Taking Apart Scrabble

by Kwasi Mensah

February 6th, 2013

Taking Apart Scrabble

This is a part of a series of articles where we take games that influence our new game (stay tuned for the official announcement!). Check out what we wrote for Connect 4.

Scrabble Board

From http://tenairn.blogspot.com/2010/07/scrabble.html

This post assumes you’re already familiar with the game of the Scrabble. A quick rundown from Wikipedia

Scrabble is a word game in which two to four players score points by forming words from individual lettered tiles on a gameboard marked with a 15×15 grid. The words are formed across and down in crossword fashion and must appear in a standard dictionary.  … Approximately 150 million sets have been sold worldwide, and sets are found in roughly one-third of American homes.

Popular versions of Scrabble already exist on mobile phones ( the official Scrabble app, Words With Friends, etc.). So we knew we’d have to change things up to keep people interested.


Head Games

One of the great things about Scrabble is you can spend a lot of time thinking of what the perfect word to put down. One of the great things about the digital version of the game is that you can spend as much time as you need since you don’t have another person staring you down waiting to play right away.

Old Man playing Chess. From Pixar's short "Geri's Game"

I hope you don’t get this old waiting for a turn. From http://chessstuffs.blogspot.com/2013/01/fantasy-chess-art-hd-desktop-wallpaper.html

We definitely wanted to aim for that level of strategizing in the game. One thing I love to do in our playtests is try to hold a conversation with people while they’re playing. I know they’re hooked on the game when they’re so engrossed  they only respond in single syllables!



Scrabble does a lot of nifty and somewhat subtle things to get the players to interact with each other. The most obvious,  is that you have to build your words off of letters that are already on the board (and put down by the other players). You’re also all fighting for the bonus squares and taking advantage of them is how you really rack up points. But a subtle fact that  a lot of people miss is that you’re all picking out of the same bag of letters. Once someone plays a Q or a Z your not going to see them again in the game!

Picture of winner standing on a pile of the other competitors

Hopefully your friends aren’t this mean. From http://www.getbusymedia.com/love-thy-enemy-learn-from-thy-enemy-learn-from-your-competitors/

We wanted to come up with a more active way for players affect each other.  So we made it so that players can use where they place their letters to either give themselves a bonus or hurt the letters put down by the other player. We also have letters disappear from the board after they’re made which shifts everything around adding extra layers of strategy.


Making Words

In Scrabble you can only make words horizontally and vertically like a crossword. We decided since making words is how you show your friends how smart you are, we wanted to make it as easy as possible. So we actually allow you to to make words with any letters that are touching each other as long as they’re in the right order (think like Boggle or SpellTower). And in order to add another layer of player interaction we let you steal letters and  break words that your opponent has made.

Cat in front of Scrabble board saying "OMNOMNOM is worth Twelvity-Five points."

From http://cheezburger.com/960455424


Good Times

At the end of the day, this all only matters if the game is fun! And we’re working hard on in it. We’re also hoping to have our official announcment soon so make sure to check back with us!


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