Scrabble’s my game. Not that I’m one of those “serious” players who have joined tournaments or can boast massive scores, but I honestly love the game. Before we had kids, my wife and I used to spend days on end playing the game. We were addicted.
These days however, our scrabble playing is limited to when the kids are out or asleep, or woe betide our board which can get ruined in a matter of minutes once our four-year-old descends upon our game. She just loves those little tiles and honestly thinks she can play with us, proudly showing us her skills are spelling out her name or “zoo” and proclaiming that she’s won.
But moving on, much as I’ve loved the game for as long as I can remember (probably after I graduated from Candyland then Cluedo), I have never actually known the history and origins of the game, other than the fact that it is also enjoyed by the likes of Sting, The Queen and Keanu Reeves.
So for your information, here’s what I dug up (courtesy of Wikipedia):
“The game was created by architect Alfred Mosher Butts in 1938, 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 meticulously by counting letter usage from the various sources including The New York Times. The new game, which he called “Criss-Crosswords”, added the 15-by-15 game board and the crossword-style game play. He manufactured a few sets himself, but was not successful in selling the game to any major game manufacturers of the day.
In 1948, lawyer James Brunot, a resident of Newtown, Connecticut, bought the rights to manufacture the game in exchange for granting Butts a royalty on every unit sold. Though 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 changed the name of the game to “Scrabble”, and sold sets to, among other customers, Macy’s department store, which created a demand for the game.
In 1953, unable to meet demand himself, Brunot sold manufacturing rights to Selchow and Righter (one of the manufacturers who, like Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley Company, had previously rejected the game). J. W. Spear & Sons began selling the game in Australia and the UK on January 19, 1955. They are now a subsidiary of Mattel, Inc. In 1986, Selchow and Righter sold the game to Coleco, who soon after sold the game to Hasbro”
The strategy of the game, for those who want to win- rather than just make pretty words, is- apart from coming up with those 7 letter wonders (!)- to play for the points. This means often doing rather dull 2 or 3 letter words, but maximizing the point value by counting it two times. For example: if you could put the letter “Z” or “Q” down on a triple letter space and have it making words in two directions, you will have scored 60 points there alone- as they are amongst the 10 pointers! This means that you will need to brush up on your two-letter dictionaries- especially for those high-scoring letters. Like “Xi”- a Chinese form of currency.
One great variant to the game which give you lots of laughs is the “challenge”- when a player “challenges” your word and you are made to explain its real definition, only to be confirmed or contradicted by the Official Scrabble Dictionary.