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Friday, June 1. 2012
Do you like Scrabble and dominos?
No, let me rephrase.
Do you like the concept of Scrabble and dominos, but don't like the actual games? Would it be fair to say that Scrabble is extremely frustrating because of the limited number of words you can play, and dominos seems like a kid's game?
Well, that's because you haven't played Unscrabbleink and Grandma's Dominos yet.
Below the fold is the way to play these two great games.
I once had a roommate who really liked Scrabble, so I started playing it with him. I hadn't played it in years.
At the time, I was heavily into crossword puzzles, and only being able to use the 'legitimate' words in the crappy little Scrabble dictionary was very frustrating. Plus, with only one each of the five heavy scoring tiles (J, K, Q, X, Z), if someone got two or three of them and laid them down on a Triple score, the game was pretty much over. The game could get too lopsided, too quickly.
Clearly, something had to be done.
So I got hold of Hasbro, the manufacturer, and ordered two more blank tiles and an extra J, K, Q, X and Z. Their online order page is here.
In Unscrabbleink, you can use any word that might be found in a crossword puzzle. That would include proper names ("Elvis"), abbreviations ("NASA"), foreign words ("nyet"), locations in both English and the native language ("Rome", "Roma"), and anything else commonly found in crossword puzzles.
Because it was so contrary to standard Scrabble, almost like some demographic East-West thing, I adapted a Russian accent and called the game Unscrabbleink.
With four blank tiles and two-each of the big scorers, it's an absolute blast.
If you're into the 'challenge' part of the game, you'll need a minimum number of Google hits for the word to count. I use 100,000. If you lay down a word and you're challenged, look it up on Google. If it's under 100,000, you lose a turn. If it's over, the challenger does.
Another problem with the original game is that it needed more than seven letters in a hand, so in Unscrabbleink you draw nine tiles.
This is also fun to do with a computer Scrabble game, assuming it has the option to add new words to its dictionary. At first, you'll kick its butt with "Oz", "PDQ", "QED", etc, but at some point, as it gets smarter, it'll be you who's the one racing to catch up. Out of frustration at getting your ass whupped you'll eventually delete the program's custom dictionary and start over. At least (delicate cough), that's what I've heard some people do.
And imagine the fun of playing with a buddy and not telling him about the extra tiles. Both scenarios would be a riot:
If you suddenly play the second 'X', his eyes are going to pop out and he'll say, "Hey, there aren't two X's!" Very seriously look him in the eye and say, "Don't be silly — of course there are. You just never noticed before."
But if he suddenly draws the second 'X', he's going to be torn in two. Half of him will want to say, "Hey, this isn't right!", but the other half will be telling himself to shut up — and check out that Triple Word Score coming up!
If you like Scrabble — or rather, if you like the concept of Scrabble — you really owe it to yourself to dig up the seven extra tiles and give this a try. It's a ton of fun.
As far as I'm concerned, regular dominos, where you can only play off the first double played, is right up there with watching paint dry. At least, after you've played Grandma's Dominos.
I call it that because it reminds me of how we might have played it with Grandma when we were kids. It's a simpler, more natural game because you can play off any double. Young children would like that, and so will you.
Not to draw any comparisons, of course.
It makes for more scoring opportunities, makes the game much more challenging, and allows a lot more strategy when it comes to what to play. It makes it much more of an offensive-defensive game, in that you might defensively hold back a domino or two (sacrificing some points) to go out with, while going on the offensive by trying to make your opponent draw. But not too early or it'll give him a wealth of scoring opportunities. It's really a fun game, and it's kind of stunning that people (and the computer games) play it with only one 'spinner'.
A few rules:
— You initially draw 9 'bones', not 7. The first two you play usually don't account for very many points; they're just to get the track started. That leaves you with a full 7 bones to start 'working' the game.
