deck.

Spell A Word

Each round you receive a hand of 5 cards from your deck. Use these cards (and any Timeless Classics, if available) to spell a word. When your turn begins, your hand of cards automatically move into the current word area. Simply drag and drop the cards to rearrange them. You're not required to use all your cards and can remove cards from your word by clicking the card or dragging it up to your hand area. If you change your mind, you can re-add a removed card by clicking it (adds to the end of your word) or dragging it down to your word in the proper position.

Any card can be made wild, but wild cards do not provide any benefits. Click WILD below a card to flip it face-down and assign any letter by clicking or typing the letter. If you change your mind, click UNCOVER below a wild card to flip it face-up.

Any cards left in your hand are discarded. You cannot save cards from one round to the next. If you can't spell a word, you may choose to skip your turn.

Resolve Card Benefits

The face-up cards in your word provide various benefits. Hover your mouse (on mobile: tap and hold) on the benefit section of the card to see more information.

• Basic benefits are listed in black, above the line. You gain these every time you use the card face-up to spell a word.

• Genre benefits are listed in color, below the line. You gain these if you have at least one other card of the same genre (color) in play (in your word or in the Timeless Classics area).

​Coins (¢) allow you to purchase new cards and ink. Points (★) increase your final score. Abilities alter the state of play in special ways:

Double (on Romance/red cards) allows you to double the coin and point values provided by an adjacent card. If you double the same card twice, it is tripled (not quadrupled). When you double or triple a card, the numbers on the card change are highlight in yellow. Doubling doesn't count towards activating genre benefits or allow you to perform any other abilities twice.

Dump (on Romance/red cards) allows you to remove a card from your discard pile to gain an amount of coins.

Jail (on Mystery/blue cards) allows you to either reserve or remove a card from the offer row. If you reserve the card, it goes into your personal jail, allowing only you to purchase it later. You can only reserve one card at a time. In both cases, the effect to other players is the same: The card you choose won't be available to them anymore.

Preview (on Romance/red cards) allows you to draw 3 cards from your deck and return or discard each card.

Remover (on Horror/green cards) grants you an ink or remover. This is the only way to get remover.

Trash (on Adventure/yellow cards) allows you to remove that particular card from your word to gain an amount of coins or points.

Uncover (on Mystery/blue cards) allows you to flip an adjacent wild card back to its face-up side, allowing you to play a card as any letter and still earn the benefits. (The card played as wild card has to be placed next to your blue 'Uncover' card.)

Cards are that removed (through Dump, Jail, or Trash) are discarded from the game. In the unlikely event that you go through all 140 offer row cards, the removed cards are reshuffled to form a new offer row deck.

Flush Offer Row

In certain situations, you can trash all 7 cards in the offer row and get 7 new cards. You will be prompted to do this once per turn, before purchasing, if either condition is met:

• At least 4 cards in the offer row cost 6¢ or more

• At least 4 cards in the offer row are the same genre (color)

In the Cooperative Anthology variant, players can never flush the offer row.


You can purchase ink and cards from the offer row using the coins you earned this turn.

Each card's cost is indicated in the price tag in the top-left corner. Click a card to purchase it. Note that some Adventure (yellow) cards also indicate a number of points on the price tag. This is not a cost, but a one-time benefit you earn when purchasing the card.

Ink costs 1¢. Any coins you do not spend are automatically converted to ink at the end of your turn. You cannot save coins from one turn to the next.

It is possible to convert ink earned on previous turns back to coins at a reduced rate (3 ink for 1¢). Board Game Arena only presents this option when it would allow you to purchase something that you otherwise couldn't afford.

A clock icon displays below the oldest offer row card. This card is trashed at the end of your turn if the offer row did not change (e.g., you did not jail cards, flush the offer row, or purchase cards).

Timeless Classics

All cards from your word are discarded at the end of your turn, except Timeless Classics.

There are 12 Timeless Classic cards, which are printed sideways. When you spell a word using a face-up Timeless Classic card, it stays in play at the end of your turn. On subsequent turns, you continue to gain the benefits of the card whether or not you use it in your word!

Your Timeless Classic card stays in play until another player uses it in their word, which sends it to your discard pile. Any player can use any active Timeless Classic when spelling a word, no matter which player owns the card, but these cards cannot be made wild.

