Scrabble is a word game in which two to four players score points by placing tiles, each bearing a single letter, onto a game board divided into a 15×15 grid of squares. The tiles must form words that, in crossword fashion, read left to right in rows or downward in columns and are included in a standard dictionary or lexicon.

A game of English-language Scrabble in progress
ManufacturersHasbro (within U.S. and Canada)
Mattel (outside U.S. and Canada)
DesignersAlfred Mosher Butts
PublishersJames Brunot
Publication1948; 76 years ago (1948)
GenresWord game
Board game
Setup time2–4 minutes
Playing timeTournament game: 50–60 minutes
ChanceMedium (letters drawn)
SkillsVocabulary, spelling, anagramming, strategy, counting, bluffing, probability

American architect Alfred Mosher Butts invented the game in 1938. Scrabble is produced in the United States and Canada by Hasbro, under the brands of both of its subsidiaries, Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers. Mattel owns the rights to manufacture Scrabble outside the U.S. and Canada. As of 2008, the game is sold in 121 countries and is available in more than 30 languages; approximately 150 million sets have been sold worldwide, and roughly one-third of American and half of British homes have a Scrabble set.[1][2][3][4] There are approximately 4,000 Scrabble clubs around the world.[4]

Game details edit

The game is played by two to four players on a square game board imprinted with a 15×15 grid of cells (individually known as "squares"), each of which accommodates a single letter tile. In official club and tournament games, play is between two players or, occasionally, between two teams, each of which collaborates on a single rack.[5]

The board is marked with "premium" squares, which multiply the number of points awarded: eight dark red "triple-word" squares, 17 pale red "double-word" squares, of which one, the center square (H8), is marked with a star or other symbol, 12 dark blue "triple-letter" squares, and 24 pale blue "double-letter" squares. In 2008, Hasbro changed the colors of the premium squares to orange for TW, red for DW, blue for DL, and green for TL, but the original premium square color scheme is still preferred for Scrabble boards used in tournaments.[6]

The name of the game spelled out in game tiles from the English-language version. Each tile is marked with its point value, with a blank tile — the game's equivalent of a wild card — played as the word's first letter. The blank tile is worth zero points.

In an English-language set, the game contains 100 tiles, 98 of which are marked with a letter and a point value ranging from 1 to 10. The number of points for each lettered tile is based on the letter's frequency in standard English. Commonly used letters such as vowels are worth one point, while less common letters score higher, with Q and Z each worth 10 points. The game also has two blank tiles that are unmarked and carry no point value. The blank tiles can be used as substitutes for any letter; once laid on the board, however, the choice is fixed. Other language sets use different letter set distributions with different point values.

The official Scrabble board design. Key:
  2×LS – Double letter score
  3×LS – Triple letter score
  2×WS / ★ – Double word score
  3×WS – Triple word score

Tiles are usually made of wood or plastic and are 19 by 19 millimetres (0.75 in × 0.75 in) square and 4 mm (0.16 in) thick, making them slightly smaller than the squares on the board. Only the rosewood tiles of the deluxe edition vary in width up to 2 mm (0.08 in) for different letters. Travelling versions of the game often have smaller tiles (e.g. 13 mm × 13 mm (0.51 in × 0.51 in)); sometimes they are magnetic to keep them in place. The capital letter is printed in black at the centre of the tile face and the letter's point value is printed in a smaller font at the bottom right corner. Most modern replacement tile sets come at 18 mm × 20 mm (0.7 in × 0.8 in).

S is one of the most versatile tiles in English-language Scrabble because it can be appended to many words to pluralize them (or in the case of most verbs, convert them to the third person singular present tense, as in the word PLUMMETS); Alfred Butts included only four S tiles to avoid making the game "too easy". Q is considered the most troublesome letter, as almost all words with it also contain U; a similar problem occurs in other languages like French, Dutch, Italian, and German. J is also difficult to play due to its low frequency and a scarcity of words having it at the end.[7] C and V may be troublesome in the endgame, since no two-letter words with them exist, except for CH in the Collins Scrabble Words lexicon.

History edit

Alfred Butts manually tabulated the frequency of letters in words of various length, using examples in a dictionary, the Saturday Evening Post, the New York Herald Tribune, and The New York Times.[8] This was used to determine the number and scores of tiles in the game.

In 1938, the American architect Alfred Mosher Butts created the game as a variation on an earlier word game he invented, called Lexiko. The two games had the same set of letter tiles, whose distributions and point values Butts worked out by performing a frequency analysis of letters from various sources, including The New York Times. The new game, which he called Criss-Crosswords, added the 15×15 gameboard and the crossword-style gameplay. He manufactured a few sets himself but was not successful in selling the game to any major game manufacturers of the day.[9]: 98 

