14 August 2019

Fun variants of Scrabble

Many bloggers and blog-readers were up in arms this past week when a story circulated that the game of Scrabble was going to begin allowing proper names to be used during gameplay.   What will actually happen is that another Scrabble variant will be produced by Mattel, but the standard game will still adhere to the traditional rules.

I found it amusing that so many people got their panties in a twist over this announcement, because at our house, Scrabble is played using house rules that would horrify a traditionalist.

The "house rules" are that Scrabble will be the "open book, double bag, triple return, blank start and recycle" version. This means that each player starts with a blank, and after it is played as a given letter, anyone with that letter in their rack can play the letter and pick the blank up for reuse (that's the "recycle" part).

The "double bag" refers to the fact that we keep consonants and vowels in separate bags. When you draw your letters you can do so from either bag in whatever proportion best balances your rack. If you get three of a letter, you can exchange one of them for a different letter. This prevents winding up with the dreaded IUIUCIW-type rack.

The "open book" part is fairly common among recreational Scrabblers. We have not only several dictionaries available, but also a variety of word building books, and sometimes a laptop logged on to an anagramming website.

And finally we spin our racks around to ask the other person (I wouldn't use the word "opponent") for advice/suggestions.

Using these rules, an inlaw and I had a game with 2000+ combined points, including 14 "bingoes." I suppose it's not really "Scrabble" - it's more of a mutual word-puzzle game. But it's fun - especially when the players are also lubricated with their favorite beverages.

Reposted from 2010 to add this video of championship Scrabble:

The 2019 North American SCRABBLE Championship was played July 20-24, 2019 in Reno, NV. Almost 300 players battled it out over 31 games of SCRABBLE to crown 2019’s North American SCRABBLE Champion. This year, the top two finishers faced off in a best-of-three match to decide the winner.
The video includes live expert commentary. 


  1. It's so weird that you posted this.

    I was at work the other night and one of the doctors mentioned in passing that he is playing scrabble with folks on line. This guy is a fanatic! I had no idea there were so many Scrabble fans out there.

  2. My dad and I trade letters when we're stuck with a rotten draw. It usually works out and we can still be competitive that way. We've always recycled the blank too.

  3. Two house rules here: Prior to start of game, a u is put to the side. If you draw the q, you get to add the u to your tray, and simply draw one less letter after your play. Rule #2 (which I think should be the actual rule): the player who can use the most tiles is the payer that goes first. If two players can use the same number of tiles, then the one with the highest score goes first. If scores are tied, then the two players pick a tile and lowest letter plays first. Avoids those horrible boards started with short words.

  4. This post of yours got a shout out on the "No Such Thing as a Fish" podcast. Episode 307 at around 39 minutes in.

    1. I heard. And of all the odd things I post on TYWKIWDBI, I was surprised that James zeroed in on this particular one.

  5. We've been trying a version of scrabble mostly that we made up which I'm calling Core's Hyper scrabble. Fast and fun to play. Each player chooses 7 (maybe 9 in the future) letters, without looking at them, and places them in a paper bag. The game begins with one player saying 1 2 3 go. Each player must place all 7 (9) letters in their rack before making a word. Anyone can make a word at any time. If there's a conflict the higher scoring word prevails (we have not had a tie yet so that will need to be addressed. Each player must keep track of their score with the word played. Players must have 7 (9) letters in their rack before making a new word. Challenges create an official timeout. The loser of the challenge gets negative points of the word(s) played. (This might be changed to a negative 15). Each player may have up to two personal timeouts. At each timeout add up scores and verify scoring. Players may exchange all or any letters only once.


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