Scrabble variants are games created by changing the normal Scrabble rules or equipment.
Variants with standard board and/or tiles
Anagrab is a word game which is usually played with Scrabble tiles. The name is an amalgam of the words 'anagram' (the basic game mechanism) and 'grab' - because a player's words may at any time be 'grabbed' by opponents. The game was first described in 1976 in Richard Sharp's The Best Games People Play, but his description suggests that he did not invent it.
Letter tiles are placed face down and turned over one at a time. At any point (there are no turns) any player may call out a word of at least four letters. This word can be made either entirely from the pool of letters, or by adding at least one new letter to an existing word. If the new word is acceptable the person who said the word first takes the letters and places them in front of him or her. When making a new word the root of the existing word must be changed - for example you may not add a D to the word LIVE to make LIVED but you could make DEVIL. All the letters in an existing word must be included in the new one, plus at least one more.
When a new letter is turned over, the first person to say a valid word takes it. If more than one is said at the same time the longer word takes it. If the two are the same length (or the same word) then that word(s) are banned for the rest of the game and nobody takes it.
Sharp suggests that the score for each word is the face value of the tiles multiplied by the number of letters in that word. In practice any reasonable system, such as totaling the number of letters held, is acceptable.
Anagrams (also called Snatch or Snatch-words) is a fast-paced, non-turn-based Scrabble variant played without a board. The tiles are placed face-down in the middle of the table, and players take turns flipping a single tile, leaving it in clear view of all players. Otherwise the game is not turn-based, and the rules are very simple: any player who sees a Scrabble-valid word can call it out, take the letters, and lay the word out in front of herself. At the end of the game each player's collection of individual words is scored.
To create the words, players can:
- take whole words (of 3 or more letters) from the communal pool of exposed, unused letters;
- add letters to an existing word on the table—whether their own or any opponent's. (Therefore, even if a player has found a word and placed it in front of herself, it can be stolen at any time if someone can combine its tiles with any loose tiles to make a new valid word. For example, if Sally already has SATE in front of her and a G comes up in the pool, any player can steal it by calling out "GATES". Sally can prevent the theft by calling out the word herself.);
- take multiple words from the table and combine them with a letter (or letters) from the pool to create a new word. (For example, a player may combine his own CART with his opponent's HER and the letter S from the pool to create CHARTERS. You cannot simply combine existing words without adding at least one extra letter.)
A version of the game seems to be popular among tournament Scrabble players. Writers John Ciardi, James Merrill, John Malcolm Brinnin, and Richard Wilbur reputedly played together regularly in Key West, Florida, with novelist John Hersey also sometimes sitting in.
Clabbers is the best known variant to tournament Scrabble players. All of the rules are identical to Scrabble with one exception: words played only have to be anagrams of real words. For example, MPORCTEU is a valid play in Clabbers because it is an anagram of COMPUTER. The increased ability to play parallel to pre-existing words makes for much higher scores.
A variant of this is Multi-Anagram Clabbers, in which players receive the basic score for any set of letters played multiplied by the number of valid anagrams for that set of letters. Opponents may "steal" points, once the initial player has declared their turn complete, by announcing other anagrams that the first player neglected to mention. In finding such anagrams, the blank must be declared as only one letter and may not change. For example, with a rack of AEILNS? (? = blank), a player announcing that the blank was a C and announcing the words SANICLE and INLACES would receive twice the base score; their opponent could steal the word SCALENI and score the base amount for himself.
Duplicate Scrabble is a form of organized tournament Scrabble popular in French-speaking countries, in which all players use the same tiles and words on their board and during each round, within a fixed time limit, have to find the highest scoring word. Players only receive points for their own words, and at the end, when there are no more consonants or no more vowels, the player with the most points wins the game. This form of Scrabble can often result in many players participating simultaneously; the official record for participation in France, where Duplicate Scrabble is the preferred form of the game, is 1485 at the 1998 tournament in Vichy. It is also the predominant format used in the French World Scrabble Championships.
So-called because in it the blank tiles are recycled. If a blank tile is played to represent a particular letter, a player before his turn can pick up the blank and replace it by the letter that it represents. For example, if the word STRETTa is on the board (with a blank A), the player may pick up the blank and replace it with an actual A. However, he cannot replace it with an E, I, or O to produce STRETTE, STRETTI, or STRETTO.
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Solitaire Scrabble follows the same rules and word acceptability as normal Scrabble, but there is only one player. Solitaire Scrabble can be played against a clock, trying to get the most points in a certain length of time or for highest maximum score.
Speed Scrabble is simply Scrabble played with a considerably shorter clock limit (e.g. 5 minutes), than normal tournament Scrabble.
This variant is played with two teams of two players each, with each player possessing his/her own rack. On each team's turn, one of the players makes a play, followed immediately by a play by the teammate. Set-ups are quite common; a team set up a 302-point triple-triple MENAZo(N)S at the 2010 National Scrabble Championship's Tag Team Tournament.
Take Two (also called Speed Scrabble and similar to Bananagrams) is a fast-paced, non-turn-based Scrabble variant played without a board. Tiles are placed face-down in the middle of the table in a communal pool and each player is given a small number of face-up starting tiles. From their starting tiles, each player tries to build his own valid Scrabble grid—players do not use each other's grid or tiles. When a player successfully uses all of his face-up tiles, he shouts "take two", and every player takes two more tiles. Play continues until there are no more tiles left to draw. In some variants, the person who creates the first complete grid when all the tiles run out is the winner. In others, a calculation based on word length is used to determine the winner.