In 1948, James Brunot,[10] a resident of Newtown, Connecticut, and one of the few owners of the original Criss-Crosswords game, bought the rights to manufacture the game in exchange for granting Butts a royalty on every unit sold. Although he left most of the game (including the distribution of letters) unchanged, Brunot slightly rearranged the "premium" squares of the board and simplified the rules; he also renamed the game Scrabble, a real word which means "to scratch frantically".[9]: 100  In 1949, Brunot and his family made sets in a converted former schoolhouse in Dodgingtown, Connecticut, a section of Newtown. They made 2,400 sets that year but lost money.[11] According to legend, Scrabble's big break came in 1952 when Jack Straus, president of Macy's, played the game on vacation. Upon returning from vacation, he was surprised to find that his store did not carry the game. He placed a large order, and within a year, "everyone had to have one".[9]: 101 

In 1952, unable to meet demand himself, Brunot licensed the manufacturing rights to Long Island-based Selchow and Righter, one of the manufacturers who, like Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley Company, had previously rejected the game. "It's a nice little game. It will sell well in bookstores," Selchow and Righter president Harriet T. Righter remembered saying about Scrabble when she first saw it.[12] In its second year as a Selchow and Righter product, 1954, nearly four million sets were sold.[13][9]: 104  Selchow and Righter then bought the trademark to the game in 1972.[14]

Meanwhile, JW Spear acquired the rights to sell the game in Australia and the UK on January 19, 1955.[9] In 1986, Selchow and Righter was sold to Coleco, which soon afterward went bankrupt. Hasbro then purchased Coleco's assets in 1989, including Scrabble and Parcheesi.[14] Mattel then acquired JW Spear in 1994.[9] Since then, Hasbro has owned the rights to manufacture Scrabble in the U.S. and Canada, and Mattel has held the rights to manufacture the game in other parts of the world.[14]

Scrabble logo used by Mattel from 2013 to 2020
Scrabble logo used by Hasbro in the United States and Canada until 2008

In 1984, Scrabble was turned into a daytime game show on NBC. The Scrabble game show ran from July 1984 to March 1990,[15] with a second run from January to June 1993. The show was hosted by Chuck Woolery. Its tagline in promotional broadcasts was, "Every man dies; not every man truly Scrabbles."[16] In 2011, a new TV variation of Scrabble, called Scrabble Showdown, aired on The Hub cable channel, which is a joint venture of Discovery Communications, Inc. and Hasbro.

Scrabble was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2004.[17]

Evolution of the rules edit

The "box rules" included in each copy of the North American edition have been edited four times: in 1953, 1976, 1989, and 1999.[18]

The major changes in 1953 were as follows.

  • It was made clear that:
    • words could be played through single letters already on the board,
    • a player could play a word parallel and immediately adjacent to an existing word provided all crossing words formed were valid,
    • the effect of two premium squares was to be compounded multiplicatively.
  • The previously unspecified penalty for having one's play successfully challenged was stated: withdrawal of tiles and loss of turn.

The major changes in 1976 were as follows.

  • It was made clear that the blank tile beats an A when drawing to see who goes first.
  • A player could pass their turn, doing nothing.
  • A loss-of-turn penalty was added for challenging an acceptable play.
  • If final scores are tied, the player whose score was highest before adjusting for unplayed tiles is the winner;[19] in tournament play, a tie is counted as half a win for both players.[6]

The editorial changes made in 1989 did not affect gameplay.[18]

The major changes in 1999 were as follows.

  • It was made clear that:
    • a tile can be shifted or replaced until the play has been scored,
    • a challenge applies to all the words made in the given play.
  • Playing all seven tiles is officially called a "bingo" in North America and a "bonus" elsewhere.
  • A change in the wording of the rules could have been interpreted as meaning that a player may form more than one word on one row on a single turn.

Rules edit

Before the game, a word list or dictionary is selected in order to adjudicate any challenges during the game. In tournament play, the word list is specified in advance, typically the NASPA Word List, the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, or Collins Scrabble Words. All 100 tiles are placed into an opaque bag. To decide which player plays first, each player draws one tile from the bag. The player who picks the letter closest to "A" goes first, with blanks taking precedence over the letter A. Each player then draws seven tiles and places them on their rack, hidden from other players.

A game of Scrabble in French

Gameplay edit

On every turn, the player at turn can perform one of the following options:

  • Pass, forfeiting the turn and scoring zero.
  • Exchange one or more tiles for an equal number from the bag, scoring zero. This can only be done if 7 or more tiles remain in the bag.
  • Play at least one tile on the board, adding the value of all words formed to the player's cumulative score.

The first play of the game must consist of at least two tiles and cover the center square (H8). Any play thereafter must use at least one of the player's tiles to form a "main word" (containing all of the player's played tiles in a straight line) reading left-to-right or top-to-bottom. Diagonal plays are not allowed. At least one tile must be adjacent (horizontally or vertically) to a tile already on the board. After making a play, the player announces the score for that play (see Scoring for more details), and then, if the game is being played with a clock, starts their opponent's clock. If the opponent does not challenge the play, the player then draws tiles equal to the number of tiles played, or all tiles if there are not enough tiles in the bag to do so.

If a player has made a play and not yet drawn a tile, any other player may choose to challenge any or all words formed by the play. The word(s) are then searched in the agreed-upon word list or dictionary, and if one or more of them is found to be unacceptable, the play is removed from the board, and the player scores zero for that turn. If all challenged words are acceptable, the challenger loses their turn. In tournament play, a challenge may be to the entire play or any one or more words formed in the play, and players are not entitled to know which word(s) are invalid or the definitions of any challenged words. Penalties for unsuccessfully challenging an acceptable play vary in club and tournament play and are described in greater detail below.

