3 - 5

Number of Players: 2 – 4

Year of Publication: 1948

Creator(s): Alfred Mosher Butts (designer) and C. Leslie Crandall and Michael Graves (artists)

Mostly just because.
Mostly just because.

 Scrabble With A Dyslexic!

The word "dyslexic" is hard for dyslexics...
The word “dyslexic” is hard for dyslexics…

Scrabble is one of the classics of classics. There’s a high chance that you’ve played this game at some point in your life, or, failing that, have seen a copy floating around in your grandparents house that they like to get out at Christmas and encourage everyone to play together. Either way, it’s a fun game to play, especially on teams, and especially especially if there are dyslexics around.

What’s In The Box:

The stuff.
The stuff.
  1. 1 Game Board
  2. 4 Tile Racks
  3. 1 Bag containing 100 Letter Tiles
  4. 1 Pencil and Score Sheet
  5. The Chambers Dictionary (not actually included in the box, or used by anyone I’ve ever met when playing this game)

Playing The Game:

Objective: To have scored the most points by the time one player plays their last tile and there are none remaining in the draw bag.

To determine who plays first each player takes one tile at random from the draw bag, the player with the letter closest to the start of the alphabet is the starting player. From them play proceeds clockwise around the board. All of these tiles are then returned to the bag, and new tiles are drawn. In play order players draw 7 tiles and place them on their tile rack, keeping them out of the sight of the other players.

Once all players have their tiles, player one places a word on the board. All words must be at least two letters long and the first player places their first word across the red Double Word space in the middle of the board. After the first word has been played other players can lay words; new words must either be played through other words, crossword style, or be added on to the end of a word already on the board, for instance by adding an “S”. All words played must be real words, and names (of both places and people) and foreign languages are not considered legitimate words.

Dave was being artistic. Or something.
I don’t really know what was going on with this picture. I assume artistic license has something to do with it…

So you can kind of see what the opening words of a game might look like, even though the angle of that photo is weird as. Once a player has played a word, they then draw the same number of new tiles at random from the Draw Bag as they placed on the board. This can be interesting, because there’s no knowing which letters you’re going to be blessed with next. You can end up with a rack that only contains vowels, or consonants. Which is often not a huge amount of use.

However, there is a rule that allows a player to forfeit a turn to change all of their tiles, to do this the player must wait until it’s their turn, and then exchange their whole rack for fresh tiles from the Draw Bag. Play then immediately passes to  the next player. This is a good rule that can allow you do something about getting rid of a rack that looks like this:

Had I chosen to do so, that rule would've allowed me to replace these tiles with new ones from the Draw Bag
Had I chosen to do so, that rule would’ve allowed me to replace these tiles with new ones from the Draw Bag

Play continues in this way, with one player keeping track of score until one player plays their last tile after the Draw Bag has been emptied. To score a player has to take into account both the value of the letter tiles played (the number on the bottom right hand corner of the tile), and whether or not the word has been played over any double/triple word/letter score tiles on the board. If it has then you must increase the score of that word for that player accordingly. If a player plays a word that changes a word already on the board, for example playing a word that starts with “S” and adding the required S onto the end of a word already existing on the board, the player adds up to total for the word they have changed, as well as the word they played, to be the score for that turn.

A generally accepted method of keeping score is to draw out columns on your score sheet with the initial or name of each player at the top of a column, you then keep a running total going in the columns so you can see exactly where each player’s at throughout the game, like this:

Our score sheet.
Our score sheet. As per the norm, I lost.


The best kind of strategy for this game is to look out for the bonus point spaces on the board, because there’s no point in making an absolutely fantastic word that lets you play lots of your letters but doesn’t get you any extra points if it then creates easy access to a double/triple word/letter tile that another player can use to score some ridiculous amount of points. Other than that this is really a “be as imaginative as possible” kind of game, where the weirder the words you play are, the better the game gets.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. The game was invented by an American out-of-work architect called Alfred Mosher Butts in 1938. He created the game by combining features of anagrams and crosswords.
  2. It was originally called LEXIKO and then CRISS CROSS WORDS before becoming Scrabble.
  3. Although everyone thinks of this game as a word game, it’s actually fundamentally a number game, to create the game a series of painstaking letter-frequency calculations were needed to determine how many times each letter should appear in the game.
  4. The game was rejected by many games manufacturers, until Butts met James Brunot who loved the game.
  5. Between Butts and Brunot they refined the rules of the game and came up with the name Scrabble which means “to grope frantically”.
  6. The game was trade marked in 1948.
  7. To produce the game the Brunot’s rented an abandoned schoolhouse in Dodgington, Connecticut, where, asissted by friends, they turned out 12 games an hour, stamping letters onto the wooden tiles one by one.
  8. As with many games the game lost money in its first year, but, over a few years, the game steadily grew in popularity, until the president of MACYS came across the game on holiday and ordered some for his store. Soon after this it became a must-have, and Brunot realized that they could no longer produce the games fast enough to meet demand. They licensed Selchow & Righter to produce the game until, in 1972, they purchased the trademark from Brunot.
  9. Selchow & Righter were bought by COLECO in 1986, but when they declared bankruptcy in 1989 the trademark was bought by Hasbro, the largest games manufacturer in America.
  10. The game is now found in one in every three American houses.

To Conclude:

A very good game, although only rated 3 out of 5, this isn’t a reflection on how much I like the game, more of a reflection on how accessible it is for everyone. For instance, although it’s a great game for everyone in that it can be very fun and silly, it’s an unbelievably challenging game for anyone with literacy difficulties, as well as occasionally being very frustrating due to the random selection of tiles. That said, it’s a game everyone should play a few times, even if it’s just to discover that your friends know words that they didn’t know they knew so you can argue over whether or not they’re allowed on the board.



2 thoughts on “Scrabble

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