Scrabble is a fun, but strange game. Before, I’d always taken the linguaphile approach, searching my lexicon for big and/or interesting words to wow my opponents. I don’t think I’d ever even played a two-player game before. Now, as I’ve been playing some phone app equivalents, Words With Friends and Wordfeud my interest has re-piqued. At first, I would get frustrated at the non-words my opponents would play on the phone version and almost wrote off the game as unworthy of my precious phone-game-time.
Then it clicked. Knowing the words is not nearly as important to the game as you’d think. It’s more like a puzzle or even a strategy game like chess. Except there are a billion combinations that work and a billion that don’t work. Playing your opponent is important too; anticipating those pluralizing S’s or tense-changing D’s; and making sure not to leave key score bonus tiles available.
In Seattle I picked up the book Word Freak and recently I watched the documentary Word Wars. They gave an intimate look at the top tournament level players of the game and showed me just how awful I really was at the game. Their ability to anagram on the fly is astounding. My favorites were “eleven plus two”=”twelve plus one” and “Clint Eastwood”=”old west action.”
Sadly, even with my new enlightened approach and forays into other media, I’m not much better at the game. (As my Wordfeud-nemesis Jeremy will attest.)