End of game edit

A game of magnetic Pocket Scrabble approaching its end, where players have fewer than seven tiles remaining

The game ends when either:

  • One player has played every tile on their rack ("playing out") and no tiles remain in the bag (regardless of the tiles on the opponent's rack).
  • At least six successive scoreless turns have occurred and either player decides to end the game. This typically occurs at the end of the game when none of the players can form a valid word with their tiles. (For several years, a game could not end with a cumulative score of 0–0, but that is no longer the case, and such games have since occurred a number of times in tournament play, the winner being the player with the lower total point value on their rack and thus a score less negative than the opponent's.[20])
  • In tournament play, if either player uses more than 10 minutes of overtime.

When the game ends, each player's score is reduced by the sum of the values of their unplayed tiles. If a player plays out, the sum of all other players' unused tiles is added to that player's score. In tournament play, a player who goes out adds twice that sum, and the opponent's score is unchanged. The player with the highest final score wins the game.

Scoring edit

Premium square colors
Square Original and Mattel version Hasbro Version (2008–2014)
Double letter (DLS) Light blue Blue
Triple letter (TLS) Dark blue Green
Double word (DWS) Pink Red
Triple word (TWS) Red Orange

The score for a play is determined as follows:

  • The value of each tile is indicated with a point values (between 1 and 10, with blanks worth zero points), and the score of every new word formed is equal to the sum of the point values of the letters in that word. If a play covers any premium squares (such as DLS or TWS squares), the point value of the corresponding letter or word is multiplied by 2 or 3 respectively. The center star is also a DWS square.
  • Premium squares only apply when newly placed tiles cover them. Any subsequent plays do not count these premium squares. A play that covers a DWS or TWS multiplies the value of the entire word(s) by 2 or 3, including tiles already on the board.
  • If a newly placed word covers both letter and word premium squares, the letter premium(s) is/are calculated first, followed by the word premium(s).
  • If a player makes a play where the main word covers two DWS squares, the value of that word is doubled, then redoubled (i.e. 4× the word value). Similarly, if the main word covers two TWS squares, the value of that word is tripled, then re-tripled (9× the word value). Such plays are often referred to as "double-doubles" and "triple-triples" respectively.
  • If a player plays all seven of their tiles on their turn (known as a "bingo" in North America and as a "bonus" elsewhere), a 50-point bonus is added to the score of the play.

Scoreless turns can occur when a player passes, exchanges tiles, loses a challenge, or otherwise makes an illegal move. A scoreless turn can also occur if a play consists of only blank tiles, but this is extremely unlikely in actual play.

Scoring example edit

See the example board at right.

Example of a Scrabble game using Quackle, an open-source program. The plays QUITE, MES(QUITE), INFaNCY, and RECO(UN)TS score 48, 57, 88, and 40 points, respectively.

Suppose Player 1 plays QUITE 8D, with the Q on a DLS and the E on the center star. Because the center star is a DWS, the score for this play is   points.

Player 2 extends the play to form the word MES(QUITE) 8A with the A on the TWS at 8A. The score for this play is   points. The Q is not doubled, as the Q was not played on this turn.

Player 1 plays INFaNCY 9D with a blank A, forming five 2-letter words, QI, UN, IF, TA, and EN. Because several additional words were formed, each new word is scored separately. The score for this play, without the 50-point bonus, is

  points. Because all 7 tiles were played on this turn, a 50-point bonus is added, and the score for this play is   points.

Player 2 plays RECO(UN)TS E4 through the word UN. Because this word covers two DWS squares, the score for this word is quadrupled, and the score for the play is   points. Player 1 is ahead 136-97.

Acceptable words edit

All words that appear in the agreed-upon dictionary or lexicon are acceptable words in Scrabble, as are all their inflected forms, as well as plurals. Words that contain apostrophes or are hyphenated or capitalized (such as proper nouns) are generally not allowed unless they also appear as acceptable entries; for example, words such as JACK and TEXAS, while typically considered proper nouns, have unrelated meanings and are therefore acceptable in major Scrabble lexicons. Acronyms and abbreviations, other than those that have acceptable entries (such as AWOL, RADAR, SCUBA, and WYSIWYG[21]) are not allowed. Variant spellings, slang or offensive terms, archaic or obsolete terms, and specialized jargon words are acceptable if they meet all other criteria for acceptability, but archaic spellings (e.g., NEEDE or MAKETH) are generally not acceptable words. Foreign words are not allowed in English-language Scrabble unless they have been incorporated into the English language, such as the words QI,[22] KILIM, and PATISSERIE.

Vulgar and offensive words are generally excluded from the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary but allowed in club and tournament play. The North American Scrabble Players Association removed slurs from its lexicon in 2020, after conducting a poll of its members.[23] Mattel removed 400 derogatory terms from its official word list in 2021, in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, with the company's head of games saying: "Can you imagine any other game where you can score points and win by using a racial epithet? It’s long overdue."[24] This does not exclude players from playing these words, as it is within the rules of the game to play unacceptable words (at the risk of losing a challenge).

