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Subject: Deservedly, the number-one selling word game rss

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Ed Collins
United States
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Scrabble's roots go all the way back to 1931, during the Depression. An out-of-work architect by the name of Alfred M. Butts wanted to create a new game, one that would use both chance and skill, combining features of anagrams and the crossword puzzle. He did so, and through various stages of development it was called Lexico, New Anagrams, Criss-Cross and then Criss-Crosswords. Several years later, in 1948, Mr. and Mrs. James Brunot formed the Production and Marketing Company and helped market the game, right out of their home. Eventually, sales were so great they licensed Selchow and Righter Company, to market and distribute the games in the U.S. and Canada. Scrabble has sold over 100 million sets of the game, in more than 28 different languages, making it easily the world's best selling word game.

Scrabble is a word game for two, three, or four players. Play consists of forming interlocking words, crossword fashion, on the 15 by 15, 225-square playing board using letters tiles with various point values. Each player uses his own letters in combinations and locations that take best advantage of letter values and premium squares on the board.

Although it certainly can be played with three or four players, like many other games, Scrabble is indeed best played as a two-player game. For example, in a four-player game, if you're Player 'A' and Player 'B' continuously places words which open up access to double and triple word squares, Players 'C' and 'D' will each have access to those squares before you will - hardly fair. Two-player Scrabble is how the game is played at Scrabble tournaments and clubs.

Those who believe winning at Scrabble is nothing but a result of good tiles or a large vocabulary are quite mistaken. Is there luck involved in Scrabble? Much like poker and backgammon, to a small degree and in the short run, yes. But there is also room for a considerable amount of skill. I've played with several people who have a much larger vocabulary than I do... and yet I've beaten them mercilessly and consistently. However, I also know any champion Scrabble player could easily put me to shame too.

A few playing tips:

Strong Scrabble players know the importance of leaving a 'balanced rack.' For example, if trying to decide upon a play for 40 points which leaves you with a rack of C-R-U, and playing a word for only 38 points yet leaves you with a rack of A-E-T, I'd choose the latter play without any hesitation. A-E-T in my rack will make my next play MUCH easier than C-R-U and to me this is more than worth the two points I sacrifice by not choosing the former play.

If the choice between playing FARM and FIRM is otherwise indifferent, and there are many 'I's left unplayed but few 'A's, I'd play FIRM to minimize the likelihood of a duplicate 'I' in my rack after drawing my tiles.

Don't challenge a possible phony word if it happens to open up an even higher score for you.

Since the set of tiles in a game is always the same, knowing what is left is as useful to the Scrabble player in much the same way that card-counting is to a blackjack player. While some find letter-tracking hurts their concentration, after practice, many players learn to do it effortlessly.

Memorize all the valid two-letter and three-letter words... and there are quite a few obscure ones. In doing so you will give yourself opportunities for many great parallel plays or for squeezing in a good play on a blocked board. Here's an example: Your opponent, on the very first move, grins as he plops down the word EDITION (placing the letter 'D' on the double-letter square) for 70 points. Given the letters A-B-D-E-I-L-S, you COULD hook up the 'S' with EDITION and play DISABLE forming the word EDITIONS in the process. This would net you 79 points. However, an even more elegant play would be to play DISABLE directly above the word EDITION, which also forms the words DE, ID, SI, AT, BI, LO, and EN, (all valid Scrabble words) for 90 points!

I recommend purchasing the deluxe edition. It enhances play with its swivel base and the plastic grid helps hold the letter tiles neatly in place, preventing them from sliding.

There is good reason why Scrabble hasn't had an upgrade or a facelift in more than 50 years... it doesn't need one. It's a classic just the way it is. It also deservedly resides in GAMES Magazine's prestigious Hall of Fame.
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