It feels pretty strange for Letterswirl to finally be available to the public. Letterswirl has been in development since 2011, and playing as we’ve progressed has been a lot of fun. For years we have played the game regularly and I’ve always been fine-tuning it to make it increasingly entertaining, but also increasingly meaningful. Now what has long been our secret pastime is available to all. Letterswirl can be enjoyed any number of ways, but like everyone on the team I have my personal favorite way.


STEP 1: Brew a Pot of Tea

For a game of Letterswirl to be truly complete it must be accompanied by a pot of black tea. For a genuinely authentic game, loose leaf is obligatory. I’ve had some good tea from bags, but brewing with bags is very unreliable; tiny variations in brewing conditions can result in huge differences in flavor. Only loose whole-leaf tea brews the same reliable flavor every time. A pot of Earl Grey will work, but to be truly methodical I recommend pairing Letterswirl with a nice smokey Yunnan, which will perfectly match the game’s mysterious, magical atmosphere. Brew for five minutes with filtered water from a kettle immediately removed from the stove. Use real teacups, not mugs.


STEP 2: Atmosphere

Letterswirl is best played with lights partially dimmed, to enhance the mysterious atmosphere, but can be enjoyed in indirect sunlight as well. It is very nice played in a park in the shade, although just as with any mobile game, watch the battery level when playing outdoors, as outlets don’t grow on trees. It’s best if there aren’t any jarring sounds in the environment to spoil the mood, but Letterswirl can also be quite enjoyable (and fashionable) in a café environment, provided of course the café has good tea.

STEP 3: Setup

I recommend an iPad for play, to be placed between players like a chessboard, and I recommend placing the device near the corner of a table, at a 45 degree angle. This allows players to sit at a table, but still close to each other, not having to reach over the table to touch the device. Players can best reach for their cup of tea if they are of opposite handedness, but it can be made to work either way with a little experimentation. Café tables offer an alternative.


Step 4: Play

I find Letterswirl works best with pleasant conversation, and there are times when silence can be appropriate as well.

Some on the team have different preferences. Byron and Joyce are fond of gently teasing one another, pointing out each other’s mistakes, and suggesting ostensibly optimal moves to the opponent.

Intermittently, breathe in the delicious smokey aroma of your Yunnan, then exhale while smiling. Ahhhhh.


Of course, everybody has their own creature comforts, and ultimately you’ll find your own favorite way to play. If you do, feel free to add to the comments for this post!