There are two popular competition word lists for English-language Scrabble:

The first predominates in the U.S., Canada, Israel and Thailand, and the second in English Scrabble in the rest of the world. There is also a large community of competitive Collins players in North America, with its own NASPA rating system.

NWL and OSPD edit

Today's NASPA Word List, published by NASPA Games, descends from the Official Tournament and Club Word List (a non-bowdlerized version of the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary) and its companion Long Words List for longer words. The current version of NWL is NWL2020, effective January 2021, and the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, published by Merriam-Webster, is currently in its sixth edition of 2018. NWL includes all current OSPD words, plus several hundred offensive words and genericized trademarks such as KLEENEX; as of 2020, it no longer includes words judged to be personally applicable offensive slurs.

The NWL and OSPD are compiled using a number of major college-level dictionaries, principally those published by Merriam-Webster. If a word appears, at least historically, in any one of the dictionaries, it is included in the NWL and the OSPD. If the word has only an offensive meaning, it is included only in the NWL. The key difference between the OSPD and the NWL is that the OSPD is marketed for "home and school" use, without words which their source dictionaries judged offensive, rendering the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary less fit for official Scrabble play. The OSPD is available in bookstores, while the NWL is available only through NASPA.

Collins Scrabble Words edit

In all other English-speaking countries, the competition word list is Collins Scrabble Words 2019 edition, known as CSW19. (Versions of this lexicon before 2007 were known as SOWPODS.) The lexicon includes all allowed words 2 to 15 letters long. Historically, this list has contained all OTCWL words plus words sourced from Chambers and Collins English dictionaries, but recent editorial decisions have caused greater discrepancies between CSW and NWL. This book is used to adjudicate at the World Scrabble Championship and all other major international competitions outside North America.

Tournaments are also played using CSW in North America, particularly since Hasbro ceased to control tournament play in 2009. NASPA, the Word Game Players Organization, and Collins Coalition (CoCo) all sanction CSW tournaments, using separate Elo rating systems.[25]

Challenges edit

The penalty for a successfully challenged play is nearly universal: the offending player removes the tiles played and forfeits their turn. (In some online games, an option known as "void" may be used, wherein unacceptable words are automatically rejected by the program. The player is then required to make another play, with no penalty applied.)

The penalty for an unsuccessful challenge (where all words challenged in the play are deemed valid) varies considerably, including:

  • "Double Challenge", in which an unsuccessfully challenging player must forfeit the next turn. This penalty governs North American (NASPA-sanctioned) OWL tournament play,[6] and is the standard for North American, Israeli, and Thai clubs. Because loss of a turn generally constitutes the greatest risk for an unsuccessful challenge, it provides the greatest incentive for a player to "bluff", or play a "phony" – a plausible word that they know or suspect to be unacceptable, hoping their opponent will not challenge it. Or a player can put down a legal word that appears to be a phony hoping the other player will incorrectly challenge it and lose their turn.
  • "Single Challenge"/"Free Challenge", in which no penalty whatsoever is applied to a player who unsuccessfully challenges. This is the default rule in Ireland and the United Kingdom, as well as for many tournaments in Australia, although these countries do sanction occasional tournaments using other challenge rules.
  • Modified "Single Challenge", in which an unsuccessful challenge does not result in the loss of the challenging player's turn, but is penalized by the loss of a specified number of points. The most common penalty is 5 points. The rule has been adopted in Singapore (since 2000), Malaysia (since 2002), South Africa (since 2003), New Zealand (since 2004), and Kenya, as well as in contemporary World Scrabble Championships (since 2001) and North American (NASPA-sanctioned) Collins tournaments, and particularly prestigious Australian tournaments.[26] Some countries and tournaments (including Sweden) use a 10-point penalty instead. In most game situations, this penalty is much lower than that of the "double challenge" rule. Consequently, such tournaments encourage greater willingness to challenge and discourage playing dubious words.

Under tournament rules, a player may request to "hold" the opponent's play to consider whether to challenge it, provided that the opponent has not yet drawn replacement tiles. The holding player's clock still runs, and the opponent cannot draw replacement tiles for 15 seconds or until the hold is released but may draw tiles afterward (which must be kept separate). If a player successfully challenges, the opponent must reveal any replacement tiles before returning them to the bag.

Competitive play edit

Club and tournament play edit

Tens of thousands play club and tournament Scrabble worldwide. The rules and equipment in tournament Scrabble differ somewhat from those typically found in casual play. For example, all tournament (and most club) games are played with a game clock and a set time control, and are only between two players (or occasionally, two teams of players). A player who goes overtime does not immediately lose the game (as in chess), but is instead assessed a 10-point penalty.[27][28] Also, the original wooden tiles are not allowed in tournaments as it is possible for players to "feel" the tiles in the bag (especially blank tiles);[13] thus, molded plastic tiles are often used. Players are allowed "tracking sheets", pre-printed with the letters in the initial pool, from which tiles can be crossed off as they are played. Tracking tiles is an important aid to strategy, especially during the endgame, as the player can determine what is unseen or on the opponent's rack and adjust their plays accordingly.

