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Game Variants

Most players have a favorite way to play the SCRABBLE® game, and if they are aware of other ways to play it, they don’t think them worth the time. Not everyone plays the game the same way though: for starters even in English there are three word lists in common use (OSPD, OWL and SOWPODS), and the “box” and NSA tournament rules are quite different from each other and from “house” rules. Some variants are popular enough to have their own tournaments, often as side events at regular NSA-sanctioned events. Ask your local NSA club or tournament director if you’d like to see more like the following, or contact John Chew at poslfit@gmail.com if you know of a version that we don’t list here.

Tournament Variants

Name Concept Details Who Doesn’t
Clabbers Scramble the letters in each word. The letters in each word formed can be in whatever order you like, usually whatever maximizes score and/or defensive value. If you’re challenged, you must state a valid word that can be formed by the tiles you played. Some consider it bad form to play valid words with their tiles in the correct order. Players who cannot anagram quickly.
Duplicate Group Solitaire, like Bingo. In Duplicate, the director draws tiles, which are used by each player to construct a solitaire game. At the end of each round, the highest-scoring play is placed on every board and each player gets credit for the play that they found. Some directors ensure an interesting game by preparing all the tile draws ahead of time to compose a good range of positions. People who crave head-to-head competition and like what luck does for the regular game.
Polyglot Play words in any language. In tournament Polyglot, originally developed for the American Translators’ Association, you can play words in whatever language you like. Use an English tile set but score words according to the tile values in their designated languages (this rule is commonly ignored in informal play, at the cost of disrupting the rationality of those values). Diacritical marks may be ignored, digraphs split and non-Roman letters transliterated. Monoglots.
Speed Set the clock to just a few minutes. There is substantial regional variation. In Toronto, players start speed games with three minutes on their clock, do not have to keep score, play for just a win or loss (no spread), and are allowed a minute of overtime at a one point penalty per second. Elsewhere, the clock may be started at zero minutes (and one point per second) or five minutes (and no overtime). Slow thinkers, especially experts.

House Rules

Name Concept Details
Boardless You have tiles but no board. If you have a set of tiles but no game board, and for some reason do not want to play Anagrams, you can play the regular game without any bonus squares. You might still want to give the first player a small bonus for opening up the “board”
Category Bonus points for theme words. Award immediate bonus points for words that match a designated theme.
Dyslexic Play words backward. The letters of a word may be played in forward or backward order: a limited version of Clabbers.
Ecological Reuse blanks by matching them from your rack. If you have the tile that matches the value of a blank on the board, you may exchange the tile for the blank.
Long Blanks Let the blank stand for more than one letter. Play OXY(PHENBUTAZ)ONE where the blanks tands for the middle nine letters.
Long Rack Have eight or nine tiles on your rack. Having more than seven tiles on a rack makes it easier for weaker players to find words. Some players award different bonuses for seven-, eight- or nine-tile plays.
One Blank Each Each player gets one blank. Set the blanks aside before starting the game. Each player can use one whenever he likes.
One Blank Per Turn One tile on each rack is played facedown as a blank. Some players require further that you must either play a bingo or trade tiles.
Open Keep your tiles visible. Useful as a way of teaching newcomers how to play the game.
Toroidal Glue the opposite sides of the board together. Word may be played off the right side of the board, continuing on the left; or off the bottom, continuing on the top. Watch out for two-letter triple-triples at the corners.
Two Turns Each Each player gets two consecutive turns. The first turn sets up the big score on the second turn, while trying to avoid allowing the opponent any big setups.
Volost The only acceptable words are VOLOST and VOLOSTS. Fans claim there is strategic subtlety that can only be appreciated under the influence of alcohol.

HASBRO is the owner of the registered SCRABBLE® trademark in the United States and Canada. © 2011 HASBRO. All rights reserved. "SCRABBLE® Brand Crossword Game" is the proper way to refer to this unique group of word games and related properties marketed by HASBRO. "SCRABBLE®" is not a generic term. To use it as such is not only misleading but also does injustice to the company responsible for the trademark's longtime popularity. All we ask is that when you mean SCRABBLE® Brand Crossword Game, you say so. 

The SCRABBLE® trademark is owned by J.W. Spear and Sons, PLC, a subsidiary of Mattel, Inc. outside of the United States and Canada. 

For more information about SCRABBLE® or the NSA, or to comment on or correct the contents of this page, please e-mail: info@scrabble-assoc.com. 
For information about SCRABBLE® tournaments please visit our partner organization, NASPA. To report technical difficulties in reading this page,  please contact webmaster John Chew at: poslfit@gmail.com