A 'Scrabble' evening

First encounter with the board game named 'Scrabble'.

Being my first impression of 'Scrabble', the description that I give of it here is probably not accurate.

Last weekend some of the students in our institute put together an informal meetup for people to play the board game named 'Scrabble' together. I went in to see how it was like.

Had heard about the game before, but had never even seen an actual game set before.

There were several 'Scrabble' boards. Must've cost a pretty penny since Hasbro products don't come cheap. Thankfully, our institute paid for it. Availability of multiple game sets allowed several games to happen concurrently.

When I showed up, one game had already started and another game was about to start. I joined this game. Some of the students were already familiar with the game and were kind enough to instruct the newbies including me. My guess was that these experienced players were also those responsible for procuring the funds to buy these boards.

There was a small green bag with a lot of tiny square-shaped pieces each with a letter written on it. I'm not exactly sure what these pieces are called in 'Scrabble' parlance, but I think they're called tiles.

At first, each player takes 7 tiles. The players should keep replenishing their stock of 7 tiles from the bag whenever they use up their tiles, till the bag is empty.

The game set comes with a holder for these tiles. There were four of them. One for each player. I think the idea is that the players are supposed to keep their current stockpile of tiles a secret from the other players. But our game wasn't really like that. 😃

More than once, the players helped one another to find words when they got stuck. That was nice a informal, friendly atmosphere. 😊

The game's board consisted of a 15x15 grid. The rows were named after letters and columns after numbers.

There were four players in our game. Including me.

One of the players positioned the first letter. I had thought the first letter could be placed anywhere on the grid, but apparently there's a fixed position on the grid to place the first tile.

The players need to construct words based on the letters that are already there on the grid. Kind of feels like growing a crossword puzzle. The letters should form words when read from left to right or from top to bottom. ie, any continuous span of letters must be part of a valid word. Horizontally and vertically. Much like in a standard crossword puzzle.

At some point, I started making a word that was not attached to the other letters, looking to score some easy points. But that isn't allowed. Each new word has to be adjacent to a word that's already there.

Abbreviations doesn't count as words and are hence not allowed.

I think a scrabble game grid at the end of the game could very well serve as the basis of a crossword puzzle. One just needs to make corresponding clues.

Players can use any number of tiles to make a word during their turn, provided they have enough tiles already drawn. I don't think they can draw new tiles from the bag during a turn.

Each tile is associated with a fixed number of points written on it. Players win points based on the points associated with the constituent letters of the word that they form. Normally, it would just be the sum of the points of letters, but some positions on the grid are special. Some positions multiply the points associated with letter placed there by 2 or 3. And there are some positions that multiply the points associated with the entire word which covers that position by 2 or 3.

These point multipliers can be a game changer. One of the players in the game that we played scored more than 30 points with a single word because their word occuppied 'word muliplier' position. 😲
And bouyed by this haul of points, he won the game!

A curiosity was the wild card tile. When I drew my 7 tiles at the beginning of our game, I got a tile with nothing written on it. No letter, no number of points, nothing.
At first, I thought it was a manufacturing defect and asked one of the guys who already knew 'Scrabble'. That's when we realized it was meant to be like that and that it's a special tile which can stand in for any letter that the player name. Can come in handy in tight spots.

There are two wildcard tiles.

So I had one wildcard tile at the start. I used that one (to stand in for an 'A') in one of my turns but when I drew more tiles to replenish my stock of 7 tiles, I got the second wildcard as well!
That gave some cause for some laughter around me. But I never got around to using this second wildcard.

Wikipedia says that the wild card tile is associated with zero points. But we took it to have 1 point when we played. Then again, there may be many variants of 'Scrabble'. It's a relatively old game. I was surprised to know that it was made in the 1930s. Apparently, it's quite popular in English-speaking countries.

Players also have the option to skip turns if they can't think of any words. In normal games, there should be a time limit for each turn. But we didn't bother with that and each player took their time. I think we learned a few new words as well. 😎

It's okay for the same word to be made in different positions of the grid. But trivial variations of the same word are not allowed by extending a word that's already there. For example, we can't extend 'RIDE' to make it 'RIDES'.

Yet, some the words that are almost the same sometimes have different meanings. In our game, we had the word 'SEX' which was then made 'SEXY' at a later turn. 😅

'Z' was the letter with most points. I think it was 10 points. And it was the last tile in the bag. But the player who drew couldn't find a place where it could be used. Just like my second wild card tile.

The game nears its end once the bag is empty. Afterwards, the game may end in one of the two ways:

None of us had run out of tiles when the bag got empty, but some of us had another event to attend and we thought we'd better call it a day (or night to be more precise 😅).
So our game ended in the second way. All of us were convinced that we couldn't go further and declared the game over.

Towards the end, we were so pressed for words that one of us actually pulled out a document over the internet to look at the valid words 😃

Finally, our game board looked like this:

|   | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14  | 15 |
| A |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | T  | A  | R  | P  |     |    |
| B |   |   |   |   |   |   | F |   | G | I  |    | I  |    | B   | O  |
| C |   |   |   |   |   | P | I |   | R | E  | D  |    |    | I   | F  |
| D |   |   |   |   | B | I | N | G | O |    |    | S  | A  | D   |    |
| E |   |   |   | C | A | T | E |   | W | H  | A  | T  |    | D   | O  |
| F |   |   |   |   | R |   |   |   |   |    |    | O  |    | E   |    |
| G |   |   |   |   | K | A |   | S |   | A  |    | V  |    | R   |    |
| H |   |   |   |   |   | Y |   | H | E | A  | D  | E  | R  |     | J  |
| I |   |   |   |   |   |   | M | A | N |    | E  |    | O  | V   | A  |
| J |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | L |   |    | N  | I  | L  |     | I  |
| K |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | T | I | N  | T  |    | E  | E   | L  |
| L |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | E  |    |    |    |     |    |
| M |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | T  | O  | E  |    |     |    |
| N |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |    | R  |    | M  | (A) | N  |
| O |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | S  | E  | X  | Y  |     | O  |

The letter within parenthesis was the wild card. I chose the letter 'A' for making the word 'MAN'.

It was fun and we got to meet some people (and maybe a couple of not-so-familiar words 🙂).

Fun fact: I ended up in the last place. 🥴

'Scrabble' seemed nice, but I think it would be even better if we could use a dictionary of our choice. I would've preferred the Oxford dictionary. The official word list of 'Scrabble' allows words like 'aa', 'ee', etc. But then again, I guess such words are needed to prevent the game from getting way too difficult to play.

If a good dictionary is used for the set of valid word, 'Scrabble' could be a nice way for people learning English to improve their vocabulary.

I'm thankful to the students who organized this. They brought out the game boards and helped us learn how to play. 🙂