Notable and regularly held tournaments include:

  1. The World Scrabble Championship: held in odd years up until 2013, when it was announced by Mattel that it would be called the Scrabble Champions Tournament and be held annually in subsequent years.[29]
  2. The Scrabble Players Championship (formerly North American Scrabble Championship): organized by NASPA Games, an open event attracting several hundred players, held around July–August every year in the United States.
  3. The National Scrabble Championship: organized by the Association of British Scrabble Players (ABSP) and held every year in the United Kingdom.
  4. The Brand's Crossword Game King's Cup: the largest tournament in the world. Held annually in Thailand around the end of June or the beginning of July.
  5. The UK Open: the largest Scrabble tournament in Europe, held annually in Coventry in England, since 2008.

Other important tournaments include:

  1. The World Youth Scrabble Championships: entry by country qualification, restricted to under 18 years old. Held annually since 2006.
  2. The National School Scrabble Championship: entry open to North American school students. Held annually since 2003.
  3. The Canadian Scrabble Championship: entry by invitation only to the top fifty Canadian players. Held every two to three years.
  4. The Singapore Open Scrabble Championship: international Singapore championship held annually since 1997.

Scrabble clubs typically meet once a week for 3 or more hours, and some charge a small admission fee to cover their expenses and prizes. Clubs also typically hold at least one open tournament per year. Tournaments are usually held on weekends, and between six and nine games are played each day.

During off-hours at tournaments, many players socialize by playing consultation (team) Scrabble, Clabbers, Anagrams, Boggle, Words with Friends, Scramble with Friends and other games.

Records edit

The following records were achieved during international competitive club or tournament play, according to authoritative sources, including the book Everything Scrabble by Joe Edley and John D. Williams Jr. (revised edition, Pocket Books, 2001) and the Scrabble FAQ.[30] When available, separate records are listed based upon different official word lists:

  1. OCTWL, the North American list, also used in Thailand and Israel, known today as the NASPA Word List (NWL);
  2. OSW, formerly the official list in the UK;
  3. SOWPODS, the combined OTCWL+OSW list now used in much of the world, known today as Collins Scrabble Words.

To date, new editions or revisions of these lists have not been considered substantial enough to warrant separate record-keeping.

  • High game (OTCWL) – 830 by Michael Cresta (Mass.), at the Lexington (Mass.) club, October 12, 2006. Cresta defeated Wayne Yorra 830–490.[31][32]
  • High game (OTCWL) in a tournament game – 803 by Joel Sherman (N.Y.), at a tournament in Stamford, Conn., December 9, 2011. Sherman defeated Bradley Robbins 803–285, playing a record-tying seven bingos and sticking Robbins with the Q.[33]
  • High game (OSW) – 793 by Peter Preston (UK), 1999.[34]
  • High game (SOWPODS) – Toh Weibin set a record score of 850 at the Northern Ireland Championships on January 21, 2012. The winning margin of 591 points is also believed to be a record.[35][36][37]
  • High combined score (OTCWL) – 1320 (830–490) by Michael Cresta and Wayne Yorra, in a Lexington, Mass., club, 2006.[31][32]
  • High combined score (OTCWL) in a tournament game – 1134 (582–552) by Keith Smith (Tex.) and Stefan Rau (Conn.), Round 12 of the 2008 Dallas Open. (Rau's losing score of 552 included three phony words that were not challenged.)[38]
  • High combined score (OTCWL) in a tournament game with no phony words played – 1127 (725–402) by Laurie Cohen (Ariz.) and Nigel Peltier (Wash.), in a tournament in Ahwatukee, Arizona, February 16, 2009.[39]
  • High combined score (SOWPODS) – 1210 (721–489) by Edward Okulicz (Australia and Michael McKenna (Australia), at the 2013 Janboree in NSW.[40]
  • Highest losing score (OTCWL) – 552 by Stefan Rau (Conn.) to Keith Smith's (Tex.) 582, Round 12 of the 2008 Dallas Open.[38]
  • Highest tie game (OTCWL) – 502–502 by John Chew and Zev Kaufman, at a 1997 Toronto Club tournament.[41]
  • Highest tie game (SOWPODS) – 532–532 by Sinatarn Pattanasuwanna (Thailand) and Tawan Paepolsiri (Thailand) at the 2012 World Youth Scrabble Championship.[42]
  • Highest opening move score (OTCWL)MuZJIKS (with a blank for the U) 126 by Jesse Inman (S.C.) at the National Scrabble Championship, 2008.[43] The highest possible legal score on a first turn is MUZJIKS 128, using an actual U rather than a blank. (Note: The odds of drawing MUZJIKS without blanks is 9 in 432,325,411, or 1 in  [44])
  • Highest opening move score (SOWPODS)BEZIQUE 124 by Sam Kantimathi (1993),[45] Joan Rosenthal[46] and Sally Martin.[46]
  • Highest single play (OTCWL) QUIXOTRY 365 by Michael Cresta (Mass.), 2006.[31][32]
  • Highest single play (SOWPODS)CAZIQUES 392 by Karl Khoshnaw.[47]
  • Highest average score, multi-day tournament (OSPD) – 503 by James Leong (Sask.) over 12 rounds at Brandon, Man., 2015.[48] 484 by Doug Brockmeier (Calif.) over 12 rounds at Elmhurst, Ill., 2011.[49] 471 by Chris Cree (Tex.) over 18 rounds at the Bayou Bash in Houston, Tex., 2007.[50]
  • Highest average score, multi-day tournament (SOWPODS) – 499.94 by Nigel Richards (MY) over 16 rounds at the 7th Lim Boon Heng Cup, Singapore, 2009.[51]
  • Highest average score, one day tournament (SOWPODS) – 548 by Jackson Smylie of Toronto, Ontario over 5 rounds at Caledon, Ontario
  • Highest average score, one day tournament (OTCWL) – 532 by Jackson Smylie over 4 rounds at North American Scrabble Championship early bird in Las Vegas

