Cut-throat Anagrams

A dear friend of mine introduced me to this game, which I play with my kids every now and then. All you need is a set of Scrabble tiles. You place all of the tiles face down, and swirl them around. The dealer (ordinarily the best player, so it distracts him), flips one tile at a time. When enough tiles are flipped to create a word of at least three letters, the first player to name the word claims it, and takes it for himself.

Play continues, with more tiles flipped, but there are two choices now for the tiles that are face up. You can use the tiles to create new words, or combine them with existing words of yours, or words of your opponents. Suppose your opponent has the word “ham,” and there are an “s” and an “e” on the board. The player that calls out “shame” claims the tiles from “ham” and creates the word “shame” in his field. Stealing the words of opponents is often more effective than creating new words, though there is a balance to be maintained. It is also wise to boost the letters in your own words, which makes them harder to steal. Additional note: the letter orders can be rearranged. If “gun” and “one” have been claimed by players, and there is a “d” on the board, a player could take the two words for the word “dungeon.”

Play ends two minutes after the last tile is flipped. Additional rules:

  • No proper nouns
  • No foreign words, unless they are in common use in English discourse.
  • Appeal to an unabridged dictionary is permitted for words in dispute.
  • Blanks are wild cards, but the first time a blank is played, it stays that letter for the remainder of the game.

Scoring: each word gets points equal to the number of letters minus two.

Benefits of the game: children learn to think along multiple lines of strategy and structure words in ways that they don’t commonly consider. It is a real mind-stretcher. An aside: this is a game where speed of thought helps but is not determinative. Having a large vocabulary helps, which benefits the grownups.