Some variants allow for the exchange of unwanted tiles. Local variants include Take One or Take Four; the banning of 2 letter words; having a dictionary on hand for any players to use (but since it is a game of speed, this doesn't get used much); a bonus of 50 points for building the word "chicken", a bonus for longest word (number of letters in word, not tile values; and only if a single player has longest word), etc.
Team Speed Scrabble
Team Speed Scrabble is when teams of 2, 3, or 4 race to play legal Scrabble words as quickly as possible. Scoring does not matter; all that matters is how quickly words are played. This can be a co-operative game where all players are simply trying to complete the game as fast as possible.
A new variant on Scrabble introduced by Mattel on April 6, 2010.
Variants with non-standard equipment
This game has the same rules and tiles as Scrabble, but the board is larger (21x21 vs. 15x15 in the original). With the larger board there are more premium squares, going up to quadruple letter and quadruple word scores. There are also twice as many tiles with a slightly different distribution.*
This game uses cards for tiles where players throw down a card with a letter to change a four-letter word to another four-letter word by placing the card on top of one of the four piles of cards that form the word. So if the word shown is LACE, one player can put the M on the L to make it MACE and the next player could put a Z on the C to make the word MAZE and so on. Scoring is based on how many words are formed. This variation is also used on Scrabble Showdown.
This game has the same size board and nearly the same scoring system as Scrabble. The major differences are the inclusion of twelve wild tiles marked with an asterisk that may represent one letter or any series of letters and special board squares that convert a regular letter tile into a wild tile (the tile in question is placed upside down on such a square). The nature of these changes shifts the emphasis of the game from playing short words to playing words of any length. For example, QUA*IST, could be the word QUARTERFINALIST. Good players must find 7-tile bonus plays a majority of the time, and the short odd words that are a staple in Scrabble are of little use in WildWords.
Scarabeo is an Italian variant of Scrabble that is much more popular in its native country than the original game. It features a 17×17 board, 8 tiles per rack instead of 7, and a 30-point bonus for using 7 tiles as well as the 50-point "bingo".
This child-friendly version of Scrabble can pretty much grow with the age of the child. The double-sided game board incorporates a variant for children five to seven years of age on one side and a version for older children aged seven to ten on the other. Two to four players can take part in a game. In the simpler version, young players connect letters with words on the game board. The words have been preprinted on the playing field and only have to be covered by the letter tiles until a complete word has been constructed. If the board is flipped, words must be constructed independently, as they are in adult Scrabble.
This game is a cross between Othello and Scrabble played on a 13 x13 board. Each player has different coloured tiles. The rack is common and always contains 7 tiles. All tiles have the same value, one point. Points are scored for how many tiles are currently your own colour. The special squares are pink and orange. A word with a tile on a pink square clears the board. When this happens a bonus point is received for each tile you placed on an orange square on that board.
Literaxx is the English version of Literaki, a popular online Polish variant. Tiles are worth 1, 2, 3 or 5 points and are coloured according to their value. Double and triple word squares function in the same manner as standard Scrabble. However, the coloured triple letter squares are only active when the tile colour matches that of the square.
Literaxx is available at PlayOK.
Anadrome is a web-based variant which (as the name implies) allows words to be played reading in any orthogonal direction, doubling traditional turn opportunities. With 39 different bonus tiles, many directly correlating to mathematical operators like * (multiplication), ^ (exponentiation), ! (factorial), ⌈ (ceiling and floor), and Π (product series) across over 500 boards, scores may require scientific notation, depending on the board. Points are calculated automatically and displayed next to definitions of words as they are placed. Anadrome has a tile-earning mechanic and board editor, allowing users to create publicly available boards for Scrabble, Words with Friends, and their own custom designs, making it a superset of crossword-style games.
On the game show Scrabble Showdown, two teams play various games in order to win prizes including a vacation to anywhere in the world.
Number game variants
Gosum, or Equable
Gosum is similar to Numble. Users place sequences of numbers and equations, using the four main arithmetic operators (addition, subtraction, division, multiplication) and the equal sign in a Scrabble-like placement.
A similar Scrabble-like arithmetic game was published in Australia, during the 1970s, under the name Equable. Number tiles were white, arithmetic operations and symbol tiles (including decimal point, fraction-dashes, and percentage) were grey, and players could freely take special equal-sign tiles when they made their move. Clearly the name was meant to evoke the conceptual link with Scrabble. The game-board also had bonus-squares.
One of the earlier number-based variants, Numble was a physical board game using numbers and basic mathematic equations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division). Players form valid equations.
Triolet uses pairs or triplets of numbers that sum up to less than, or exactly 15, respectively. The placement of the pairs or triplets is similar to Scrabble. Triolet means "triplet" in French.
Yushino uses number sequences where every number is the last digit of the sum of the previous two. For two number sequences it requires that the numbers are adjacent.
Scrabble Upwords (originally just named UpWords) is played with 100 letter tiles on a special 10×10 board with no premium squares (originally 64 tiles on an 8×8 board). It has a Qu tile instead of Q and a different tile distribution than Scrabble. Words can be formed as in Scrabble as well as by playing on top of previously formed words. When playing over a word, at least one tile from the original word must be incorporated into the new word. All tiles, with the exception of the Qu tile in certain circumstances, are worth the same, with additional points scored for higher stacks of letters. Stacks can't go higher than five tiles and all words that are completely on the first level receive doubled points.
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- Hills, Rust, "Wordplay" an article in Esquire; March 1996, Vol. 125, Issue 3
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