Two other records are believed[citation needed] to have been achieved under a British format known as the "high score rule", in which a player's tournament result is determined only by the player's own scores, and not by the differentials between that player's scores and the opponents'. Play in this system "encourages elaborate setups often independently mined by the two players",[34] and is significantly different from the standard game in which defensive considerations play a major role. While the "high score" rule has led to impressively high records, it is currently out of favor.[citation needed]

  • High game score - 1,049 by Phil Appleby of Lymington, Hampshire, UK, on June 25, 1989, in Wormley, Hertfordshire, UK. His opponent scored just 253 points, giving Appleby a record victory margin of 796 points.
  • High single play - CAZIQUES for 392, by Saladin Karl Khoshnaw[47] in Manchester, UK, in April 1982.

Much higher-scoring plays are possible (e.g., plays covering three TWS squares), but extremely unlikely to occur without elaborate setups by both players. The highest reported score for a single play is 1780 (OSPD) and 1785 (SOWPODS) using oxyphenbutazone.[52] When only adding the word SESQUIOXIDIZING to these official lists, one could theoretically score 2015 (OSPD) and 2044 (SOWPODS) points in a single move.[52] The highest reported combined score for a theoretical game based on SOWPODS is 4046 points, constructed by Nathan Hedt of Australia.[53][user-generated source][54]4046 points[failed verification] Other records are available for viewing at Total Scrabble, an unofficial record book that includes the above as sources and expands on other topics.

In August 1984, Peter Finan and Neil Smith played Scrabble for 153 hours at St. Anselm's College, Birkenhead, Merseyside, setting a new duration record. A longer record was never recorded by Guinness Book of Records, as the publishers decided that duration records of this nature were becoming too dangerous and stopped accepting them.[55]

Software edit

Computer players edit

Maven is a computer opponent for the game created by Brian Sheppard. The official Scrabble computer game in North America uses a version of Maven as its artificial intelligence and is published by Atari. Outside North America, the official Scrabble computer game is published by Ubisoft. Quackle is an open-source alternative to Maven of comparable strength, created by a five-person team led by Jason Katz-Brown.[56] A Qt cross-platform version of Quackle is available on GitHub.[57]

Video game versions edit

Video game versions of Scrabble have been released for various platforms, including IBM PC compatibles, Mac, Amiga,[58] Commodore 64,[59] ZX Spectrum,[60] Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance,[61] Nintendo DS,[62] PlayStation,[63] PlayStation 4, PlayStation Portable,[64] iPod, iOS,, Palm OS, Amstrad CPC, Xbox 360, Kindle,[65] Wii,[66] and mobile phones.

The Nintendo DS version of Scrabble 2007 Edition made news when parents became angry over the game's AI using potentially offensive language during gameplay.[67]

Web versions edit

Several websites offer the possibility to play Scrabble online against other users, such as the Internet Scrabble Club and from Electronic Arts (North America only).

Facebook initially offered a variation of Scrabble called Scrabulous as a third-party application add-on. On July 24, 2008, Hasbro filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against its developers.[68] Four days later, Scrabulous was disabled for users in North America,[69] eventually reappearing as "Lexulous" in September 2008, with changes made to distinguish it from Scrabble. By December 20, Hasbro had withdrawn its lawsuit.[70]

Mattel launched its official version of online Scrabble, Scrabble by Mattel, on Facebook in late March 2008.[71][72] The application was developed by Gamehouse, a division of RealNetworks that was licensed by Mattel.[72] Since Hasbro controls the copyright for North America with the copyright for the rest of the world belonging to Mattel,[71] the Gamehouse Facebook application was available only to players outside the United States and Canada.[72] The version developed by Electronic Arts for Hasbro was available throughout the world.

When Gamehouse ceased support for its application, Mattel replaced it with the Electronic Arts version in May 2013. This decision was met with criticism from its userbase.[73] The Hasbro version continues to be available worldwide but now uses IP lookup to display Hasbro branding to North American players and Mattel branding to the rest of the world. Electronic Arts have also released mobile apps for Android and iOS, allowing players to continue the same game on more than one platform.