— You score by making the ends come out to multiples of 5, getting 1 point for each multiple. If the ends total 20, that's 4 points. Whoever has the most points after someone makes it to 100 wins. Traditionally, points are kept on a Cribbage board. If you 'skunk' your opponent by going out before he's even 'made the turn' (at the 50-point mark on the Cribbage board), you get twice the payoff.
— Both ends of a double count until both sides have been closed off.
— The lead changes with each hand. You can lead with any domino, scores count.
— You draw from the boneyard until you can play; two bones remain untouched.
I consider this a two-player game. Three dilutes it too much and most of the strategy is lost. It's still a fun game, but not the same. If you're playing with three, start off with the usual seven bones, not nine.
With so many options to play, much of the strategy is baiting or forcing the other player into playing what you want. That is, a domino you can score upon. The ideal play is to make a big score and your opponent can't come back with a score because the necessary dominos have already been played or you've got them in your hot grubby mitts.
I'll bet that as soon as you play it this way, you'll wonder why you ever played it the other way. The bigger scores make everything much more tense and allow for some really great comebacks. If you've never particularly thought of dominos as a 'strategy' game before, give this a try with a smart opponent. It'll take you both a couple of games before you really 'get' the offensive-defensive balance. Then you'll see what I mean by "tense."
Posted by Dr. Mercury in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 09:45 | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)
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My, aren't 'we' on a roll this morning...must be that beach tar twix-the-toes!
Looks interesting...hafta check it out and get back t'ya.
I agree that dominos isn't a very exciting game but I have a soft spot for it because I played it as a child with my father's aunt, and years later with my father during his last illness. It has the virtue of not demanding alot of concentration and allowing plenty of meandering conversation, which dad and I both enjoyed.
We personally like the game "Bananagrams" which is a much faster version of scrabble and can also be played with a group.
We do use the homemade version, however, using our scrabble tiles.
I grew up poor. All our toys were hand me downs. You talk about a hardscrabble life. Our set had four Q's and no U's.
"only being able to use the 'legitimate' words in the crappy little Scrabble dictionary"
Ever since I first learned of this "dictionary" I have felt it is used incorrectly, any word therein should NOT be allowed.
Pre-Internet, my family used a two-volume dictionary for challenges. Not every word was in there (aside: your mention of "limited" drew a laugh - even back then, English was known for having over 600,000 words vs say French with about 125,000), such as one of my favorites - "zythum." It does,I am happy to learn, pass your "Ggoogle" test with about 189,000 hits.
Dominoes, scoring on multiples of 5 has always been a favorite in our family, but now I play with a double 12 set. More fun than double 9. Granted it is easy but then everyone can play. Your version would be fine with me but I have found that women have a harder time adding and would therefore not like your variant.
Cribbage is another favorite family game so I know that beating someone by 31 not 50 constitutes a "skunk".
As for scrabble, my beef with that game is the interminable squabbling over whether a combination of letters actually comprises a word. It always seems like there is more time spent arguing than playing.
Finally I will throw this Monopoly variant at you. I find Monopoly to be generally boring, however, throw in these officially sanctioned optional rule changes and see what happens:
1) Raise the so-called "Income Tax" to 15% or $400.
2) One roll of the dice to get out of jail. Fine is $200.
3) Double mortgage interest to 20%.
4) Raise the Luxury tax to $300.
5) Drop the salary received at GO to $100.
The game will not last hours and hours and is an oversimplified example of what happens when Government imposes too heavy a tax burden.
Love all those board games. We like gathering at the beach around Destin, FL, and then after getting sunburnt red-purple-blue the first day, hiding the next six in dark motel rooms, AC turned down to 60, screaming in agony and playing board games.
My 8 year old homeschooled daughter is a domino and scrabble junkie. Beats me regularly. In dominos, we play off any doubles, begin with any tile, and score in multiples of 5. She will hold out on blanks and 5's and hit me with scores of 20, 25 and 30 points. In scrabble, we play it the way you describe. It's more fun and after an hour she doesn't realize we were doing math, spelling, vocabulary and dictionary skills.
I have a computer question.
Might I email you, or might you email me?