Few games take advantage of an overactive vocabulary the way Scrabble does. In fact, Scrabble is all about knowing difficult words in the hopes of showing up your family with a massive triple word score for something with a Z in it. Apparently, Scrabble is also the proud owner of a sordid past, but let’s not get too hasty! Okay, we can get hasty. Let’s learn about Scrabble!
The History of The Scrabble
Scrabble was created all the way back in 1938 by an architect named Alfred Mosher Butts. Mr. Butts (yes it’s funny), had previously come up with a game called Lexiko that basically followed the same principle, but he decided to try something different by adding the 15-by-15 tile board and the crossword-style gameplay. And while we can’t think of the world without Scrabble, at the time, Butts had no luck whatsoever getting the game made.
In 1948 another man with an only slightly less-humorous name came along. This was James Brunot. He had bought a copy of Butts’ game, then called “Criss-Crosswords,” and made a deal wherein he would give royalties to Butts in return for the rights to do whatever with the game. The first thing Brunot did was change the name to “Scrabble,” a word meaning “to scratch frantically.” Then he switched some bonus tile locations around and started making some sets with his family to distribute that year. Somehow he lost money on this venture, but then the tale goes that Jack Strauss, the president of Macy’s, played the game and decided this needed to be a hit. Eventually the game would become a household sensation and by the 1950’s Scrabble was here to stay. I’m leaving some stuff out, but really it’s only legal issues that aren’t all too interesting.
On With The Rules
So how’s this game played? You get together some friends or family and each pull seven tiles out from the bag o’ tiles. Each tile has one letter on it that you place on your tile rack. Naturally, don’t show anyone else what letters you have-it’s supposed to be secret. Then someone decides on a word to form out of some of their tiles. A word must consist of at least two letters and go either horizontally or vertically (none of this diagonal nonsense), plus the first word must always go over the center tile, which just so happens to be a double-word scoring tile. It pays to be first, doesn’t it?
As the game goes, players can either pass for the turn, scrap all their tiles for seven new tiles, or play on the current words on the board. If someone sees the word “Biggest” horizontal on the board, they can play the word “Stilts” vertically off the ‘s’ or “Imp” off the ‘i’ or any number of things they can think of and create with the letters they have. And if the new word passes over a bonus square, then naturally they get more points.
How to Cheat at Scrabble without Really Cheating
The trick to the game is to constantly steal the hard work of other players. If someone has a long word going like “payment,” just add an ‘s’ and make it “payments.” You get all the points for the word other than the double- or triple-point scores (those only count once). This is cheap, but it gets results. And if you can somehow manage to use all your letters you get a great 50-point bonus for being awesome. This is where inventing words comes heavily into play.
You can get away with anything as long as you’re convincing enough. Make the other players feel stupid, because no one wants to sound stupid. “What do you mean you’ve never heard of the word ‘bigrymp’? I hear it all the time in daily conversation!” “Oh, is that so…? Well then, sure, it MUST be a word! I was just kidding…” If someone decides to challenge you after all, the good old Dictionary of Truth is busted out and if your word doesn’t appear, well then you’re out of luck and you lose a turn, plus your bogus word is removed. Nice try there, Bucky.
The game is over when all the tiles are gone or people get bored of spelling for an hour. Points are added up and whoever has the highest score is the victor, as you may expect by now. The sad thing about Scrabble is that since the game is only about making words, there’s no room for any real different editions. You just have words, words, and more words. I suppose you could make any game of Scrabble any edition you’d like. I want to see some of you playing Lord of the Rings Scrabble and Nintendo Scrabble, using only words associated with the various franchises you select. But no Twilight Scrabble, please. Scrabble is dry enough as it is.