As well as facilities to play occasional games online, there are many options to play in leagues.[74]

In 2020, the license for Scrabble passed from Electronic Arts to Scopely, which launched the app Scrabble GO on March 5, 2020, with the Electronic Arts version discontinued on June 5, 2020.[75] The new app was very different, leading to protests, and Scopely soon began to offer a 'Classic' version, without some of the extras initially offered: "this updated mode is reimagined to reflect the ask for a streamlined experience. Features such as boosts, rewards and all other game modes are disabled", the company announced.[76]

Variations edit

Super Scrabble edit

A new licensed product, Super Scrabble, was launched in North America by Winning Moves Games in 2004 under license from Hasbro, with the deluxe version (with turntable and lock-in grid) released in February 2007. A Mattel-licensed product for the rest of the world was released by Tinderbox Games in 2006. This set comprises 200 tiles in slightly modified distribution to the standard set and a 21×21 playing board.

National versions edit

Versions of the game have been released in several other languages.

The game was called Alfapet when it was introduced in Sweden in 1954, but since the mid-1990s, the game has also been known as Scrabble in Sweden. Alfapet is now another crossword game, developed by the owners of the name Alfapet. A Russian version is called Erudit. A Hebrew version is called Blanko (בלאנקו). Versions have been prepared for Dakotah, Haitian Creole, Dakelh (Carrier language), and Tuvan.[77]

For languages with digraphs counted as single letters, such as Welsh and Hungarian, the game features separate tiles for those digraphs.

An Irish-language version of Scrabble was published by Glór na nGael in 2010. The previous year the same organisation published the Junior version of the game and two years later it republished Junior Scrabble using a two-sided (and two skill level) board.

Television game show versions edit

In 1987, a board game was released by Selchow & Righter, based on the game show hosted by Chuck Woolery that aired on NBC from 1984 to 1990 (and for five months in 1993). Billed as the "Official Home Version" of the game show (or officially as the "TV Scrabble Home Game"), gameplay bears more resemblance to the game show than it does to a traditional Scrabble game, although it does utilize a traditional Scrabble gameboard in play.

On September 17, 2011, a new game show based on Scrabble, called Scrabble Showdown, debuted on The Hub with Justin "Kredible" Willman as the host of the program.[78] Each week, teams play various activities based on the board game in order to win big prizes including a trip to anywhere from around the world.

Games based on Scrabble edit

There are numerous variations of the game. While they are similar to the original Scrabble game, they include minor variations. For example, Literati draws random tiles instead of providing a finite number of tiles for the game, assigns different point levels to each letter and has a slightly different board layout, whereas Lexulous assigns eight letters to each player instead of seven. Words with Friends uses a different board layout and different letter values, as does Words of Gold.

A duplicate Scrabble tournament in La Bresse, France

Duplicate Scrabble is a popular variant in French speaking countries. Every player has the same letters on the same board and the players must submit a paper slip at the end of the allotted time (usually 3 minutes) with the highest scoring word they have found. This is the format used for the French World Scrabble Championships but it is also used in Romanian and Dutch. There is no limit to the number of players that can be involved in one game, and at Vichy in 1998 there were 1,485 players, a record for French Scrabble tournaments.

Scarabeo [it] is a variant that is much more popular in Italy than the original game. It features a 17×17 grid of cells and peculiar rules.[79]

Popular among tournament Scrabble players is Clabbers. In Clabbers, any move that consists of anagrams of allowable words is allowed. For example, because ETAERIO is allowable in ordinary Collins Scrabble, EEAIORT would be allowable in Clabbers.[80]

A junior version, called Junior Scrabble, has been marketed. This has slightly different distributions of frequencies of letter tiles to the standard Scrabble game.

Word games similar to or influenced by Scrabble include Bananagrams, Boggle, Dabble, Nab-It!, Perquackey, Puzzlage, Quiddler, Scribbage, Tapple, Upwords, and WordSpot.

There are also number-based variations, such as Equate, GoSum, Mathable, Numble, Numbler, Triolet, Yushino and Numenko.

Gameboard formats edit

The game has been released in numerous gameboard formats appealing to various user groups. The original boards included wood tiles and many "deluxe" sets still do.

Tile Lock editions edit

Tile Lock editions of Scrabble[81] and Super Scrabble[82][83] are made by Winning Moves and feature smaller, plastic tiles that are held in place on the board with little plastic posts. The standard version features exactly the same 100 tiles as regular Scrabble. The Tile Lock Super Scrabble features the same 200 tiles that are in Super Scrabble.

Travel editions edit

Editions are available for travelers who may wish to play in a conveyance such as a train or plane or to pause a game in progress and resume later. Many versions thus include methods to keep letters from moving, such as pegboards, recessed tile holders and magnetic tiles. Players' trays are also designed with stay-fast holders. Such boards are also typically designed to be reoriented by each player to put the board upright during the game, as well as folded and stowed with the game in progress.