When you use another player's Timeless Classic card, you do not get any benefits and its genre does not count towards triggering other genre benefits in your word. Astute authors will use other players' Timeless Classic cards anyway in order to discard the card.

Ink and Remover

After your turn is complete, you may immediately begin working on your next word, including using any previously obtained ink and remover. At any time before you spell a word, even during another player's turn, you can draw additional cards from your draw pile by spending 1 ink per card. Inked cards must be used in your next word and cannot be made wild.

Remover cancels ink. You can spend 1 remover to convert an inked card back to a normal card, meaning you are no longer required to use it in your word. Remover can only be obtained by playing certain cards; it cannot be purchased.

Pressing your luck with ink is the only way to draw additional cards in Hardback. If you push your luck too far and can't form a word with all inked cards, you must skip your turn.

Game End

When a player reaches 60 points, the game ends at the conclusion of the current round (all players receive the same number of turns). The player with the most points is the winner and the finest author of the age! In the case of a tie, the player with the most ink remaining wins the game.

Note: A game option allows the creator of the table to specify a shorter (40 points) or longer game (80 points). The game options display on the confirmation screen before the game starts and during the game under the top-right corner menu.


Literary Awards

Literary Awards provide bonus points to the players who spell the longest word, encouraging players to compete more directly.

Awards are based on word length and start at 7 letters. You earn an award corresponding to the length of your word if no player has yet earned a higher award. All players may earn the same award. For example, the first player to spell a word with 7 letters earns the 7-letter award. Other players who spell 7-letter words also earn the 7-letter award. If any player spells a 10-letter word, they earn the 10-letter award and all lower awards are discarded.

Because awards can be lost, they are not scored immediately and do not count towards the 60-point threshold needed to end the game. Players in possession of an award at the end of the game earn the 5 - 15 bonus points.

Length Literary Award
7 letters 5 points
8 letters 6 points
9 letters 7 points
10 letters 9 points
11 letters 12 points
12 or more letters 15 points


Adverts allow you to purchase points with coins.

Each player can only purchase each advert once, and they must be purchased in the order listed. You can buy multiple adverts (in order) during your turn. Points from adverts are scored immediately.

Cost Advert
3 points
6 points
12¢ 10 points
15¢ 15 points
18¢ 20 points

Cooperative Anthology & Solo Mode

In this challenging co-op variant, 1 - 4 players win or lose together against archrival Penny Dreadful. The following rule changes apply:

• Penny Dreadful takes a turn after each player. She purchases the oldest (right-most) card in the offer row and earns points equal to the card's cost.

• In the Cooperative Anthology With Signature Genre variant, Penny Dreadful also earns points based on the condition displayed in her player panel. You can select a specific genre for Penny during table creation using the game options, or allow BGA to select one at random.

• Players can never flush the offer row.

• Any player can use your Timeless Classic cards without discarding them. Instead, each time a new card is added to the offer row during your turn or Penny Dreadful's turn immediately following your turn, your oldest Timeless Classic card of that same genre is discarded.

• The game is played to a final score of 60 points per human player (for example, play to 180 points with 3 players). The game ends immediately when one side - either the players or Penny Dreadful - earns enough points. The players win if they beat Penny's score (tying with Penny is a loss).

• If playing with Literary Awards, only one player may win an award.

Differences from the Physical Game

If you've played the first edition board game in real life, note that minor rules changes from the game designer have been incorporated in the BGA adaption to improve balance.

• The offer row is guaranteed to change each turn.

• The Horror H card benefits have been changed. Astute players were able to avoid the penalty "All other players must return an unused ink or remover" by spending their ink/remover tokens out-of-turn. The new benefits of Horror H are: 1¢ and 2★ (basic), 1¢ per inked card in your word (genre)

• All players (not just the first) may earn the same Literary Award.

• In the Cooperative Anthology variant, a maximum of 1 Timeless Classic card is discarded per card added to the offer row. For example, if you have both Romance B and Romance K in play and a Romance card is added to the offer row, only the older of Romance B/K will be discarded.

• Ghostwriting, Events, and Player Powers are not implemented.