October 15, 2007

To scratch or dig with hands or claws

When With-a-Why asked me to play Scrabble the other day after school, I sat down happily. I like Scrabble! I'm good with words! I kept congratulating myself on clever moves, like adding RAM to the word PAGE to make RAMPAGE. We talked lazily between turns, and With-a-Why kept the score on a yellow legal pad somewhere near his feet. We were nearing the end of the game when Shaggy Hair Boy and Boy in Black joined us, both looking carefully at the board. Shaggy Hair Boy picked up the scoresheet and snickered.

Shaggy Hair: Mom, you suck at this game.
Me: (looking up in surprise) What do you mean?
Shaggy Hair: You are losing by over a hundred points.
Me: How is that possible?
With-a-Why: Look at how many times you let me get a triple word score.
Me: But I came up with cool words.
Boy in the Black: See, that's your problem. You play to make words instead of playing to win.
Me: Well, when I was growing up, Scrabble was fun. I can remember playing with my mother, and we'd just concentrate on coming up with clever words. We weren't so damned competitive.
Shaggy Hair: Yeah, that's why I always wreck Grandma at this game.

25 comments:

AF said...

I'm with the boys on this one. Scrabble is meant as a competitive contest, between two people out to annihilate the opponent, and you don't win by playing tiles and words, you win by playing the board. If you want to get cute, play with three or more people, and then you can talk a lot too. But that's not Scrabble, that's a tea party.

Loren said...

I'm with the kids on this too, though I'll have to admit I'm always a little pleased when I can actually use some of my vocabulary to my advantage.

I'm presently playing with two different players on Facebook, and the point is to WIN, not see if you can come up with more elegant words than a professional poet. (Perhaps because I can't ;-!

Tie-Dye Brother-in-law said...

Don't think of it as being competitive. Think of it as using your math skills as well as your linguistic skills.

Overeducated Twit said...

Oh, the words are cool, alright--but the boys are right. It's strategy all the way. Actually, it's pretty cool to have a game where the playing field between, say, a programming geek and a humanities major is about even.

bridgett said...

I play Scrabble to make cool words and to have fun fitting words together. I opt not to play with anyone who expects me to try to remove their liver, linguistically speaking.

BerryBird said...

Jo(e), it sounds like you need to play Boggle instead of Scrabble. Everyone has the exact same letters, and there are no triple tiles to worry about. It's all about the words.

Even better is Big Boggle, where the grid is 5x5, and no words under four letters are permitted.

MJ said...

We were just talking about this at (Canadian) Thanksgiving where I maintained that winning at Scrabble has zero to do with having a good vocabulary; it's all about spatial awareness of the board (i.e., strategy), making killer words, and playing to win. My 20-year-old niece agreed. And her brother--the budding architect--wins all the time. Me, I usually lose.

chip said...

We used to have massive scrabble games when my sibs and I got together at my parents for t'giving or christmas. But it would always degenerate into squabbling because one of my brothers in particular is so fixated on the competitive winning aspect, and would try to pass off "words" that didn't exist, etc.

Because of that, Scrabble has been banned at these gatherings as of last year. Things are much more peaceful now. But I have to admit it was fun making fun of his cheating ways...

YourFireAnt said...

I think you should be able to change rules periodically. This adds interest to the game, and those who are good at it get even better, or alternatively, lose now and then.

And as for trying to pass off words that don't exist, poets do that all the time [hint! hint,Jo(e)! ].

;-)

DaniGirl said...

Oh jo(e), you HAVE to set yourself up with Scrabulous on Facebook! I would *so* play the "make pretty words" version of the game with you and discount the scoring entirely. (The only reason I go on Facebook anymore is to play my precious games of Scrabulous!)

Teri said...

I hate keeping score in Scrabble. It entirely ruins the game for me. With my friends, we play cool-words-no-score version. So much better.


Perhaps we should get together for a Scrabble weekend sometime. I live very near big midwestern city with at least one tall building. :-)

J. said...

I'd rather see the kids "playing to win" Scrabble than "going for the kill" or such in a video game.

Competition is natural. At least you are spending good time together.

zhoen said...

My mom and I would struggle together to get the best combined score. Didn't have to compete to have fun, and get some amazing words. I also like playing with tiles from two sets, using 14 letters. Eventually, you just have to admit there is no room for more words on the board.

J said...

Jo(e), you might do better at "Fast Scrabble":
Dump all the tiles out on a table face-down and mix them up.
Each player takes 7 tiles.
When play commences, each player flips over his/her own tiles and arranges them into a crossword any way he/she likes.
When a player has used all his/her tiles, he/she yells "go" and each player must grab a new tile from the center to incorporate into his/her crossword (which may be rearranged at will).
Play continues this way until no tiles or not enough tiles remain in the center, at which point the first player to incorporate all his/her tiles in his/her crossword is the winner.
Players tally the point values on their unincorporated tiles to determine thier scores. After the desired number of rounds, the player with the lowest score wins.

It's called "Fast Scrabble" because when you play with skilled players, it tends to become a rapid fire of "go!" "go!" "go!" and one must think quickly to keep rearranging and incorporating new letters. A large vocabulary is much more useful in this rendition of the game than a focus on numbers or scores.

julieunplugged said...

That's always my problem. I think Scrabble is about words but good players know it's about math.

Cathy said...

Jo(e), are you on Facebook? I will play Scrabulous with you. I love scrabble. or you can go to Scrabulous.com and play also, but Scrabulous on Facebook is at your leisure.

Addy N. said...

Yeah! Play Scrabulous with me, too! Right now, I am playing with Dr. Brazen Hussy & Eddie!

Twice said...

This exactly describes both my approach to Scrabble (like yours) and my husband's family (like the boys). I will not play with his dad, but his grandmother (96!) has learned to be gracious. "Wow! You did really well this time" (when I lose by less than 100 points)

jo(e) said...

Oh, I am going to have to try Fast Scrabble. And yeah, I am going to add Scrabulous to my facebook account. (If there's anyone out there who hasn't friended me on facebook yet, look for the waterlily icon. Or email me for my real name.)

BUT NO SCRABULOUS UNTIL I'VE FINISHED GRADING THIS SET OF PAPERS. Really, I don't need another way to procrastinate .....

Baby Lisa said...

Did you really manage to play Scrabble for more than a few minutes? If I remember correctly, we could never get through a board game with your family without someone knocking it over. How things change!

Rana said...

I'm with you; I always want to come up with cool words that use all my tiles, but D. and his family learned to play keeping an eye out for the triple-letter scores, and adding one or two tiles in some clever way that results in five or six new words. It's a good game when I don't lose by more than 100 points, especially if I'm playing D. and his mother at the same time.

Ampersand said...

Ok, now I really want to play scrabulous with you. While I love words, I also love to win. :)

Rev Dr Mom said...

My good friend D is the most competitive Scrabble player I've ever seen. Like you, I'm more of 'let's just make nice words' person, so playing with her the first time was a revelation, to say the least.

Silver Creek Mom said...

OH you have facebook TOO! I play scrablous all the time and Loose alot. Becasue I'm trying to come up with cool word. Although the other day I got 60 points. Raced upstairs and woke my daughter to tell her. She told me I needed to get a life.

LMAO!

A- said...

Winter means more Scrabble! Our house rules include the opportunity to negotiate for 1 to 3 extra points for clever words.

In theory, I like zhoen's method of collaborative point accumulation, but in practice, I prefer to win.