Monday, January 12, 2015

Scribbage - Bananagrams before it was cool

(c)1963 - E. S. Lowe Company, Inc.
No, I don't usually review board games.
Are you a fan of Scrabble, but not a fan of Cribbage? If so, I have excellent news! Scribbage has nothing to do with Cribbage and much more to do with Scrabble and similar word games.

The game is simple: players take turns rolling out the letter cubes and then making a single crossword within the two minute time limit. Scores are counted in the same way as in Scrabble (although the point values are different), where letters used in two words are counted twice. Any leftover letters have their point value subtracted from that player's total for the turn. Like in Bananagrams, you can rearrange your words as much as you want within the time limit, but you can't flip the cubes over and must use the letters that you roll. With only thirteen cubes, you really have to make every letter count and use high-scoring letters effectively.
It's like a fast-paced solitaire Scrabble. Yes, technically you can play with other people, but since you have to take turns, other players have to spend minutes at a time just watching the other player make their crossword. ...Then again, I guess I've taken longer than two minutes to make a single word in Scrabble, so maybe that's not a valid complaint. Also, there's a good bit of luck involved since each player will have different letters to work with and may end up with an unusable Q or many low valued letters. This is less of a problem in Scrabble since you can build off of other players' letters, but in Scribbage it's easier to lose from bad luck. That's why I say it's more of a solo game where you challenge yourself to get high scores.

Scribbage isn't that unique of a game, but it preempted Bananagrams as a speed-based word game and one-ups it by having point values to consider in addition to simply forming words. It seems a bit lacking as a multiplayer game, but if you find yourself stranded on a desert island with only Scribbage to play, it should keep you entertained for a while.

For more details, here's the box top (click to enlarge):

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