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Internet Scrabble

© January 2010 Anthony Lawrence

Our family has recently discovered online Scrabble (the name Scrabble is a trademark of Hasbro, Inc. in the United States and Canada and of Mattel elsewhere) through Facebook. We've been a Scrabble playing family for many decades; we all love the game, but we are seldom all together to play and even when we are, we usually have other things to do.

Internet Scrabble changes all that. You can make one move per day or even less. More importantly, you can play more than one game at once: I have one game going with my wife, one with each of our daughters, and one with the four of us. I also have more games going with friends and a few with strangers. I can spend as much or as little time playing as I like - and so can all my opponents.

Playing Scrabble on-line is different in other ways. There's no arguing about words: the game enforces acceptable words. On the other hand, words our family never would have allowed in home games can be used; in one of my first games with a stranger, I was shocked to see "NGWEE" appear. That word is the Nigerian unit of currency, but I'm sure you knew that. I'm sure you also know that "AA" is a dry from of lava and that "DUIT" is a Dutch coin - and that all of them are acceptable words in Facebook Scrabble.

Another issue, especially when playing with strangers, is the easy availability of on-line anagram solvers. In our family games, we allow checking the dictionary for spelling and minor word-hunting, but using an anagram program is a bit much. On the other hand, there is a fair amount of strategy and plain old luck to Scrabble, so the cheaters aren't guaranteed a win. Finally, if you really feel someone must be using an anagram program, you can fight back by doing the same yourself.

Speaking of anagram solvers, there are Scrabble robots at other sites. I haven't tried playing against one, so I can't say how good they are at strategy - I'm sure they are pretty good at finding the best scores, but that's not always the best play, so a human may still have a fighting chance.

So, if you are wondering what I'm doing in between working, eating, sleeping, breathing, and all that, well, I'm probably playing Scrabble. Maybe I'll see some of you on the other side of the board!

Another popular Scrabble site is Internet Scrabble Club. They have timed play there, but when I tried it out they were having server problems and that made playing very difficult. I don't know if that's usual or unusual.

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Tue Jan 5 18:56:01 2010: 7865   MikeHostetler


When your family is actually together, you should try Bananagrams. It's sorta like Scrabble on Speed. You actually have your own little Scrabble board going and when you or someone else use all your letters you say "Peel" and you have to take another letter. Then your nicely-organized little group of words may have to be torn apart and re-built cuz you got a Q and it goes no where.
www.bananagrams-intl.com/instructions.asp (link dead, sorry)

(btw, their site would fail most usability tests).

Wed Jan 6 15:30:50 2010: 7866   Cyr


I love playing Bananagrams with the family (although we have always called it "Speed Scrabble")
As for the lone "Q", I have always found the word "qat" invaluable.
(It is a shrub found in east Africa and Arabian peninsula whose leaves are chewed similarly to betel or tobacco to produce a stimulating effect)

Wed Jan 6 15:45:34 2010: 7867   TonyLawrence


Sounds like fun.

An alternate form of Scrabble that I think I invented is similar. In this variant, you can replace letters on the board that are part of the word you want to form. You get the tiles back, so you might pick up QU from QUICK and replace it with ST and add an S on the end for STICKS. You don't get the doubles or triples underneath again and you MUST use at least one letter without swapping.

It means the Q's and Z's and J's can get played many times - lots of fun!

Thu Jan 7 02:21:11 2010: 7884   BruceGarlock


My wife and I played "Bannanagrams" the other night. Not exactly scrabble, but essentially the same idea. It was fun, but made me realize what a poor vocabulary I have. I need to stop reading tech books, and read some more classics :-)

Thu Jan 7 15:36:12 2010: 7886   TonyLawrence


More Q without U words (legal in TWS Scrabble):

qadi : Islamic judge
qadis : plural of QADIqaid : a Muslim tribal chief or senior official
qaids : plural of QAID
qanat : gently sloping underground tunnel for irrigation
qanats : plural of QANAT
qat : leaf of the shrub Catha edulis
qats : plural of QAT
qi : a circulating life energy in Chinese philosophy
qindar : Albanian currency
qindarka : plural of QINDAR
qindars : plural of QINDAR
qinta, quintas: a country estate in Portugal or Latin America
qintar : Albanian currency
qintars : plural of QINTAR
qoph : 19th letter of the Hebrew alphabet
qophs : plural of QOPH
qwerty : the traditional configuration of computer keyboard keys
qwertys : plural of QWERTY
sheqel : any of several ancient units of weight
sheqelim : plural of SHEQEL
suq, sooq, souq - commercial quarter
tranq: : sedative
tranqs: : plural of TRANQ
faqir -- Muslim or Hindu monk
faqirs -- plural of FAQIR

Wed Jan 13 06:04:22 2010: 7903   Peter


You can play Speed Scrabble Online at (link)

Sun Feb 28 06:23:57 2010: 8159   Carl


The point of using a word finder is to learn as many new words as possible, so that you can increase your vocabulary and also start to recognize patterns on your game board that were not apparent to you before. If every player involved has access to the same word finding tools, then the opportunities for learning will only be increased; people who use word finders secretly to gain an advantage over others are cheating themselves of the opportunity to learn all of the new words that those other players might otherwise make with the aid of such a program.

As the developer of a new word finder Web site, I spent several months testing the program by playing against my brother, who is a much better player than I. We both used the new site, which helped to even the odds, and we both learned many new words, including the very useful two- and three-letter words, not through memorization of lists, but through having the word finder suggest them in the course of making specific plays during our games.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a small gathering of dedicated Scrabble players and played my first unassisted game since the Web site was developed. My skills, which had been only slightly above average before, were improved to such a degree that I won that game by over 100 points. These were not expert players, but they played seriously at least once a week, and I really did feel that I was playing at a higher level as a result of having used the program during the preceding several months.

If you do want to create study lists, like the Q without U words mentioned by Tony above, it is possible to perform a pattern-based search for almost any class of words one might imagine. Q without U, for example, can be found by entering the constraint


in the Freeplay Search column of the Lexifind site ( (link) ). There are 70 such words in the North American TWL Scrabble list, including some not mentioned by in Tony's post, like MBAQANGA and QABALAH.

Sun Feb 28 12:03:52 2010: 8162   TonyLawrence


If every player involved has access to the same word finding tools

Well, anyone has *access*. The point is that if everyone knows and agrees that using the site is allowed, then yes, it's fine. Otherwise, no, it's cheating.


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