In the break room at my office there’s a little kitchen. A fridge, couple of microwaves, toasters, vending machines, sink…pretty much what you’d expect. But there’s also a secret stash of board games in one of the cupboards. Believe it or not, a board-gaming club of sorts has evolved, meeting a few times every week at lunch when the mood strikes after Lean Cuisines and ham sandwiches are quickly consumed.
First it was Mexican Train (a dominoes variation), then it was Rummikub. Favorite games were chosen in streaks, then we’d get bored and search the cupboard for something different. One day, my friend Deb asks “Do we have Scrabble?” Everyone groans, “It’s boring! It takes too long!” “No!” she says, “I know a different way to play that’s really fun!” We’re skeptical, but we trust her, Deb knows what’s fun. Sure enough, we became addicted. Now, it’s rare that we play anything else.
What is this different way to play Scrabble that’s actually fun and addictive? Deb called it Speed Scrabble (not to be confused with playing regular Scrabble with a timer).
Here’s how you play:
- Leave the board and the little tile-shelves in the box.
- Turn all the tiles upside down in the center of the table.
- Each player takes 7 tiles.
- Someone says “go!” and each player flips their tiles right-side-up and begins trying to create their own little crossword puzzle in front of them with their 7 tiles.
- When someone first incorporates all 7 tiles into a crossword pattern, they yell “pull” and everyone has to take one more tile.
- At anytime, players can rework their crossword patterns, they are not stuck with their original arrangement.
- This continues until there are no more tiles in the middle, and the first person using all their tiles wins the round. Or, if you feel like doing a little math, the player with the most points at this point wins (points in crossword minus points not used). We never feel like doing the math!
- Depending on how many players, rounds can last from 5 to 20 minutes.
How is this more fun than Scrabble?
This game offers all the same educational benefits as Scrabble, but it is more fast-paced and fun. Each player is very focused on building words as quickly as possible, feeling the pressure as other players force them draw more tiles. As the tiles in the middle dwindle, the frantic pace of the game increases even more. Because the rounds are short, there is plenty of opportunity for losers to win on another round. This keeps the game light and engaging for children and adults. After doing a little research I found that there are actually a few marketed versions of this game out there. Two similar versions created in the 90’s – Pick Two! and Take Two, and one created in 2006 called Bananagrams. By the way, this is a great illustration of how games are routinely copied or reinvented.
Click to see video of family playing Speed Scrabble
Click to see video of family playing regular Scrabble
I thought it was interesting that game designers and game players have created other versions of Scrabble. In fact, there is an entire page on Wikipedia on Scrabble Variants. Let’s face it, Scrabble is a great classic game, but perhaps is not always the most fun game in the world. Check out these two videos of families playing standard Scrabble versus this modified version.
What we can learn from alternate rules…
Looking at each of the variants of Scrabble outlined on Wikipedia might serve as a great resource for us as we work on modifying our game designs to increase the fun factor. What other games can you think of that seem to have multiple variations? Think about a time when you played a common game with another family or group of friends, and they played it differently then you. Was it better? Why?