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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Scrabble = A Fourteen Point Word

Have you ever played the online game “Words with Friends?”

The game, which was developed by Zynga in July of 2009, became an instant success all over the world.  The game is played by millions of people on cell phones, applications, and even on Facebook.  The game itself is played by many famous faces.  Alec Baldwin was so into the game that he was actually kicked off of a flight because of his refusal to turn off his iPad which displayed the game!

I know that I’ve played a few games of “Words with Friends” recently with some people that I know.  Some games, I have won.  Some games, I have lost.  It all depends on how great your vocabulary is, as well as the particular letter tiles you are dealt during the course of the game that determine a sweet victory, or the agony of defeat.

But when you look at it, “Words with Friends” isn’t all that different from the board game that it was based off of.  Sure, in the board game, you can’t message people all over the world in chat rooms, or have a computer conveniently adding up your score for you, but despite all that, the game has been a favourite in living rooms all over the world for many years.

Of course, I am talking about the board game “Scrabble”, which was created in 1938 and was first sold in stores a decade later. 

The game was created by American architect Alfred Mosher Butts.  The game was a variation on a similar word game also invented by him called “Lexiko”.  The method in which he used to create the game was quite meticulous and calculated.  By examining the frequency in which letters appeared in various articles in “The New York Times”, he was able to determine a point scoring system.  The more frequently a letter appeared, the lesser the value.

He also came up with the idea to create the 15 x 15 crossword grid-like board under the name “Criss-Crosswords”.  He even managed to manufacture and sell a few sets, but it wouldn’t be until 1948 that the game started to get noticed.

1948 was the year that James Brunot (who had bought Butts’ “Criss-Crosswords”) purchased the rights to the game from Butts (which came with the stipulation that Butts would receive a royalty payment for each unit sold).  The game was mostly kept the same, but a couple of changes were made.  The first change was that he rearranged the premium squares (which doubled the value of letters and words) into a different configuration.  And, the second change was the name of the game.  Instead of being known as “Criss-Crosswords”, the game was renamed “Scrabble”, a word meaning “to scratch frantically”.

I guess the name fits...I know whenever I do a crossword puzzle, I’m scratching my head frantically trying to find the right word.

Anyway, the Brunot family began making “Scrabble” games in 1949, but it wasn’t until 1952 that the board game exploded in popularity.  There was a legend that went around at this time that stated that after playing the game during a family vacation, the president of Macy’s was stunned to find that the store didn’t sell the game, and commissioned a huge order that year.  But, again, this was a legend.  It’s hard to say whether there was any truth to it.

But in 1952, Brunot found that he was unable to meet the demand, so he opted to sell the manufacturing rights to Selchow and Richter.  The company eventually bought the rights to the entire game in 1972, and in 1986, the game was sold to Coleco.  After Coleco went bankrupt, the game patent was sold to Hasbro, who currently holds all rights to the game.

“Scrabble” is a widely popular game all over the world.  There are international Scrabble tournaments held annually, and in 2004, the board game was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame.

The board game was even developed into a television game show in 1984, running for several seasons.  The game was hosted by Chuck Woolery, and you can see a clip of it down below.

I have always been a fan of “Scrabble” as long as I can remember.  I can even remember playing the game in eighth grade during English class.  I really feel as though “Scrabble” was instrumental in developing my word power and making me become a better writer as a result. 

But, do you know what some of the best scoring words are that have ever been played in the game?  I have a few examples to share.

The key to having a successful word that has a really high score has to do with position as well as the double and triple letter/word squares.  The letter value has a lot to do with it as well.

As you know, each letter has a specific value to it.  You can count on all the vowels, as well as the classic “Wheel of Fortune” letters (R, S, T, L, N, E) to have a value of one point.  J’s and X’s have eight points, and Q’s and Z’s have the highest value with ten points each.  So, ideally what you want to have is to have a Q or a Z on a “Triple Letter Score” tile, and then have the word pass over a “Double” or “Triple Word Score” space.  It sounds like a lofty goal, but it can be done.

TRIVIA:  Depending on the language of the game that you play, some letter values can vary between versions.  For example, while the W in English versions is worth four points, the W is worth TEN points in French versions, as the letter W is a letter very uncommon to the French language.

The right combination of letters and where they are placed can add up to huge points. 

One of my best words was nothing special.  It was just a five-letter word.  The word was QUIRK, and as it so happened, the Q was on “Triple Letter Score”, and the K was on “Double Word Score”.  Total points scored?  Seventy-six points!  Not bad, eh?  It’s too bad I didn’t have a Y, as I could have made QUIRKY for a solid 80-point word.  Oh well.

But, I’m just a “Scrabble” novice.  Many others have made words that were much more valuable than I.  Here are a few examples.

If you have the tiles and you want to make a great first impression, you could play the words JUKEBOX, MEZQUIT, or CAZIQUE.  All three words are 27 points without the use of the special squares.  And, for all of you people who have Webster’s Dictionary permanently in your grasp, fear not.  All three words can be found there.

Another word that brought a huge point value was the word QUIXOTRY (meaning visionary schemes).  The word was played by a man named Michael Cresta in 2006, and it currently holds a lot of records.  Just check out the diagram of his game winning move below.

As you can see, the word happens to cross several special squares, which made the point value skyrocket.  In addition, the word happened to intercept several other words in the process, creating new words, and getting a lot of additional points as a result. 

By itself, without the use of bonus tiles, the word is a respectable 25 points.  But with the way that he played the word, it netted him a score of 365 points!  That’s insane.  And, that wasn’t the only record that he broke either.  He ended up with the highest final score for a single player with 830 points.  As well, he and his opponent broke the record for the highest combined total with 1,320 points total. 

Those numbers are mighty impressive.  Puts my little 76-point word to shame, doesn’t it?

So, there you have it.  That’s my piece on the board game known as “Scrabble”.  The record to beat is 365 points for a single word.  Can you do it?

BONUS QUESTION:  I shared my highest scoring word in “Scrabble”.  What’s yours?

1 comment:

  1. i love playing board games..scrabble is one of my favorite game..i was taught by my mom since i was 8 years old. when i grow up i still play scrabble..i usually bring my travel scrabble with me when i go to different places

    scrabble cheats