  • Production and Marketing Company, 1954 – metal hinged box, Bakelite tiles inlaid with round magnets, chrome tile racks, silver-colored plastic bag and cardboard box covered with decorative paper. The box, when opened flat, measures 8+12 in × 7+34 in (22 cm × 20 cm) and the tiles measure 12 in (13 mm) square.
  • Spear's Games, the 1980s – boxed edition with pegboard, plastic tiles with small feet to fit snugly in the pegboard. Racks are clear plastic, allowing some sorting while holding tiles fairly snugly. The set comes with a drawstring plastic bag to draw tiles and a cardboard box. It is possible to save a game in progress by returning the board to the box. There is a risk of players' trays being mixed and upset, and the box lid, held on by friction, is subject to upset.
  • Selchow & Righter, 1980s – pocket edition with plastic "magnetic" board and tiles. Tile racks are also plastic with an asymmetrical shape to provide a handhold. All elements fit in a plastic envelope for travel and to permit a pause in the game. Plastic letters are very small and tend to lose their grip if not placed with slight lateral movement and if they are not perfectly clean. The game format is extremely small, allowing Scrabble games for backpackers and others concerned about weight and size.
  • Hasbro Games, 2001 – hinged plastic board with clear tile-shaped depressions to hold tiles in play. Board is in a black, zippered folio such that board and tiles may be folded for travel, even with the game in play. The reverse side of the board contains numbered mounts for racks, holding tiles face down, allowing secure and confidential storage of tiles while a game is paused. Some versions have tile racks with individual tile slots, thus not permitting easy sorting of tiles in a rack. The board, when opened up, measures 24.5 cm × 21.0 cm (9+34 in × 8+14 in), and the tiles are 12.3 mm × 12.3 mm × 6.7 mm (12 in × 12 in × 14 in) in size.

Deluxe editions edit

At the opposite end, some "deluxe" or "prestige"[84] editions offer superior materials and features. These include editions on a rotating turntable, so players can always face the board, with the letters upright and a raised grid that holds the tiles in place.[85][86] Also available are alternative Scrabble boards, often made of glass[87] or hardwood, that have superior rotating mechanisms and personalized graphics.

Large print and braille editions edit

An edition has been released (in association with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB))[88] with a larger board and letters for players with impaired vision.[89] The colours on the board are more contrasting, and the font size has been increased from 16 to 24 point. The tiles are in bold 48 point, and have braille labels. A separate braille edition is also available.[90]

Works related to Scrabble edit

Books edit

Numerous books about Scrabble have been published, including nonfiction titles helping players improve their game, and fiction titles using the game as a plot device. These include:

  • Merriam-Webster's The Official Scrabble Player's Dictionary, the Seventh Edition of which was published in 2022. The OSPD is the consistently best-selling official Scrabble book.
  • Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis (2001), an introduction to tournament Scrabble and its players. While writing the book, Fatsis became a high-rated tournament player.
  • The Scrabble Player's Handbook, edited by Stewart Holden and Kenji Matsumoto, and written by an international group of tournament players, which gives the information a serious player needs to advance to successful tournament play. Not to be confused with Drue K. Conklin's 1976 The Official Scrabble Player's Handbook, The Scrabble Player's Handbook is available for free download.[91]

Documentaries edit

Numerous documentaries have been made about the game, including:

  • Scrabylon (2003), by Scott Petersen, which "gives an up-close look at why people get so obsessed with that seemingly benign game"
  • Word Slingers (2002), by Eric Siblin and Stefan Vanderland (produced for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)), which follows four expert Canadian players at the 2001 World Championship in Las Vegas
  • Lost for Words (2004) by Joshua Whitehead
  • Word Wars (2004) by Eric Chaikin and Julian Petrillo, about the "tiles and tribulations on the Scrabble game circuit"

See also edit

References edit

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  8. ^ Tierney, John (May 24, 1998). "Humankind Battles for Scrabble Supremacy". The New York Times Magazine.
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Further reading edit

  • Arneson, Erik (June 26, 2019). "How To Win at Scrabble and Words With Friends: How to Practice, Play, and Win Strategically". The Spruce Crafts.
  • McElwee, Kevin (December 13, 2018). "Does Scrabble Need To Be Fixed?". Nautilus. Archived from the original on December 9, 2019. Retrieved December 15, 2018.
  • "Scrabble as a tool for language preservation in Tuvan". ScholarSpace. Manoa, Hawaii. An article relating how Scrabble has been adapted to other languages, describing how it was prepared for the Tuvan languages, and giving directions about how to adapt it.
  • Wallace, Robert (December 14, 1953). "A Man Makes a Best-Selling Game - Scrabble - and Achieves His Ambition (Spelled Out Above): Little Business In the Country". LIFE Magazine. p. 101.

Reviews edit

  • Family Games: The 100 Best[1]

External links edit

  • Scrabble at
  • Scrabble at (UK)
  • Scrabble at BoardGameGeek
  • .GCG specification describes a computer file format for recording and annotating Scrabble games.
  • Scrabble Word Database (Multi-language)
  • U.S. patent 2,752,158Game apparatus – Expired patent for the jagged edges of bonus squares, which were added so that one need not lift previously placed tiles in order to see the bonus.
Player associations
  • Association of British Scrabble Players
  • NASPA Games (formerly North American Scrabble Players Association; sanctions club and tournament play in North America)
  • Scrabble Australia
  • World English-Language Scrabble Players Association (WESPA)
  1. ^ Family games : The 100 best. January 7, 2024. ISBN 978-1-934547-21-2.